10 Ways to Stay on Track When Holiday Foods Tempt You
Eating well is not about perfection. Especially over the holidays. If you indulge a bit, don’t beat yourself up. Just make a U-turn, and use Dr. Hyman’s tips to get back on track.
By: Mark Hyman, MD
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Eating well is not about perfection, especially over the holidays. These strategies will help you stay lean and healthy in situations that tempt you to veer off course.
Want to feel great after a holiday gathering? Setting an intention makes you less likely to indulge in foods and activities that make you feel less than great. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your intention with a friend or family member. Or post it on your bathroom mirror to read later. You may want to treat yourself occasionally to pleasure foods. But most times, you’ll feel better avoiding the recreational drug I fear most: sugar.
Volunteer to host the festivities yourself. It’s an opportunity to introduce guests to the healthy foods you’ve discovered and enjoy. Controlling food choices is easier when you’re in charge of the holiday spread.
Invited to a lavish event? Start your day as you always do. Avoid skipping meals to save calories or carbohydrates. One hour before your holiday meal, eat a protein- and healthy-fat-packed snack (try celery sticks with nut butter, or a protein shake). Protein and fat help you cut your cravings for sugar and processed carbs.
Prevent cravings from kicking in by starting with soup, salad or fresh veggies. Avoid appetizers made with refined flour and other unhealthy choices. Look for the vegetable board or other healthy snacks and appetizers. Volunteer to bring something to every gathering so you’re guaranteed at least one healthy choice.
Alcohol lowers your inhibitions and sends you down a slippery slope of bad choices. Most alcoholic beverages are also filled with sugar and empty calories. So limit alcohol or avoid it. Ask for sparkling water with lemon or lime, or bring your own. And drink two glasses of water with lemon before the meal.
Before the meal, take five deep breaths, and express gratitude with others. As you eat, breathe through your nose. Chew every bite slowly, focusing on flavors, colors and smells. Try to put your fork down between bites. Halfway through the meal, pause, lower your fork and take three deep breaths. Assess your hunger on a scale of 1 to 10, and ask yourself, “How much more food do I need to feel satisfied, energized and comfortable?”
Plan a fun activity for after the meal: a group walk, visiting friends or family, a group game or playing with younger family members. During the party, talk to people you find genuinely interesting. Offer to help your host clean up to help prevent overeating or reaching for dessert.
Each forkful of wholesome and delicious food can heal your body and mind. Appreciate your healthy food choices as you enjoy time spent with friends and family.
Occasionally, a well-meaning friend or relative may ask why you’re not indulging at a party. No one will feel insulted if you explain, “I’m here for the company, not the food.”
If you happen to slip up, leave guilt and its toxic effects behind. Simply make a U-turn. I think of this as a GPS for the soul. It doesn’t yell at you or judge you for taking a wrong turn. It reminds you gently to take the next U-turn. If you indulge a little, pay attention. Did you enjoy the process? How did you react to the food? Then move on. Get back to the foods and activities that make you feel great.