Here we are again, that familiar, fun and FILLING time of year, GOBBLE, GOBBLE.  And that is what we do, right? Mindlessly accepting every option of yummy set before us for the next 8 weeks.   It is already ramping up in your workplace and your home, where your family is hankering and prompting for all the family favorites.

I LOVE me some pumpkin pies and dunking Christmas cookies, gravy laden mashed potatoes with corn on top.  Oh I forgot to mention peanut butter balls (buckeyes as they are affectionately called in my household full of Ohio State fans) but I digress.  Fudge, Carmel Corn, you name it – the pit of CandyLand equipped with its own Chutes and Ladders to a January of regret and despair.

Want to enjoy the holiday and stay solidly on your targets?   It’s possible, welcome to this SMORGASBOARD OF STRATEGIES.   Here’s your invitation to find a few that work for you!

Plan Ahead – Mindset

1. What you tell yourself is key – deficit or abundance mentality? Before you start the day, get still, spend a moment in quiet, get mindful about what is important to you and how can you stay with your goals yet fully receive and participate in this day and the season.  It doesn’t have to be “all or nothing”.   Deciding in advance will help.  You can love yourself and your choices.

2. Define what “joy” is for you and the resulting decisions that bring that joy. Examine any decision that leaves you with guilt or regret.

3. Make a point to enjoy and engage with the people you love and in the preparations. Take as much joy or more there, than with being focused on a consumption mindset – all the excess that is available to you or everything you’re “going to get to have”.

4. Relationships over food. Holidays can be great fun, but can be filled with underlying family stress.  If there is a relationship that “makes you want to over-eat” – practice Noticing and naming it.  Be honest with yourself, try not mask it with food which you know won’t heal or fill those voids.

Plan Ahead – Simple Practices

5. Eat breakfast every day, include protein. Generally, this will stabilize you for the day ahead and you will consume less throughout the day.

6. Avoid skipping meals period; especially going into an event or party. This is a surefire way set yourself up and derail your best plans.

7. Make time for a training session or some type of physical activity prior to the event. What you do choose to eat will be put to good use.

8. Pack Healthy snacks and stay hydrated. Be a snack smuggler – Megan Roosevelt, R.D., Founder of Healthy Grocery Girl suggests this as her one rule.  “Traveling, shopping, and running errands during the holidays can lead to fast food, skipping meals, or surrendering to the siren call of Cinnabon. To keep your appetite in check, never leave home without a snack. Choose options made with real ingredients to truly energize and nourish your body.”

9. Pack chewing gum or sugar-free candy.  Party nibbling becomes a bit more difficult when chewing gum.

10. Always assess your hunger.  Just because the co-worker brought in the plate of goodies doesn’t mean you have to eat it now.  Are you hungry? Does it appeal to you?  If so, accept it and set it aside for a more optimal consumption time.  Perhaps when you have an appropriate pairing to keep your blood sugar in check, you can make a more conscious decision.  Feel no pressure to consume especially when you’re not even really hungry.  Learning to simply say, a gracious “No thank you” is incredibly effective as well!

11. Don’t eat the crowd – what do I mean?  Don’t eat something especially in excess just because everyone else is, ask yourself are you hungry and do you really want it.  A taste test is one thing a full plate is another.   If you really want it, consciously choose it.

12. To knock the deprivation mindset, The Cleveland Clinic recommends that you allow yourself a little treat each day, but only allow yourself to do it once a day.

Plan Ahead – Selection and Choice Strategies

13. Avoid mindless eating, stand away from buffets, counters, serving areas. Refer to #9 above- chewing gum comes in handy for this too.

14. Mindfully survey your choices (the buffet) ahead of time. Choose what you would really enjoy.  Perhaps choose a broth laden soup, then some protein sources, green salads and your favorite veggie dishes.  Consider keeping starchy, fats laden food and desserts until last.   This is known as eating “low-to-high” and is a great hunger strategy for keeping calories in check.

“Remind yourself, that this will NOT be your last chance ever to enjoy this dish…The habit of abundance mentality shows itself strong, when you can tell yourself – there is more where that came from!”

15. The food options abound, especially at a party. You are not required to have something off every appetizer plate.  At a luncheon or potluck, there is no rule that you have to have a scoop out of each bowl, just pick a few.

16. The Huffington Post recommends that you “be the last in line – how food looks, can change your appetite for it.”

17. I love this strategy from Epicurious article which suggests we “Act Like an Accountant” – it suggests leaving a calorie allowance for dessert. “If you know you’re going to want dessert, rather than denying yourself, simply cut back on the hors d’oeuvres or dinner—this can be as simple as not having bread or avoiding the pasta and having mostly salad or veggies. As with dessert, if you know you want to have the calorie-heavy specialty cocktail, find ways to cut back in other parts of the meal.” (Salkeld).   Makes sense.

18. Had a taste, love it but you’re full – ask for the recipe and decide at a later time if it fits for you.

19. There’s always a “choose the smaller plate” option.

Time to Eat (and drink)!

20. Eat slowly, TASTE your food and enjoying the company. If you don’t really like it, move it aside.

21. Consider your portion sizes, serve only what you think you might like, then leave bit of everything on your plate. This can be your offering of Thanksgiving.

22. Stop before the plate is clean – 80% full – remind yourself, there is more where that came from, later is another meal, tomorrow is another day, this holiday will come again.

23. Here’s an interesting desert habit to consider. Lauren Harris-Pincus, R.D.N., of Nutrition Starring You, suggests the “three bites and good night” dessert strategy. “The first bite is the best, the last the grand finale, and every bite in between is the same.  In three bites, you get the full dessert experience, so really focus on savoring those three and you’re less likely to overindulge.”

24. Remind yourself, this isn’t the last chance you’ll get to enjoy “Dish A”, so enjoy it but there is no need to overindulge. The habit of abundance mentality shows itself strong, when you can tell yourself. “there is more where that came from”!   Look ahead to a date sometime in the future where you will allow yourself to enjoy that favorite dish again, put it on the calendar.

25. Beverages….Oh my – well that’s a whole other blog post – Stay tuned for next week’s Post!

After Thoughts:

Family, Friends and food are an important part of the holidays and everyday life.   What matters is your presence, your healthy and fully available presence.   Part of that is you being and bringing the best you to the table to engage with those who you love (and some you don’t so much, ha!).

It likely won’t be your last opportunity to pull up a chair to the Thanksgiving table or enjoy a glass of milk with an awesome cookie or piece of pumpkin pie.  But it might be the last time to enjoy it with the ones you love.  So back to my first point, focus on relationships and take care of yourself now so those relationships can be richer, this is real life.   Real life doesn’t start after the holidays!

My point is, you don’t have to eat everything that is offered to you or in front of you.   You don’t have to eat ALL the cookies or 3 pieces of pie, you don’t have to have seconds and thirds – why, there is more where that came from.”   Changing your habits, will change your mind and your life.

There’s no reason to gain weight this holiday season.

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