Ah, the holidays…
A time of caroling, eggnog and good old-fashioned mall tramplings…
Mix into that some time with family and work functions and you have a pretty busy time of year—and a time of year where your diet and healthy eating choices get thrown out quicker than a sweater I got from my great aunt.
The holidays are tough because it is a time you want to treat yourself and it’s also a time where people forget what they’re eating. So whether it be a work lunch, a family get-together or any holiday event that involves more food than a cruise ship buffet, here are 6 ways to help avoid overeating.
1. Don’t go to an event on an empty stomach.
This is probably one of the most important tips for the holidays or any other event. Going into a party or function when you’re starving is setting yourself up for disaster. Your eyes will become bigger than your stomach and you will want to eat everything in sight. Also, when hungry, we tend to crave things like sugar and refined carbohydrates, which are public enemy number 1 in the pursuit of a healthy lifestyle.
Eating a quality meal that includes some healthy fats and protein prior to an event will help keep you fuller, longer and less likely to jump on the first plate of crab cakes you see.
This tip also works for grocery shopping. Don’t shop on an empty stomach as you will tend to pick the items that look immediately satisfying or that you are craving which again tend to be those refined carbs and sugar.
2. Change your mindset to “I can have it but I don’t want it”.
This can actually be beneficial when you really have a tough time avoiding culinary temptations. Too much of the time we beat ourselves up saying we can’t have something. Switching that mindset of “I can’t have it” to “I can have it but I don’t want it” can actually cause some powerful changes in how you view what you can and cannot have.
The connection between the mind and food has actually been looked at through studies from Yale that look at how psychological factors can even influence the biological impact of food. Your mind, like your karaoke skills, is a powerful thing.
3. Drink water.
Sometimes hunger signals are actually mistaken for dehydration. Drinking water throughout the day will help to alleviate this potential signal cross. Also having a glass or two of water before you hit the snack table will be a nice little way to help avoid eating an entire figgy pudding..
4. Eat slowly.
The feeling of fullness can take around 20 minutes before the brain recognizes the signals. Eating too quickly overrides these signals causing you to eat more than your body would naturally prefer. We tend to lived in a rushed world and we don’t give those satiation signals a chance to work so slowing down your eating will help you avoid eating more than you actually need.
The best way to do this is keep an eye on the clock and focus on chewing your food quite thoroughly. We tend to stuff food in our mouths, give a few quick chews, and then get ‘er down the hatch. People who chew longer ultimately take longer to eat and report feeling fuller. You will also eat around 10% fewer calories eating slower as opposed to rushing. This slower eating will also help digestion and avoid feelings of cramping and discomfort.
5. Focus on protein.
If it’s impossible to avoid all the baked good and desserts on offer, at least try to consume protein before you dive into them. Eating protein prior to the ingestion of sugars is going to help minimize blood sugar spikes. Protein is also helpful in making you feel full. The foods that best promote satiety contain protein, water, fiber and healthy fats.
Protein also increases metabolism as it requires calories in the digestion and absorption of it in a process called thermogenesis
Protein sources in the form of nuts are usually plentiful during the holidays and will help you from overeating any refined sugar and high glycemic choices. Starting the night off with sources of protein like that will help in the overeating long haul. If only they could help with that hideous tie you chose…
6. No need to be too hard on yourself for holidays.
I can go on about keeping blood sugar levels under control and making sure leptin resistance isn’t occurring, etc, etc, but we are human and it is the holidays.
As a fitness professional, I’m not going to pretend I don’t indulge from time to time. We have these events and foods in our lives that should be recognized as celebrations and enjoyment. Don’t beat yourself up because you had a little extra candy cane ice cream. Just make sure you keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get out of hand and ultimately create discomfort. If you have been keeping on top of your fitness and nutrition, you’re winning in the long run.
Don’t consider the holidays a “slip up” and remember: it’s not going to undo all the good work you’ve been doing. When it comes to your diet just remember, progress not perfection.
Now please pass the figgy pudding. Whatever that is…
Featured photo credit: David Goehring via flic.kr