Judging from the number of television segments, magazine and newspaper articles that caution against the dreaded holiday weight gain it appears that people are convinced that Thanksgiving, Christmas/Hanukkah (or whatever holiday you celebrate) and New Year’s Eve are diet disasters….indulgent days destined to ruin your waistline. I say nonsense. It’s not the three holidays that are to blame. You can eat as much as you want, you can wield your fork until you can hardly waddle away from the table at those delightful celebratory dinners. They are meant to be feasts and they should be enjoyed.
I remember a TV segment I saw once that had advice on how to avoid overeating on Superbowl Sunday. The waif-like hostess suggested eating a lunch of lean protein and complex carbs then preparing healthy snacks like celery and tuna that you could eat when everyone else was having delicious treats. She also recommended drinking a bunch of water to fill yourself up when the snacks came out. Her last, and in my opinion, strangest recommendation was to exercise during the commercials and at half time. She demonstrated doing crunches on a giant inflatable ball. I can’t imagine anyone actually doing such a thing. What kind of weirdo sits and watches football eating celery and drowning themselves in water and then hops up and starts to exercise when the Bud Light commercials come on? Special days with good friends and good cooking are the stuff that feed the body and the soul. It’s a mistake to think that cracking down on a single day of indulgence is going to do a anything of worth for you.
It’s not the celebration days that are the problem. It’s the daily overindulgence that’s to blame. Temptations abound this time of year. People start baking all sorts of lovely treats, invitations to social events start pouring in, the temperature drops and comfort food starts to taste especially good. The good news is you can only gain weight if your energy output isn’t sufficient to offset the amount of calories you’re consuming. There’s no super secret formula to keeping the unwanted pounds off. You just have to approach this season with a little common sense. I say keep tabs on how much you’re eating, the nutritional content of what you’re eating (maybe put the fruit cake down) and the amount of exercise you’re getting. If you want to eat a little extra (I said a LITTLE extra…don’t switch out your fork for a shovel) add a long, fast walk to your normal routine a few days a week, go outside and throw the football with the kids or kick the soccer ball around. You don’t have to live on celery but bring some healthy, portable snacks wherever you go so you don’t end up in the break room grabbing five of those cute snowflake shaped sugar cookies. Look for the meat slices, salmon or shrimp at the cocktail parties and have those instead of the chips, brownies and soda. If you drink, have a glass of good wine or a martini instead of a mixed drink with all the sugar.
Pick three or four days in the next month and a half that you want to have free rein and go for it. Give yourself permission to eat as much as you want. You want a vat of mashed potatoes? You want a whole cherry pie? You want half the ham and all the cranberry sauce? Have it. Enjoy it…sit there at the table, full and happy with your family and friends and cherish every minute…
It’s not the people who eat dry rice crackers and hop around doing aerobics between the main meal and dessert who have success over the long run. It’s the people who take a measured, common sense approach to food and exercise on a daily basis that win in the end. Putting a plan in place regarding when you’re going to indulge and when you’re going to keep caloric intake within a reasonable range will keep your waistline and your sanity intact.