“Tis the season for family, festivity and food.” Remember what the season is about - celebrating and connecting with the people you care about. I try to focus more on the fun so it’s easier to focus less on the food. Here are a few habits I’ve incorporated over the years to make moderation my saving grace during the holidays or when I’m on vacation:
1. Holiday-Proof Your Plan
You may not be able to control what food you're served, and you're going to see other people eating tempting treats. Meet the challenges armed with a plan:
Eat close to your usual times to keep your blood sugar steady and don’t end up overeating. If your meal is served later than normal, eat a small snack at your usual mealtime and eat a little less when dinner is served.
Offer to bring a healthy dish to the party.
If you have a sweet treat, cut back on other carbs (like potatoes and bread) during the meal.
Don’t skip meals to save up for a feast. That alters the balance of your blood sugar making you really hungry and more likely to overeat.
If you slip up, get right back to healthy eating with your next meal.
2. Outsmart the Buffet
When you face a spread of delicious holiday food, make smart choices easier:
Start with vegetables to take the edge off your appetite.
Have a small plate of the foods you like best and then move away from the buffet table.
Eat slowly. It takes at least 20 minutes for your brain to register that you’re full.
3. Limit or Avoid Alcohol
Why wait for January to be more responsible with alcohol? Alcohol switches the brain into starvation mode, increasing hunger and appetite. So it's not just the alcohol that increases overall calorie intake. Studies have shown that when alcohol is consumed before or with meals, food intake is greater by as much as 30%. Exchange some alcohol bevvies for carbonated water spiked with fresh citrus.
4. Fit in Favourites
No food is on the naughty list. Choose the dishes you really love and can’t get any other time of year, like aunt Edna’s sticky toffee pudding. Slow down and savour a small serving.
5. Keep Moving
You’ve got a lot on your plate this time of year but staying active is your secret holiday weapon. It can help make up for eating more than usual and reduce stress during this most stressful time of year. Break physical activity up into smaller chunks so it’s easier to schedule, like three 10 minutes intervals. There’s no shortage of videos online to follow. Get friends and family moving too; suggest everyone join you in a walk after a meal.
6. Get Your Zzzs
Going out more and staying out later often means cutting back on sleep. When you’re sleep deprived your blood sugars can get dysregulated and you’ll tend to eat more and prefer high-fat, high-sugar food. Aim for 7 to 8 hours per night to guard against mindless eating.
7. Take Time For Yourself
Everyone, including extroverts, needs time to recharge. Whether you’re staying with family over the holidays or just attending a lot of events, schedule some “me” time every day - a nap, dog walk, meditation or hot bath - to get your energy back for the next celebration. Even offering to go to the store or run an errand for a few quiet minutes can do the trick.
Mindfulness isn't just about stress-busting. It's also being aware of what's happening in the moment so we can recognise moments of peace and truly relish the good stuff. Give yourself and others the present of presence this year. Have yourself a mindful little Christmas!