Whatever else this holiday season may mean to you, it’s the season of “too much” one way or another. It’s hard to completely avoid the extra socializing, treats and feasts that challenge our healthy eating resolve. It’s hard to avoid overeating triggers this time of year even as we go about our normal routines. Daily we pass abundant store displays, plates of candy and sweets on the reception desk or service counter. And this all at a time when resolve runs low anyway, due to added stress and fatigue.
Even if you decide not to try to lose this month, you may well want to avoid gain, and keep the strides you’ve already made. Elsewhere I’ve written about “The Biggest Holiday Gift: No Weight Gain” and “The Joys of Just Maintaining” (see below). Here I pull together ten things you can do--no matter how hectic or imperfect these weeks prove—that increase the likelihood that you will avoid gain and keep those strides in place. Focus on just one or two of them if you like, in the spirit of keeping things simple and not further overwhelming yourself.
1. First, even if your schedule upsets your regular exercise routine, do something. Don’t get caught up thinking it’s an hour at the gym or nothing. A quick walk here or there, a “5-Minute Workout” (check online for these), make a difference both physically and mentally—really.
2. If you’re asked to bring something to a buffet or potluck, consider making your contribution one of the lighter things—a platter of vegetables with salsa or a fresh fruit dessert. Then you’ll know there’ll at least be something you can enjoy without overstuffing.
3. Watch your liquid calories. Alternate your alcoholic drinks with seltzer, water, or diet soda. This will not only save calories but will lessen fatigue the next day.
4. Think ahead when you go to restaurants, parties, or other high-calorie events. Picture what kinds of choices you’d feel good about making. Allow yourself items you really enjoy and forego the other stuff. Having a plan in mind can minimize impulsive choices. And picturing yourself being successful can boost your actual willpower.
5. Consider saying “no” to an event or two if your schedule teems with obligations and busyness. Minimizing fatigue helps weight maintenance in more ways than one.
6. Practice saying “no” to offers of leftovers, especially pies and cookies and things you’re likely to overeat later.
7. Speaking of those pies and cookies, when facing them, try taking very small portions and eating them very slowly. See if this satisfies—you might be surprised.
8. After the eating phase of an event, suggest that everyone take a walk. It’s fun and it’s good for everyone.
9. Find a way to remind yourself of your overall goals. This is one month out of twelve, after all, and it simply may not merit the pain and effort of losing extra pounds next year. Write a message to yourself on an index card and look at it throughout the day, or set an app on your phone to remind you.
10. Finally, remember to be kind to yourself. Neither holding yourself to an impossible standard, nor glazing over and forgetting your self-care will leave you well. Set out to do your best and give yourself credit for whatever better choices you can manage. Try to see the humor in the glut of elaborate food pictured beside the diet articles in the December magazines. This will leave you more flexible for making changes into the future.