Tips to avoid holiday overeating
by Sublette County Extension Office
December 18, 2011
The eating frenzy began at Halloween and will continue through the Christmas and New Year’s holidays. But the parties and eating won’t end then; we will still be feasting until the Super Bowl and Valentine’s Day are over. But don’t worry; it isn’t necessary to hibernate during the festivities to avoid packing on those extra pounds. Here are some easy ways to change your behavior and still enjoy yourself without becoming an unofficial member of the holiday weight-gainers club:
• Strive for Five a Day: Eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day. They contain fewer calories and more nutrients than other foods. Plus, they are high in fiber to make you feel fuller.
• Make sure that you eat some kind of protein at meals.
• Don’t be compelled to make all of the yummy trimmings for your holiday meal. Be selective and only prepare the foods that you and your family enjoy the most.
• Learn to recognize hunger cues such as an empty stomach feeling or rumbling in your stomach. Eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are full. Eat slowly and mindfully.
• Make sure you are hungry when you sit down to eat a holiday meal. This may mean passing up appetizers and treats before the meal.
• Only put modest portions of the foods you like on your plate. Don’t go back for seconds unless you are still hungry. Save room for dessert if you like it, but only if you really like it. Watch your portion sizes on dessert, as well.
• Eat slowly and try to make the meal last at least 30 minutes. Enjoy fun and upbeat conversation with family and friends during the meal. Let the food be a part of the celebration and not the whole purpose of the celebration.
• Allow limited indulgences. Set a limit for treats and stick to it. Even just one indulgence a day may require you to reduce your caloric intake elsewhere or burn extra calories. Sample only the really special treat. Eat what will give you the most satisfaction. When you eat a treat, take some time to enjoy the taste, texture and the whole experience of eating it--don’t just devour it quickly.
• Find some baking and cooking alternatives that are lower in calories and more nutritious, but that still allow fun time in the kitchen with family and friends.
• Don’t get caught up in the whirlwind of parties, family gatherings, school functions etc. It is OK to say no. Over commitment causes stress which can actually cause weight gain.
• Eat some raw vegetables or other low calorie food before you arrive at a party. This way you will feel full and won’t eat as much high-calorie party foods. Take small tastes of food at a party rather than full portions. Don’t taste or eat everything that is offered to you at a party. When attending a party, focus on the people, the conversation and the ambience of the party rather than on the food.
• Let others go through the buffet line first. It is likely that the most enticing and calorie-dense (read "fattening) foods will be gone which will eliminate some temptations. After you fill your plate at the buffet line, find a place to sit far away from the food. Don’t linger by the buffet table where you can easily graze on the delicious foods.
• Go easy on the alcohol. Drinking can mask your true hunger and increase your body’s production of the stress hormone causing weight gain.
• Being alone for the holidays can be fattening. It is easy to feel left out and sorry for yourself, but don’t console yourself with food. Share the joys of the holidays by pampering yourself, sharing yourself with others by volunteering, going to church or special holiday programs, eating with wisdom and savoring a few holiday treats.
• Make it a priority to do some type of daily physical activity. Exercise is a major tool in both preventing weight gain and losing weight. Don’t let anything interfere with your physical activity. Maintain your exercise program throughout the holiday season (and throughout the year). Taking care of yourself is the best gift you can give yourself and your family.
• Don’t become a victim of the "snowball effect". Just because you overeat or skip your exercise one day during the holidays, don’t let it sabotage you during the whole holiday season.
To get through the holidays and avoid expanding your waistline, takes some thought and planning. The best way to keep holiday weight gain at bay is to spend time focusing on the true meaning of the holiday season.
For more information on "Living Well in Wyoming" Dietary Guidelines for Americans, contact your University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator.
Source: Denise Smith, University of Wyoming Extension Educator, Nutrition and Food Safety, Converse, Natrona and Niobrara Counties.