By Ana Snyder, M.S., Exercise Physiology; CPT, FNS
Annually, millions of people around the world brace themselves for the massive influx of family dinners and festive activities associated with major holidays. From October through New Year’s Day, temptation in the form of calorie-dense food is around every corner from your office Halloween Party to your family’s Christmas extravaganza. When else are you going to try your Aunt Martha’s mouth-watering macaroni and cheese or your Uncle Rick’s “world-famous” turkey? But now that the holidays are over, how do you stop binge eating and return to your fitness goals?
We’ve all heard the phrase, “new year, new me.” It’s said by every individual motivated to change their relationship with their food and activity choices in the new year. Often, when people make declarations like this, they don’t realize how hard it is to change the habits they’ve developed. For instance, in the case of holiday eating, the average American eats an extra serving of around 440 calories, and surprisingly after the holidays, they eat an extra 450 calories.
Making a New Year’s resolution without carefully planning how you are going to accomplish it is a recipe for disaster. While you may be tempted to take extreme measures to get on track after the holidays, this way of thinking creates a pattern of binging, starving yourself, and guilt. Not many people can go from practically gorging themselves to only eating green and leafy vegetables. Change is gradual and takes time. To develop healthy habits, you first have to start with a few simple measures, like drinking one cup of water or substituting one unhealthy snack for something more nutritious. Still feeling lost? We got you covered: here are some tips to get you out of the binge eating cycle and back on track in no time.
During the holidays, we often find ourselves running around and doing things for others. We rarely find the time to invest in the things that we find essential. Now that the holiday season is officially over, it’s time to allocate your time and resources to yourself. What does that mean? Well, investing in yourself involves doing things that not only better your life, but that you also enjoy doing. Following this tip might mean expanding your fitness journey by taking nontraditional fitness classes (e.g., pole dancing or rock climbing) or making healthy versions of your favorite holiday foods. No matter how you choose to make time for yourself, by doing so, you open the door to developing healthier habits that ultimately benefit your fitness goals!
Eggnog, peppermint cocktails, and themed martinis make the holidays a bit more exciting. While they are tasty and help set the mood at a holiday event, they also carry calories that you may not have accounted for. With the beginning of the new year, it’s time for you to give these drinks (and your liver) a break. The easiest way to do that is by slowly substituting all of your festive holiday drinks with water. Water is hands-down one of the best liquids to drink. Its benefits are endless. From boosting skin health, regulating your body temperature, and maintaining your blood pressure, water is the best friend of any wellness-minded individual. If you’re not a regular water drinker, start slow. For example, if you usually grab a gingerbread latte at Starbucks before work, try to substitute it for a tall glass of water instead. Gradual changes in your drinking habits help cut down calories and keep you on track for your summer fitness goals.
The holidays are over. This means that overindulging in plates of holiday foods and drinks are a thing of the past. You may have taken a break from following a food schedule during the holidays, but now it’s time to get back to a nutritional routine. Everything in your life, from work to workouts, follows a basic timeline. You can apply the same logic to your eating habits. Start by allocating a day out of the week to plan out what you are going to eat for the week, when you are going to meal prep, and times you will eat meals and snacks.
This style of careful meal planning will help you reset your body’s physiological clock. Remember, the goal is not to starve yourself. Instead, the hope is that, by following a detailed nutritional program, you can prevent binge eating and develop a healthier relationship with food.
Don’t bring the holiday home with you! Leave the unhealthy goodies at your friend’s house or send them home with your guests if you’re hosting. But if your favorite holiday foods are too good to pass up, try some healthy substitutions By conducting research on a few key ingredients and cutting down your portion sizes, you can cut out hundreds of unnecessary calories from your diet. Let’s say that your grandma makes a great green bean casserole; by switching some of the normal ingredients with low-fat options, you can still enjoy the same dish without the caloric consequences.
Also, it might be time for you to give meal prepping a try. Don’t worry; it’s not as time-consuming as it may seem. In fact, setting aside just three to four hours during the week to plan, shop, and cook healthy meals might save you time and money.
As with most things in life, moderation and mindful eating are key. Even healthier options can become problematic if you treat yourself too much. Reflect on your eating habits and think about the food items that make you feel good versus ones that are just good at the moment. Having a journal is one of the best ways to practice this step. This way, you can document and thoroughly consider your thoughts and emotions concerning the food that you eat. Food journaling allows you to be more active in your diet and make the best choices for your physical and emotional health.
It’s almost impossible not to gain weight over the holidays. From travel weight gain, office party weight gain, or even family gathering weight gain, packing on a few extra holiday pounds is hard to avoid. But as you enter this new year, you can take simple steps to retake control of your health. With careful planning and substituting healthier options for some of your favorite holiday dishes, you can live your best health-conscious life during and after the festive season.