Simple Strategies for Controlling Holiday Eating

The holidays are coming. The holidays are coming! Soon you will be surrounded by lots of sweets, cookies and navigating holiday party foods and drinks. Are you prepared with a game plan to keep yourself on track without feeling deprived? Now is the time to put your strategies together.

You don’t have to wait until after you’ve overindulged on candy, eaten one too many cookies or gotten stuffed on appetizers. You already have hindsight from previous years, and you probably can guess when and what will happen again this year.

This is just what my client Jean realized when we started talking about Thanksgiving at her son’s. She was afraid of overeating as she usually does, and she could picture all the times and ways that was going to probably happen again. She and her husband always drove 4 hours south on Wednesday, stopping at the same great deli where they picked up sandwiches for lunch and lots of treats they would bring as their contribution before the big meal. Yet more often than not, they didn’t eat much of the sandwiches and would dig into the bags of treats before arriving. The next day they would arrive at their son’s around noon hungry and ready to nibble on the appetizers and have their first drinks of the day. By the time they headed out for the big meal at the club, served buffet style, she was usually starting to feel full. Then she’d eat a big meal and stuff down several desserts. The next day, they would have a really big breakfast to tie them over on the long ride home, and they would stop again at the deli for treats to enjoy on the way back.

Like Jean, you can probably describe what your Thanksgiving holiday traditions around food will be like, just as you can see what will happen this coming weekend on Halloween or what you usually do at a party or around a bowl of candy set out for anyone to eat. That gives you a great advantage, because this enables you to think about what you would do differently that would leave you feeling better and still feel like you got to enjoy the festivities. So pick a time that is coming up, and remember how you felt last time when you over did it. What would work better for you?

Here are some ideas to consider:

  • Eat a healthy balanced breakfast the day of a big meal, so you don’t arrive ravenous and overeat because you are so hungry.
  • Eat a healthy balanced snack before going to an event, so you aren’t showing up hungry.
  • When faced with lots of appetizers, decide in advance how many you will have and be picky about which ones you really want. You may decide to just have 3-4.
  • When you know you are susceptible to having a drink too many, have a glass of sparkling water after your first drink and then decide if you really want a second drink.
  • At a buffet, first look at everything to see which things you know you really want and be picky. Use a smaller plate, and focus on getting a mix of protein, vegetables and some other complex carbohydrates.
  • Have salad first if that is an option at a buffet.
  • Save room for dessert, and then choose the desserts that are your favorite. Have very small pieces and really enjoy them.
  • Allow yourself to have 1-2 pieces of candy a day if you really like it and it is calling your name from the candy dish someone put out near your office. This can replace dessert on those days.
  • Buy Halloween candy to give out to kids you don’t like eating yourself.
  • Pick out the best Halloween candy and eat a few pieces with your meals instead of having just candy by itself. That will minimize blood sugar highs and lows and reduce cravings. Give yourself a few days to have your favorite candy and then throw the rest out.
  • Remember that Halloween candy can be gotten anytime. You don’t have to eat it all now just because it is Halloween.

Which of these sound like they will work well for you? Really think about the situation you will probably be in and what would feel best to you before, during and after. Then add in some other ideas and decide ahead of time which approach you want to take. As Jean discovered by creating her own strategies with me, she got to enjoy her Thanksgiving rituals in a way that left her feeling better physically and really good about herself. She was thrilled to discover she could stay in control and still eat the foods she wanted.

  • This Christmas I plan on bringing a small box with me to my mother’s. I will put small amounts of Christmas treats that I want to get a taste of into the box when I get there and when my ration is gone, it’s gone. a. I’ll know how much I had and b. I won’t feel “cheated”. Also, my mother has kindly offered to make a low fat, no sugar dessert for everyone.

    I did the “get candy you don’t really like” for Holloween and it worked great.

    I’m a big believer in planning ahead – I’d be lost without it.

    Great post, thanks!


Alice Greene
Healthy Lifestyle Success Coach

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