4 min read

Eating Light This Holiday Season

Eating Light
Not a bad spread…

I originally posted something like this back in 2010, but as it’s the holidays again, it serves as a great reminder for the upcoming overconsumption.

Here are a few strategies to keep in mind over the next week as you feast on food and try to stay adherent to your weight-loss goals.

#1 – Set a Realistic Maintenance Objectives For The Holidays

For most people, a weight or body composition maintenance objective over the holidays should be the focus. 

I’ve heard plenty of estimates over the years; people gain on average XX lbs over the holidays.

You can insert your own number there, but I’ve read 4-10 lbs on average, depending on the study.

Now if you could just keep your weight the same through December, you’d be that much better off than average for the rest of the year.

Weight doesn’t just suddenly appear, it creeps on. It’s not one day of overconsumption that hurts. It’s a week or a month of consistent over-eating that hurts.

This is where your mindset becomes important, can you maintain your weight through exercise and nutrition this time of year? I think you can.

Most people aim for perfect, all or nothing. There are many reasons why this mentality can be a recipe for disaster, because it’s just not feasible for most. Be realistic.

Your mind will be in a far better place come January, because of this, and January typically signals a feeling of renewal in most of us.

#2 – Alternate Alcoholic Beverages With Glasses of Water

Don’t want to give up drinking completely but still want to shed pounds or keep your weight the same through December?

I’ve used this as a weight loss strategy with many over the years. It’s realistic, in that it allows you to socially drink still, without looking like a prude.

Keep consumption to a more realistic quantity with this simple strategy.

Be honest, no one wants to be THAT guy/gal at the Christmas party. This simple change cuts your liquid caloric intake in half for the evening and no one will be the wiser. You’ll also feel a lot better come morning.

You could also choose some better options for alcohol.

For example, any beer or mixed drinks with added sugars or softdrinks is not a good idea. You’re better off sticking to dry wines or soda water with a hard alcohol and a splash of lime.

#3 – Eat Lean Protein with Every Meal

20g for women (about the size of your palm – please read this article), 40 grams for men should suffice (2 palm sized servings).

Protein increases the thermic effect of food which slows sugar absorption into the bloodstream and requires more calories to break down during digestion.

Small quantities of good fats (Nuts, Avocados, etc…) have been shown to have a similar effect, as has fiber, but protein is the preferred approach over the holidays.

Good fats are still far easier to overdo and the serving size is only about the size of your thumb.

The other side effect of protein consumption is that it leaves you feeling fuller, longer. You’re less likely to over-consume later or go back for more.

Let’s face it, turkey breast is not the problem over the holidays, it’s the white bread, marshmallow yam casserole, pies, cakes, stuffing and sauces.

Avoiding sugar or reducing its effect on your body is part of the goal over the holidays but it’s best to spin your approach in a positive light. As opposed to an avoidance light.

#4 – Slow Down and Practice Hara Hachi Bu

The Okinawans have a saying, which translated to English means, “eat until 80% full.” 

In a time where gluttony is everywhere, mass overconsumption the norm, it can be tough.

Eat more slowly and more thoughtfully. Then you’ll know when to shut it down, just a little bit earlier than usual.

It takes approximately 20 minutes for your hormones to register that you’re full, so slow things down. Anything that helps you slow down is valid (smaller plate, chew more, take smaller bites, use chopsticks, smaller servings, etc…etc…).

Consider taking a picture of your plate. This might make you think twice about what you are about to consume. It is also far easier than keeping a food diary over the holidays.

If you need extra accountability assign a ‘holiday eating buddy’ and text message photos of food to each other.

#5 – Out of Sight – Out of Mind

This is the time of year, everyone puts chocolates, candies and other snacks out in an endless supply.

It’s considered hospitable to have large amounts of food out for people to snack on, but it’s not exactly friendly to the waist-line.

Do yourself and your friends a favour. Hide this food. Do not leave it out and keep refilling it over the holidays for your guests.

I know a lot of my relatives do this, but realize if it’s there, people will eat it, yourself included.

Instead make or pick up a couple of tasty but relatively filling ‘non-processed’ appetizers and bring them out at a scheduled time. Perhaps mid-afternoon?

When it’s gone, it’s gone. Something to start a conversation with. This curbs hunger slightly and keeps your reputation as a hospitable host intact.

Remember lean protein and fiber is your friend here.

#6 – Be O.K. With Waste

I don’t know about your family. My family is always encouraging me to finish things off over the holidays.

When I was younger, I would oblige because I had a ferocious appetite that could not be satisfied. I was also physically active 12+ hours a week at the time.

These days I’m much less likely to get peer pressured into polishing the stuffing off. I’m also much less active.

I don’t eat myself to the feeling of stuffed because I don’t worry about waste, or the much more likely: left-overs.

Do you really like feeling stuffed? Vaving to undo that belt buckle a notch, or worse showing up with stretchy pants to holiday dinner?

Realize it’s O.K. not to finish everything on your plate or try every single — of the 14 different dishes on the table — kind of food on the dinner table.

If it’s still a problem, try to take less. And tell your judgemental friends or family to buzz off. What/how you eat is none of their concern.