Why would I write an article on weight LOSS during the holidays? (First of all, if you don’t need to lose weight, you don’t need to read this, unless you have a friend you want to help.) Doesn’t everyone know that most of us GAIN weight during this time? Maybe it’s because my first strategy for weight loss during the holidays is:
1. Don’t gain holiday weight.
Statistically, most of us gain a good 5 – 10 pounds during the 63 days from Halloween to New Years Day. Many then spend most of the next year attempting to lose that weight, and often are not successful. Just think, if you don’t gain weight in December, that’s the weight you already have taken off that you’d need to lose in January!
Hopefully, I will give you some ideas for how to do that with some of my next strategies.
2. Eat in the order of the buffet.
If you imagine a typical holiday buffet, they will often have the salad first; followed by some vegetables, perhaps some green beans and corn; then you move on to the starches, the rice and mashed potatoes; then you come to the meat selection. The bread can be anywhere on the buffet, but we’ll talk about that later. However, any good buffet goer knows not to fill up on bread, when the good stuff is coming down the line.
If you were in the mindset of losing weight, you might grab a big salad plate and fill it up. Then for your regular dinner plate, you could heap up the vegetables, then you would add some starchy foods and some meat or one of the two, depending on your idea of “healthy”. The point being, if you take your plate back to your seat and evaluate it, it should be heavily populated with vegetables, with just a portion of the rice or potatoes and meat. If that is how it looks, you know you have done well. We know the vegetables are healthier and contain less calories, so we know the more the proportion towards vegetables, the better our choices.
Here’s the concept, instead of skipping those vegetables so you have room for dessert, fill up on them so you don’t.
3. Bypass the rolls.
Have you ever sat down to dinner at a restaurant where they bring you a plate of bread with loads of butter? Do you find yourself, and those you are with, eating it all without even thinking about it? First of all, you are hungry, so yes you are going to eat it. However, once you have eaten it, you aren’t quite so hungry. Bread is filling, and so is the high calorie butter or fake butter most people put on it. I understand, we all love bread, but do you really need it with the large banquet table in front of you? You will enjoy your food much better if you are actually hungry. Hunger is the best condiment, believe me.
4. Skip the dessert table.
Let’s do some hypothetical math. Once you have eaten your dinner, you know you aren’t hungry, in fact you are probably pretty full. You may feel a need to “celebrate the season”, but let’s consider what this “celebration” may cost you.
Say a piece of cake is around 400 calories, because “you just took a small piece”. (Good luck with that.) It will take you two hours on a treadmill to burn off those calories! That’s just for the cake, and that’s in addition to the 10,000 steps you need to take on a daily basis! First of all, are you getting those steps in, consistently? I’m not, but perhaps you are. Second of all, are you going to do two hours of cardio on top of that tomorrow? Thirdly, how did you do at the buffet? Did you add gravy or butter to your mashed potatoes and vegetables? Did you get that roll? Perhaps you heaped fat ladened salad dressing on your salad? How many hours are you going to spend on the treadmill tomorrow? And that’s just to not GAIN weight!
How many holiday parties are you going to in December? How many times is this going to play out?
Is there a bowl of holiday candies at your desk or your neighbor’s desk at work? How about the bowl of holiday M&M’s sitting at the front counter? Do you grab a handful as you walk by?
Is this a celebration or a totally hedonistic time of insanity?
5. Fight your instincts
Now let’s add our natural instincts into this. We are entering a time when, for most of human’s history, we would be facing a severe lack of available food. Our existence depended on how much we prepared for the winter with food, shelter and fuel to keep warm. Our bodies would have told us to eat the most calorie dense food available so we could store enough fat on us to protect us in case of famine.
If you are facing famine, please, have my piece of cake as well, but it’s still not the healthiest choice. Our bodies have not changed, we still think we need lots of calorie rich foods at this time of year. However, naturally calorie rich foods historically would have been starchy vegetables, (winter squashes and corn); beans, grains and wild game. Those are not the highest calorically dense foods in our environment now. Processed foods have “supersized” the calories in our foods. So we reach for what is highest in calories available to us now, and it creates issues that aren’t in our best interests. Instead of surviving the winter, we add fuel to the fire of inflammation, diabetes, obesity and every lifestyle disease many are facing presently.
When you walk into the buffet line, your body is telling you “there is lots of rich food here, skip that lettuce stuff, let’s find the high calorie foods so we can add a protective coat of fat on our body so we can last the winter.” Here’s my question: are you going to listen to it? Your body has your best interests in mind for a natural environment, but we are no longer in a natural environment. We need to take action to compensate for the changes we have made, and value, to our environment. For me, I love that I can find food in the winter by driving to the store. I love that I can turn the heat up and stay warm in my cozy house. However, I need to guard against the natural instinct to eat fabricated foods and sit still throughout the day. Two actions that are not in our best interest.
Some final thoughts
When you go to your next holiday party, please consider eating in the order of the buffet: load up your plate with vegetables, but skip the rolls and the dessert. If you need some inspiration while you are sipping on your decaf coffee and everyone else is gloating over their dessert, look around. Look at the other people and what they are eating. See if you find a correlation to the size of their food and dessert to the size of their body. Don’t focus on the one person who is very thin and has two dessert plates in front of her, look at the others, the majority. Not to judge, we don’t judge others for doing what we really want to do ourselves, but just see if that’s the results you want from the actions you could be taking. If you know these people, consider how many of them have health issues and wonder if there is a correlation to the foods they eat, their extra weight and the chronic diseases they may be suffering with. Consider this in a compassionate way, that if changing your lifestyle can improve your health, perhaps it could improve theirs. The only way to find out is to change your lifestyle and see if it improves your health.
Just thought I’d share some ideas for consideration during this holiday season. Feel free to share this article if you feel it may inspire someone. Have a healthy, happy holiday season!
To your health!