The holiday season is upon us, and however you feel about that, one thing is sure to ring true: the food will be delicious and plentiful! For those feeling a bit of food-induced anxiety at the thought of tackling the culinary onslaught, here are 7 tips to help you feel good about your food consumption throughout the merriment.
1. Strive for “good enough,” not “perfect”
If you enter into the holiday season thinking about food with a rigid and restrictive mindset, or aiming for dietary perfection in order to avoid overeating, you’ve set yourself up to fail. Overly restrictive diets often lead to a quick loss of willpower that gives way to binge eating, throwing in the towel, and feeling that you’ve messed up on your diet beyond repair. If you take the idea of perfection off the table, you suddenly give yourself more room to make choices. When you feel empowered to choose, you can opt for a treat in one circumstance and not another, picking and choosing when to make a choice for a more nutritious option versus a less nutritious option. You can still make great choices for your health while enjoying a bit of holiday spirit, too. An important tip that goes hand-in-hand with this idea: commit to not feel guilty about what you eat. Instead, focus on keeping a mindset of just “getting right back to it” the next time you have a food choice to make.
2. Plan aheadWith the onslaught of busyness this season, we’re often running from one event to the next. If we’re not careful to plan and prepare ahead of time, it’s easy to eat what’s convenient and accessible, which inevitably will be loads of delicious party treats! Try some simple meal planning and preparation to ensure you’ve got some ready-made nutritious options to grab in a pinch. Focus on creating meals around lean proteins and veggies to stay well-fueled while you’re on the go. To minimize hunger and temptation during parties or events where you know you’ll be surrounded by goodies, eat a nutritious meal ahead of time, focusing on a generous serving of protein (think 1-2 palm sized portions). Protein offers long-lasting satiety because it takes longer to digest than carbohydrates, setting you up to feel satisfied throughout the festivities.
3. Stay hydrated
It might sound obvious, but drinking water is an important part of balanced nutrition. The signal our brain sends us when our body needs water is easily confusable with the hunger signal, and most of us aren’t adept at differentiating between them. This means we often think we’re hungry when we might actually be thirsty. Aiming to drink about half your body weight in ounces of water per day is a good starting point for proper hydration. Drinking enough water will also make it easier to decipher when you’re actually ready to eat.
4. Eat mindfully
Mindful eating might sound a little woo-woo but it just means learning to feel, decipher, and hone your body’s natural signals for hunger and fullness. A few ways to practice mindful eating include: eating slowly, setting your fork down between bites, and stopping when you feel about 80% full. These practices give you the best chance to feel your body’s cues of satiety, helping to keep you from overeating without having to diet, count calories, or measure food. These are also some of the principles of Intuitive Eating, a powerful and often effective way to approach nutrition and health.
5. Control what you can
Closely related to tip number 1 (strive for “good enough” not “perfect”), focus on putting your energy into the factors that you have influence over, rather than fretting over things you can’t control. One thing you have some control over is what foods are accessible at home. During a season when you’ll likely eat more processed, sugary foods at parties and events, stock your house with whole, nutrient-dense foods like a variety of fruits, veggies, lean proteins, legumes, whole grains, and other minimally processed sources of carbohydrates.
6. Move your body
…and not just on the dance floor at the company party. Intentionally increase your activity level by adding in a few 30-minute walks each week, and hitting the gym when you can. When you’re focused on moving, you will feel stronger, more energized, and generally have a desire to fuel your body with more nutrient-rich foods.
7. Enjoy it
Arguably the most important tip of the season is to enjoy it! When you focus on quality relationships, quality time, and celebrating the things that matter to you (even yummy food), you’ll naturally feel better, more relaxed, and fully present. Do what you can to nourish and support yourself physically and nutritionally, but not at the expense of your joy and sanity. It IS possible to maintain a balanced approach to food throughout this season. Eat well, eat mindfully, and enjoy every bite. Happy holidays!
Author Elana Witt is a personal trainer at Hyatt Training. She believes all people possess the ability to get stronger and feel better, no matter where they’re starting from. Through learning correct, functional movements, she wants each of her clients to better understand their body and their capabilities while feeling empowered to achieve their goals. Elana is a NASM certified. Learn more about Elana, or get in touch with her by emailing us at Go@HyattTraining.com.
Hyatt Training is a collective of certified, enthusiastic and innovative personal trainers in Portland, Oregon. To read more nutrition related posts like this one, follow this link.