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Holiday Nutrition: 11 Essentials

Original Posted: Dec 11, 2001
Repost:  01 December 2016
Edit/Repost:  24 December 2017

The holidays are here, and temptation to stray from your diet looms everywhere.  Cinnabon never smelled so good.

Question: How does this time of year differ for any other time of year?

Answer: It doesn’t.

Temptation is ever-present.

There will always be an excuse or time of year not to start eating better/exercising more, but somehow the holiday season appears to be the most difficult.  Perhaps it is the oodles of baking, and focus on food during this time of year.  We are social beings, and we like to eat – who doesn’t? When the winter weather hits, we bundle up more, are less body aware, and therefore choose not think about eating a bit more ‘comfort’ foods during the holidays.

If you have body compositional goals, and/or have recently decided that the ‘fitness magazine’ look is something you desire, then yes, you do have to make choices.

Mindful choices.

I am not saying to avoid indulging over the holidays, however, you are responsible for the choices you make, and if you choose to eat poorly over a few days, or over couple of weeks, you will be that much further from your goal.  Some will start in January, however, I say start now as you will be that much further ahead.

Perhaps you feel justified to indulge as you think: Ahem: ‘this one bit won’t matter’; or ’tis’ the season’, as you over-indulge in those items only made available during this time of year.

Perhaps this time of year brings back childhood memories and you want to reminisce among times past.

Well I hate to break to you…You are no longer a kid, and you can’t get away with it. Those 8-10 bites of [insert food here] that you ‘forgot’ add up.

So how do we survive the holiday season, when your month of December calendar is full of social events, meetings at restaurants, holidays parties, and get-togethers?

Here are 11 strategies that you can implement over the holidays and any other time of the year.   I am going to skip over the prep your food, and eat before you attend the social event, don’t arrive hungry etc  (...you should already be doing this)

1. Don’t skip your workouts – Perhaps shorten them but don’t skip them.  Make time in your schedule.  Family will not mind. Perhaps get in earlier in the day.   This is non negotiable time just like any other time of the year.  You are just as important as your friends and family.  The 4-5 hours you take for yourself for the week will not negatively impact them, but skipping on that time for you will impact you in a negative way.  Besides at least those extra calories will be put to good use – ie muscle gain, and you might not lose weight, but you won’t gain any either.

2.   Protein Shake – Keep the protein powder nicely wrapped up in a zip lock in a baggie (or prepare a bunch) and a shaker cup available. Have one in your purse, or leave some in the car.  You never know what is being served at mealtime, and it is always way more fat and carbohydrates than you need.  A protein shake  does look like a brown cow in a glass.  No one needs to know what you are drinking. Another strategy is to drink the protein shake before you go, and make sure to hold a glass of water (or something) in your hand at the event or else people will keep asking you if you “want something to drink”.

3. Think:  How is this [insert food] going to make you feel?  After I eat a big meal all I want to do afterwards is take a nap.  Then it snowballs to a few hours or even a day or two of being unproductive.  Or better yet, ask yourself – is this food in line with my training/goals?  Will it help your training?    If the answer is no, then you might want to stick to the veggie tray.

4.  BE Present – Focus on the moment and the people around you Be more engaging in conversation, socialize, and be in the moment.  Although food is one part of holiday parties/social event, you do not have to let it control you.

5.  DDD or skip it – If the food you are eating does not taste drop dead delicious (DDD) – don’t finish it. Studies have shown that the first bite is always the best, and then the flavour/satisfaction of the food drops off after that.  That is why those tables of samples at Costco (or any other grocery) taste so good.  They give you one bite, and then you are hooked into buying a truckload that you will never eat/finish or even enjoy.

6.   Go to an event, socialize, then leave.  You put in an appearance, and say your well wishes.  When you are tired you are more likely to make poor choices.  Better off to get to bed, and have a well rested morning.

7.   Short Answer & Deflect – If your friends/ family asks questions on why you are not eating sweets/treats etc, you can:

1.  Let them know you have already started your New Year’s resolutions  (Not always the best option)
2.  Tell them your not hungry, already ate, or full, then ask about them and what is going on in their lives.  They usually stop asking after that. If they are truly good friends/family they WILL understand, and they WON’T (or shouldn’t) judge you or try to make you feel guilty on choosing to not follow the group.

8.  Be selective on where to spend your calories.  Choose 1 or 2 social events over the 2-week holiday period to indulge.  For example, Christmas eve or Christmas Day, New Years Eve or New Year’s Day.  Indulge means have a meal with friends/family, perhaps even desert, but remember #5.  This is not a time to binge eat and be a pig.    Aim to be satisfied, but not roll me out the door full.

9.  OD on vegetables.  Most parties do have a veggie tray.  Eat as much as you want.  If they don’t refer to #2 until you can get home and get some real food with some nutritional value.

10. Separate how you are feeling to your internal cues for hunger.  Holidays with family and friends (especially family) can be very stressful.  You do not need to punish yourself for the behavior of others.   Do not use food to self medicate.  Eat if you are hungry (OD on veggies) but don’t eat because it was put in front of you.

11. IIFYM – If It Fits Your Macros –  Track your food.  This will be hard, as if you eat foods that mixed (ie stuffing/casseroles), you will be guessing how much you ate.  Most calorie counting programs have foods available in there listing to help you make your best ‘estimate’.  The strategy is to stay within your macronutrient allocations (protein, carbs, and fat) for the day.  Although not all the foods are of high quality, you can find a way to stay within your calories/macros while indulging.  It is the holidays after all and this IS the time to enjoy friends, family and of course, food.

Anyone can survive the smorgasbord of holiday treats available during this time of year, by going in with a few solid strategies in mind, so that when temptation does present itself you are prepared.   You don’t want to simply be ‘surviving’ the holidays, you want to be able to thrive, enjoy and move towards your fitness goals.

Remember:  There is no shortage of food available, at this time of year, or any other; so you don’t have to eat it all today.

Allison Ethier is an online trainer and contest prep coach. She also trains clients early am at Excellence Fitness Facility in Quebec, Canada. With over 16 years of competitive experience in fitness, she specializes in fat loss, muscle gain, and guiding individuals to their perfect body.

  • Fat loss
  • Muscle Gain
  • Contest Prep
  • Nutritional guidance
  • Contest posing: Fitness, Figure, and Bikini

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