by Nashville personal trainer Dan DeFigio
It amazes me how many people completely shut off any sensibility or moderation around food during holidays. When they give themselves permission to indulge in some holiday sweets, an all-or-nothing mentality takes over, and they go completely overboard, gobbling down every single sugar-filled treat they can lay their hands on — usually with the promise that at the beginning of the new year they’ll start their diet, get back to the gym, or whatever other promise they make to themselves every year. It’s almost like they’ve entered a contest in their minds, trying to win the award for who can cram the most sugar into themselves before New Year’s.
I encourage you to enjoy some goodies during holiday times, but you need to do so in a reasonable fashion. If you’re at a holiday party with a table loaded with desserts as far as the eye can see, pick three things and have two bites of each one. That way you’ll get to enjoy three desserts without overloading yourself with sugar.
During the holidays, you don’t need to splurge at every meal of every day. The holiday season isn’t a pass to eat foolishly for weeks! Do some planning in advance and look for times when it will be easy for you to put together a healthy meal. Be on the lookout for situations in which you’ll want to overindulge, and be judicious about which ones you allow to become major deviations from your healthy, low-sugar lifestyle. Pick your battles and make conscious, sensible decisions about when you have a treat and how much of it you eat.
During the holiday season, don’t lose sight of the big picture of a healthy nutrition plan — things like vegetables, protein, water, and portion control. Consider junk food as extra, not as a substitute for real food. Be sure to apportion your treat before you start eating so you can keep the amount of sugar you consume in check. You don’t have to eat all the cookies to enjoy them!
Beware of becoming obsessive or neurotic about food. If you’re at a special event and you spend all your time and energy being super-strict about what you eat, you may find that you feel disappointed even though you ate well, because you’ve missed out on what was supposed to be important.
One of the keys to creating a balanced eating plan is that you must feel good about doing it. If having desserts and treats in moderation feels like punishment, then you’ll feel like you’re dieting instead of eating normally, and you won’t likely maintain the moderate approach for long. I encourage you to lighten up and allow yourself to eat a reasonable amount of junk food at a special event. Just promise to do it on purpose, not unconsciously, and to stay mindful about what you choose to do — no “brain off” gluttony allowed! Limit your portions of bad food to a few bites, and eat slowly. If you find that you’re not enjoying what you’re eating, don’t finish it.
Remember that a party, an event, or a holiday is not the last time you’ll have the opportunity to eat your favorite junk foods. When you have a consistent system of moderation in place, you don’t follow a strict diet, so you aren’t deprived of these foods forever. When you decide to indulge in a treat, have a few bites, and then call it quits. You don’t have to eat a lifetime of sugar in one night!