Last week, we discussed the role of emotions and memories in our food choices during the holidays.  I hope that you have taken the time to use the worksheet to strategize and write out your plan.

The first step this week begins with a short education on protein and why it is vital to helping curb your cravings on any day but especially on traditionally carb-filled holidays.  That will be followed by some great things to remember and new strategies to try to make this the best holiday season ever!

I. Protein   

  • Make sure to eat protein before you go to your holiday event and while you are there.
  • Protein slows the blood sugar rise and fall that can trigger cravings.  If you eat something before you go (Greek yogurt, deli meat, apple with peanut butter), you will be less likely to give in to every carbohydrate that you encounter.
  • Pay attention to how your body feels soon after you have a high carbohydrate snack with little or no protein.  It is likely that you will be craving more.  That “I can’t stop” feeling is often physiological.  Yes, it becomes psychological over time when you repeat the behavior, but it starts as a physiological craving linked to the rise and fall of blood sugar.  We have discussed this before, but I believe that it is worth repeating and applying this principle to holiday meals.

II. Basic Tips and Strategies

  • It takes 3500 calories more than your body needs to gain one pound.  If you eat an extra 700-1000 calories at one meal, you still haven’t gained a pound.  It is often the behavior in the days to follow (eating leftovers) that makes you gain weight.  If you think of Thanksgiving or Christmas as one single day and one single meal, it can help you to gain perspective.
  • Avoid all or nothing thinking.  A day is not made “bad” or “good” based on what you have eaten.  If you plan to enjoy some of your favorite foods in measured moderation (predetermined), you will feel much better about your choices.
  • Plan well.  If you are going somewhere, take a few healthy dishes for you to eat in quantity if you want.  Make sure that the foods you take with you are foods that you enjoy.
  • If you are making the meal, make yourself a snack to eat while you are preparing dinner.
  • If snacking while you are cleaning up after the meal is a problem for you, invite someone to help you with it so you are not alone with the food.  We have also mentioned before that it helps to chew minty gum or brush your teeth right after a meal.
  • If you are going to a party, ALWAYS eat before you go.  Being proactive in these situations can allow you to enjoy parties without weight gain or fear of weight gain.  This does not mean that you have to deprive yourself at parties.  Eating beforehand can give you physiological support and mental clarity to make informed decisions.
  • Holiday cookies present a hurdle for so many people who struggle with food.  To help you “have your cookies and eat them too,” try the following.  Decide on a certain number of cookies that you believe are appropriate for you to consume over the course of the week that they are fresh in your house.  Put that amount of cookies in a Ziploc bag with your name on it.  Those are YOUR cookies to eat in any manner that you wish.  You may have them all in the same day or once a day for a week.  If you do not view them as forbidden, you will be less likely to lose control with them.  As we have covered before, some foods are likely to trigger binges in certain people.  Use caution when dealing with these foods.
  • Avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol at social holiday functions.  Decreased inhibition does not help you make you great food choices.  If you decide to drink alcohol, have a glass of water between each alcoholic beverage.
  • Use your accountability partner.  If you are not already using an accountability partner, the holiday season is a great time to try this.   Remember that it is not a good idea for you to be accountable to a spouse.  Food and family do not mix well!
  • If you decide to use an accountability partner, agree on guidelines for each of you ahead of time.  Sit down together and fill out your holiday worksheets.  I think that is a great life change strategy in general, but you could try it short-term as well.  You just might like it.
  • DO NOT JUSTIFY!  It’s very easy to say to yourself “I could have eaten so much more, so it’s okay that I ate what I did.”  Think logically about what you are putting in your mouth.  Your body doesn’t know what you could have eaten.

III. Holiday Memories

  • Holiday times evoke memories that are often linked to foods.
  • It is important to work very hard to create new memories that are not associated with food.  This is something to do one step at a time, and it will not be easy.  Strive to create one new tradition per year that is not associated with food.
  • Many people overeat during the holidays because it is the only time of year they get to eat certain foods.  They feel like they need to gorge on these foods because they will not get them for another year.  WHY?  What if you decided to make one of your favorite holiday dishes per month for the next year?  Would it possibly help you to not feel like you needed to overeat this item if you knew you would have it again in a few months?
  • I like to suggest that my clients put their favorite holiday foods on the calendar for the following year even before the big holiday meal.  That serves a dual purpose.  First, it helps them to know they will get it again soon, so they don’t feel like they need to go overboard.  Second, it helps them to learn moderation and planning.  Some people, if told they could make their favorite holiday meals whenever they wanted, would do that as often as possible.  Putting these dishes on the calendar to have only once a month helps them avoid deprivation but put moderation into play.

Enjoy your holiday, and do your best.  Try a few of these strategies to help you navigate the holiday season in a way that will help you achieve your goals.