How to navigate through all the holiday food without depriving yourself
Nothing can stop it. The tidal wave of food that’s about to hit during the holidays is on its way. It starts in November and carries well into the New Year.
It’s exciting to look forward to everything, but there can also be trepidation if you’ve been making excellent progress with your health and fitness.
But how do you still enjoy everything and not deprive yourself?
The first thing is to have a game plan so you don’t accidentally eat your weight in pie. Here are four tips you can put into practice.
Tip #1. Work Out Before Eating
Going for a walk after a gigantic meal may help with digestion — but it won’t burn off those calories. Instead, get a leg up by working out before an event or party.
Ideally, some form of high-intensity workout — or strength training — helps set your body up to handle any inferior foods. Your body will need to replenish its muscle energy stores after an intense workout and can make better use of refined sugars and carbs compared to not working out.
Also, if you do some form of HIIT training, you create an afterburn effect where you burn calories long after the workout is done.
Tip #2. Eat Before Parties or Events
If you go into a holiday event starving, you're more likely to dive headfirst into the gingerbread house. When you’re hungry, your body wants quick energy, and usually, that involves calorie dense “foods” that contain a lot of sugar and fat.
We’re designed to crave sugar and fat. We still crave them, but the problem is, the modern versions of them have become artificial. There are no quality ingredients — only a ton of calories.
Craving quick energy also happens when you grocery shop on an empty stomach. When you’re in this state, you often buy high calorie, sugar-filled foods as that’s what your brain wants at that moment. In both situations; the Oreos will look better than the celery. It’s all about the quick energy.
In order not to go overboard, have a whole food meal an hour or two before an event. Make sure that meal contains the things that get you full and keep you full: fiber, protein, water, and healthy fats.
And don’t grocery shop on an empty stomach. You’ll end up buying what you want at that moment instead of what you’ll want later.
Tip #3. Slow Down Your Eating Time
This is a good tip for the rest of the year, too. Most of us eat so fast that we consume more than needed.
Eating too fast prevents hunger signals from reaching the brain. You may have had enough, but you’ve not allowed the body to realize it’s full — and you continue to eat.
Pay attention to this the next time you eat. Most people eat meals within 3–5 minutes — and often quicker — which is way too fast.
Eating should take at least 15–20 minutes for the fullness mechanism to engage. Eating too quickly overrides this mechanism and you just continue to eat. Have you noticed when you eat fast, you're hungrier after finishing than you were when you started? This is that sensation in action.
Monitor the clock and try to take at least 15 minutes to finish what you’re eating. If you’re out with other people; at least be the last person to finish their meal.
Take your time and chew to help this process, and you’ll also improve digestion.
Tip #4. Focus On Protein & Vegetables
You don’t want to avoid all the great snacks and treats, but you probably don’t want to go overboard with it, either. To help this, eat protein and vegetables before you go for the snacks.
This helps with a few things: first, protein and veg contain those things that make you full, and second; they help balance your blood sugar levels.
When you eat high sugared treats — especially on an empty stomach — it causes a rapid spike in blood sugar. This can lead to the inevitable crash, and then more cravings for fast-acting carbs and sugars.
You can keep this under control by eating protein and vegetables/fiber first — and this will also help you eat less of those high-calorie treats.
Any event worth its salt is going to have some sort of charcuterie board, cheese, cold cuts, nuts, and veggie platters — so go for those low glycemic choices before the treats.
I don’t think it’s ever a good idea to deprive yourself. The holidays are that time to enjoy everything — especially those foods we’ve been waiting all year for.
But if you want to stay on top of your health and progress, you may be looking for some ways to not overdo it.
The secret here is to indulge but don’t OVERindulge.
You’re allowed to enjoy yourself — you’ve earned it and deserve it. But these few tips will help prevent things from going off the rails.