Over the last couple weeks I have heard, on more than one occasion, somebody say things like “I will start my diet on January 1st” or “I am not even going to try and eat healthy during the holidays” or “It’s the holidays I can eat whatever I want” or something else along those lines. We are all guilty to some extent, including me. Even I have subscribed to that mentality; especially this past weekend as I was chowing down Thanksgiving leftovers. However, reality set in Monday morning when I woke up feeling sluggish and not very healthy. I did not like this feeling AT ALL and it got me thinking about what would happen if I really ate whatever I wanted over the next 5-6 weeks just because it’s “the holidays”.
It takes about 5-6 weeks to form a habit – unhealthy or healthy. The choice is ours. So if I spend this time dismissing calories, freezer cooking, wholesome foods, and other good habits there is the strong possibility that I will undue the good habits and routines I worked so hard to adopt. However, what scares me even more is all the bad habits I will to break once the holidays are over. That is like a double whammy! Think about it if I am snacking on cookies and leftovers everyday (or every other day), without tracking, for the next 30 days then my mind and body will become accustomed again to eating that way. That is not good.
I know you are thinking “but Tammy, it is holidays, puuhhhleease do not tell me I can’t eat cookies!” Now come on you know I would never do that to you. It would be a crime to not enjoy my Great Aunt Amy’s chocolate pie or cheesecake. If I decided past up my mom’s lasagna or ricotta cookies I think I would be twitching uncontrollably for the next year.
I want you to enjoy the holidays and all the foods that go along with it. However, I am going to challenge all of use to keep it under control and think before you eat. Yes that is right think before you eat. We want to go into the new year moving forward not starting over – make sense?
Here are some tips I will be challenging myself to follow during this holiday season.
Keep holding yourself accountable.
It is much more difficult to get off track when you have a system and tools put in place to hold yourself accountable. The two ways that I stay accountable is by keeping my daily online food journal and getting on the scale once a week. I know some people hate scales and if you are one of them then don’t use it but for me getting on the scale is the moment of truth. Numbers don’t lie and seeing the numbers on both of these tools keep me focused and prevent cookies and leftover artichoke dip from developing invisible calories. Remember the systems you put in place only work if you use them – so dust that scale off and log into your my fitness pal account and get to it.
Keep a Weekly Menu Plan
This time of year is so busy and it is easy to forget about putting your weekly menu plan together. Between shopping, visiting family, and getting ready for the holidays who has time to sit down and put together a menu plan. I know this is a busy time but that becomes even more of a reason for you to keep up with your menu plan. This way you stay on track and ultimately reduce your stress because you know what you are going to eat everyday – one less thing to worry about.
The best way to keep up with menu planning is to keep it simple. Now is not the time to test out a bunch of new recipes and ingredients. Easy to make family favorites are what should be showing up for the next couple weeks. I also find it handy to recycle old menu plans. This is easy for me because I have almost two years worth of menu plans on SMK however for non bloggers make sure you are saving your menu plans. You might find it helpful to save them using the menu planing service Plan to Eat where you can easily generate menu plans and grocery lists with a couple clicks.
And if you really don’t have time to create a menu plan then I highly recommend subscribing to a menu planning service like Emeals. I use the clean eating plan and it has come in quite handy for meals and inspiration when my head is spinning. They have many plans to chose from and all are super affordable. You can view my menu planning resource page for other menu planning services and ideas.
Plan for Leftovers
In my opinion, it is not the holiday meals and parties that wreak havoc on our waistlines. Nope it is the leftovers that loom in the refrigerator afterwards. In one sense leftovers are good because you don’t have to shop or cook. But on the other hand, if they are not planned into the weekly menu, then I have found we tend to eat leftovers carelessly. We mindlessly snack or grab food without taking into consideration the portion or if we are even hungry.
I know many of us, growing up, have been told many times not to waste food. In fact, i would be willing to bet at one time or another we have heard the phrase “there are starving children in the world who would love this food so don’t waste it”. However, i believe this mentality around holiday leftovers can cause us to over eat for the simple reason of not wanting to throw food out. While I am not a proponent of throwing food out I also don’t want you to eat just for the sake of not wasting food. My solution to this is freeze what you can, incorporate leftovers into healthier recipes, keep portions under control, if appropriate bring to a food shelter, and if all you have are random scraps then by all means throw out. Remember scraps and crumbs have calories to and can add up quickly if not paid attention to.
Which brings me to my last tip.
For a lot of us, the next 5-6 weeks are filled with shopping, wrapping presents, going to parties, hosting guests, baking cookies, and everything else the holiday season entails. These fun, joyous, and at times stressful activities make it easy to put on the back burner our healthy habits and routines. It does not help that most of these activities are centered around food- at least that’s the way it seems in my world! I go shopping with my mom and all of the sudden I want a Starbucks and we immediately start scoping out which restaurant has the shortest wait time. When I head out to a party I am instantly enticed by the buffet of appetizers, chocolate, and delicious finger foods. Or why is that as soon as I sit down to wrap presents I want popcorn?! It is crazy, but during the holiday season, no matter where I am it is all about food!
Over the last couple years I have learned to be mindful so I can enjoy the holidays without breaking every good habit I have formed. I know this might sound easier said than done but when I take the time to think and plan ahead of time I am much more likely to make better choices. For example, when I go shopping with with my mom I will plan for the Starbucks and if we do go out to eat I will check my fitness pal to make sure I am ordering the healthier options. Or if we go to a party I will make myself a plate instead of just grazing. This allows me to enjoy all the food but still keep my portions under control. Just taking the time to Think and be mindful can make all the difference.
Even though the holiday season is a challenging time to maintain healthy eating habits I promise it can be and you can do it. So stayed focused, plan, and you can certainly have your Christmas cookie and eat it to.
What are some of your tips for maintaining healthy eating habits over the holidays?