The holidays should be about family and celebration, not stress.

But if you are trying to lose or even maintain your weight it can seem like an impossible feat with all the food that surrounds holiday celebrations. Maybe you have already thought about Thanksgiving and you already have your own ideas of how you’ll handle the day, and that’s great! I believe the most important thing is to go in with a plan that you’ll be happy with at the end of the day. If that plan is to not track a single thing and just eat whatever on the holiday, that’s great—as long as you will feel good about that choice. So, take a breath, make a plan, and enjoy the holiday.

Here are a few to get you thinking about the balance you want to strike—hopefully a balance that will help you reach your goals but still enjoy the holiday.

  1. Start the day with a high-protein, low-carb, low-fat breakfast. My go-to is always an egg-white scramble with sautéed veggies (like broccoli, zucchini, and peppers). It’s high volume, high protein, free of fat, and low carb.
  2. Eat light early in the day, but do eat. It’s tempting to try to skip breakfast and lunch in preparation for dinner. But approaching a holiday dinner on an empty stomach means that you’ll be less likely to savor and enjoy the food; instead, you’re likely to find yourself just shoveling it in because you’re so hungry.
  3. Drink at least 8 to 16 oz of water before the meal. This will fill your stomach and can help limit overeating.
  4. Get a workout in during the morning. Go for a run, hit up the gym, do a HIIT workout—just do something to get a burn on!
  5. Step away from the pie. Suggest an after-dinner walk around the neighborhood or play an active game to get your blood moving and keep you occupied, so you don’t pick at the leftovers or eat another piece of pie.
  6. Get 7 to 8 hours of sleep the night before. Sleep will help your hormones (particularly leptin and ghrelin, which control your feeling of hunger and fullness) stay at normal levels. Studies show that a lack of sleep can cause you to eat foods that are higher in calories, carbs, and fat the following day[1].
  7. Plan how much food you will eat. Are you going to sample a little of everything? Go back for seconds? Have pie? What foods are most important to you? If your grandma’s pie is something you look forward to all year, plan to have a slice! No guilt involved. But really think about what you value and what’s worth it—and what you’re just eating because it’s there.
  8. Practice the “one bite rule.” Take a bite of something, put down your fork, and take a moment to decide if it’s worth it. If it is—enjoy it! But if it’s not, be okay with leaving it on your plate, moving on, and eating something that is worth it.
  9. Eat slowly. Take the time to savor the meal; don’t just rush to clear your plate. After the meal, take a 20-minute break before going back for seconds.
  10. Have a plan for your leftovers. Will keeping them in the house throw you off and prevent you from sticking to your macros? If so, make a plan to send food home with others or figure out a way to get it out of your house.

Remember that what you do 90% of the time is more important than what you do the other 10% of the time. That said, most holidays are really about one meal. Or at most one day. Celebrate the holiday, but don’t let that celebration turn the whole week or weekend into a caloric free-for-all.

[1] Schmid, S. M., Hallschmid, M., Jauch-Chara, K., Born, J, Schultes, B. (2008) A single night of sleep deprivation increases ghrelin levels and feeling of hunger in normal-weight healthy men. Journal of Sleep Research. 17(3), 331-4.

 

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