I don't believe in the phrase, "eat to live, but don't live to eat".
Food is so much more than just fuel and function. It's memories of baking and decorating endless sheet pans of cookies for Christmas with family, hot chocolate shared with friends around a fire, dumplings and soup to celebrate the New Year - food is love, memory, connection, nostalgia, and so much more.
So I believe in "eat to live AND live to eat".
I'll even go further and say it is impractical to say, “eat only when you're hungry, stop eating when you’re full”. Because who actually practices that all of the time? I don't. I'm not going to refuse dessert after I'm full from Thanksgiving dinner because it's the one time of year I have a slice of pecan pie, which I absolutely love.
However, it’s also unhelpful and impractical to have the attitude, "I'll just start over Jan 1!”
The average calories consumed at a Thanksgiving meal is 3000. If you're consistent the other 364 days of the year, one day is not going to be make a big difference. But with multiple celebrations for Thanksgiving at the office, Friendsgiving, and all of the Christmas and New Years celebrations shortly after, this "don't worry about it" attitude often results in the “fuck it” mentality.
As a culture we put a lot of emphasis on food this time of year - there is nothing wrong with that! Laughter and love and memories all happen around the sharing of food. However, research shows most people gain weight during the holiday season but that they only lose half that weight gained by the next summer. And it's a cycle that repeats year after year, and weight loss becomes more and more difficult.
Here are ten eating tips - Helpful + Practical Advice = HPA - to help mitigate extra weight gained while helping you enjoy the holidays!
HPA 1. Give yourself a calorie buffer.
If you track your food on the daily using an app, like MyFitnessPal, reduce your calories by 20% for a couple of days leading up to the event. You'll have extra calories to enjoy all of the delicious food! If you don't track your food and don't know what a 20% cut would look like for you, I do NOT recommend doing this - just eye-balling it or guessing can result in way too little, which could lead to binge-eating.
HPA 2. Don't go to dinner starving.
Focus on proteins and veggies for meals before the dinner. You can also delay your first meal of the day to conserve even more calories for dinner. Your day could look like this:
- Breakfast: black coffee, water, tea
- Lunch: 3-5 oz of chicken breast on a bed of spring mix dressed lightly in balsamic vinegar and no oil OR 2/3 cup of nonfat greek yogurt with 1 scoop of whey protein isolate and 1/2 cup frozen berries
- Pre-dinner snack:1-2 scoops of whey protein isolate
HPA 3. Load up on protein.
Protein is the most satiating of the macronutrients so by eating the protein on your plate first, you’ll be more satiated and less likely to overeat the more calorically dense sides and dessert.
HPA 4. Eat only the foods you actually enjoy.
If you don’t like green bean casserole, don’t feel obligated to put it on your plate because auntie might be offended. Choose to eat what you like, not to please anyone else - it's ok to say, "no, thank you". And if your family is not used to you declining food, it'll be difficult at first, but it'll be a worthwhile boundary.
HPA 5. Go for walk post meal.
Moving your body post meal helps you digest and will burn calories from the meal. Research has also shown that it even improves blood sugar levels.
HPA 6. Continue training.
Don’t punish yourself with endless and mindless cardio the day after you've overeaten. Instead, continue with your training and crush it with the energy from all of those extra calories!
HPA 7. Get enough sleep and manage your stress.
Your sleep and stress has a huge impact on your endocrine system, which is made up of glands that secrete hormones - the fat on our bodies is driven by our hormones! Your diet does not impact it as much as your sleep and stress does.
Better sleep tips:
- Stay away from electronic devices an hour before bed or turn off/block the blue light.
- Get lots of sunlight during the day - this helps set your body to its natural circadian rhythm.
- Don't consume caffeine after 1pm.
- Keep your room cool (ideally 68F) and dark to help you fall and stay asleep.
- Do yoga or get a massage - these help down regulate your central nervous system.
- Carve out time for yourself, away from others, to decompress - reading a book in your room, getting out to a coffee shop, taking a solo jog, or even just putting on headphones to listen to music or a podcast if you can't physically get away.
- Pray or meditate - even if it's just for 10 minutes, practice sitting in silence. Brain FM or Headspace are two great apps for this!
- Get out and walk - this simple everyday activity has been shown to be stress-reducing.
HPA 8. Reduce your calories the next day if you overate more than you planned and/or you're not hungry when you wake up the next morning. Put off your first meal until you're hungry, and focus on proteins + veggies for your meals for the rest of the day.
HPA 9. If you have multiple events in to attend involving food in a given week, prioritize.
If it's more important to have a glass or two of wine at the office happy hour but the food is not so important, have your alcohol and be more mindful of what you eat. But at Friendsgiving, if you want to eat all the things but you don't really want to drink: choose not to drink, own that choice if anyone asks, and enjoy the meal. Choose when you want to indulge and be confident in those choices!
HPA 10. Be confident about the choices you make and have made.
There's nothing worse than feeling guilt and shame over past food choices. There's nothing that can be done to reverse them. Instead of saying, "I shouldn't have eaten all of that food!", say, "All of that food I ate was so delicious and I enjoyed every single bite!"