Part 1 of: Your Holiday Weight Gain Prevention Plan

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With the holidays upon us, we often celebrate by traveling to see those we love, vacationing…and over-indulging in high fat/high calorie foods. While we look forward to many of the warm feelings and upcoming experiences a holiday can bring, one of the things we may not look forward to is giving ourselves the “gift” of a few extra pounds we’re wearing by the end of the year. If weight gain, frustration and larger clothes aren’t on your wish list, is there a way to enjoy the holiday season guilt-free? Yes, and it starts with a plan.

The first part of your “Holiday Weight Gain Prevention Plan” is to ask yourself what do holidays, time away and vacations mean to you? If you’re a chronic dieter, time away often signifies time off from healthy eating. With any type of restrictive eating, drastic changes have been made to your eating behaviors. These changes are temporary at best so we find ourselves either “on or off,” “all or nothing,” or “good or bad,” leaving a holiday as a prime opportunity to go overboard with our choices, our portions and our behaviors.

Even if you’re not a chronic dieter, certain foods signify that the holidays are here and we’ll want to indulge in all of the special foods and sweet treats that surround us. Some of these foods even emotionally bring us right back to the comfortable place where we originally feasted on them. So how can we avoid overindulging during these times?

You’ve heard the saying, “If you fail to plan then plan to fail.” That’s certainly the case when it comes to holiday traveling and eating. Where does the plan begin? It begins before you even leave for your trip.

If you’ll be traveling by car, be sure to pack some healthy snacks and drinks. While there may be plenty of fast food and convenience shops along the way, chances are what you pack will be more nutritious and healthier than what you’d find at most rest stops. If you’re traveling by plane, same idea applies. While you may have access to some healthy choices at an airport restaurant or store, long lines and other last minute delays may prevent you from having the time needed to get what you need. If you’ve packed what you’d need ahead of time, the choice to use your own snacks or save them for later in your trip is up to you.

If your travel involves a holiday meal, here’s something to try, as well. Only eat what’s special for that holiday, or unique to your destination. For example, let’s say for Thanksgiving there’s a delicious looking stuffing on the table that you want to try along with other types of breads and rolls. Since a roll may be something you’d have on any given night out, skip what’s ordinary to allow for a taste of that special stuffing. If you’re traveling somewhere known for a certain food, drink or dessert, skip what you’d ordinarily have at home to allow for the special treat. By having what’s unique for the holiday or destination, you’ll feel a part of it without “stuffing” yourself!

When it comes to pre-planning, it’s not just our food we need to consider. Often it’s the situations – the people, places, thoughts and feelings that may derail our best efforts. For these eating triggers, we need a plan, too.

For example, you may have a relative who shows their love and nurturing through the food they prepare and serve to you. Not wanting to hurt their feelings or have them feel rejected, you accept that love in the form of a slice of warm apple pie, an extra serving of mashed potatoes…you get the idea. Knowing that you’ll be faced with these well-meaning “food pushers,” you may want to preplan what you’ll say or do ahead of time so you both feel good about the meal and the experience. Try out a few phrases and see if they work for you, such as, “I’ve been looking forward to your delicious cookies and I’m saving room for a taste,” or “I’m stuffed now but can I wrap it up and take it with me for later?” They’ll feel that their treat is so special you want to find a way to eat it, while you can choose to do whatever you like with it once you leave.

If you’ve overdone it, you can always apply the three to one rule. That means, for every one thing you’ve overindulged in, make the next three choices healthier and better balanced. For example, a meal that’s over-the-top needs to be balanced with three moderate meals. A food choice that’s high in calories and fat can be balanced with three more healthful options.

Finally, if you’ve really gone overboard, evaluate what happened, don’t be hard on yourself and put some closure on it. There’s nothing positive that comes out of berating yourself and chances are, those negative feelings may just encourage you to keep overeating out of sheer frustration! Also, many of us take that “may as well” approach where as long as we’ve overdone it, we may as well keep going. That equates to this – I gained a pound so I may as well gain back all I’ve lost. Does this make any sense?

With a plan, the holidays can be enjoyed without the “leftovers” you’d see on your belly, hips and thighs. By putting some strategies into place now, you can finally have a New Year’s Resolution that’s different from the millions of other people who start January 1st with a pledge to lose excess weight.

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November 2010
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