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Holiday Feasting: A Survival Guide for the Healthy Eater

Holiday Feasting: A Survival Guide for the Healthy Eater

bigstock-Family-Together-Christmas-Cele-154574915You don’t have to look far during this time of year to find highly-caloric and highly-delicious treats all around. At work, at home, at your friends’ and families’ homes, you’re sure to find platters stocked high with cookies, pies, and other tempting treats that will have you diving in face first and leading to that overly stuffed, uncomfortable, gotta-put-on-sweatpants feeling. If you take a moment now to step back and reflect on what the holidays are truly about (read: friends and family) and to focus on your goals, you’ll cruise into the new year feeling great both physically and mentally.

Most people estimate that they gain an average of 5 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. It is reported that the average American consumed more than 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving alone (remember: each 3,500 calorie = 1 pound of weight gain)! Although Thanksgiving has come and gone, now is the time to get real with your goals and expectations. Read below for some important tips to keep you focused and feeling fantastic!

  1. Be Realistic. During this time of year, be realistic and set practical goals. Pick reasonable goals such as consuming more fruits and veggies, drinking half your body weight in water, eating home-cooked meals, and getting in some sort of exercise each day. Focus on weight maintenance vs. weight loss during the holiday season. People who normally follow a strict diet have been shown to gain twice as much weight during the holidays than those who maintain a consistent diet. Plan on NOT dieting when January 1st rolls around. Anticipation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays which can lead to feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Additionally, realize that each holiday is only a DAY! Keep all things in moderation and know that holiday meals are not an “all you can eat buffet.”
  1. Continue with Healthy Habits. Maintain a consistent schedule that includes grocery shopping, meal prepping, and keeping lots of healthy options available at all times. Don’t rely on leftovers and make sure to keep your portions in check. Eat on a regular schedule and don’t skip meals, which can lead to binging behavior. Make an effort to keep your exercise schedule on track and remove the “all or nothing” mentality. A walk around the neighborhood after a holiday dinner is MUCH better than sitting on the couch with seconds, thirds, and fourths of your favorite foods.
  1. Daily Check-Ins. It can be helpful all year, especially during the holidays, to monitor your food intake with a food log (either written out or using an electronic app such as MyFitnessPal). This can help keep portion sizes reasonable and allow for smart food decisions. Research shows that food journaling is one of the most effective indicators of weight loss/maintenance. Tracking daily activity can also help by giving you an aim for a daily step goal to reach and to ensure you are moving enough to off-set some treats that you will enjoy.
  1. Plan, Plan, Plan. It wouldn’t be the holiday season without a fully packed schedule of holiday parties and events. Coming in with an arsenal of tips, tricks, and ideas can really help you navigate the party scene with a healthy attitude. Before the party, plan to bring a healthy side dish or appetizer that you know you will enjoy but won’t break the calorie bank. Decide to eat healthy before you arrive and intend to prioritize fruits, veggies, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Choose ahead of time what few “treats” you will enjoy and allow yourself to indulge in these most delicious and tempting dishes and don’t waste calories on things you don’t truly love. Eat a snack before you leave for the party and make sure to get some exercise in that day. Any movement counts!
  1. Party On, But Party Wisely! Once you arrive at the party, scan the ENTIRE table before you take any food. Try not to hang out near the food and make it a priority to socialize with friends and family before you dig in to the hors d’oeuvres. Choose a small plate for both appetizers and the main dish to help you keep portions in check. Strive for a healthy plate filled with mostly lower calories options and only a small area for those higher calories treats that you planned for. Eat slowly and pause before going back for seconds. Stay hydrated with water or another no/low-calorie option. For each alcoholic beverage consumed, try to drink a non-alcoholic beverage and choose alcohol wisely (aim for a small glass of wine or a mixed drink with an ounce of liquor with club soda and a spritz of citrus). Make a conscious effort to choose what you want to eat and turn down what you don’t without feeling guilty. Be assertive and no people pleasing! Eat only what you desire and do not eat as an obligation to others. Give yourself a break and remove the mindset of, “I already blew it, so I might as well blow it more.”
  1. Maintain Perspective and Resume Balance. After the party, be aware of leftovers and remember that holidays are ONE day only and if you keep leftovers, you will eat them. Invest in Tupperware to send leftovers home with guests. Remove guilt and remember that overeating one day won’t make or break your meal plan. If you over-indulge, put it behind you and return to your healthy eating and fitness plan the next day without shame or despair.

Throughout this holiday season, keep things in perspective and remember that this is a time to surround yourself with friends and family and focus on the important things in life! Refrain from negative self-talk and be kind to yourself. Don’t say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to your best friend. Use the new year to reevaluate and write down SMART goals and action plans to meet these. Seek help in Merritt’s Wellness department and consider signing up for Merritt’s one-on-one or group nutrition programs. Lastly, enjoy this time of year and know that Merritt Clubs wishes you a happy and healthy holiday season!

For more holiday eating tips from Merritt’s Wellness department, click here.