Many patients find that the holidays are often incompatible with their diet and exercise regiments. But before you sabotage in two short weeks what you’ve worked so hard to maintain the previous 11 months, take heed of the following advice from expert holistic nutritional counselor, Peter Lappin. These tips not only can help you avoid your penchant for overindulging this season (and regretting it later), they’ll help you enjoy many more holidays to come in the future.
1. Don’t go to a holiday meal starving. A lot of people under-eat in anticipation of a big meal, and then fill up on fat-laden crackers, cheese, nuts, and dip before the turkey gets carved. Eat sensibly and don’t skip meals on feast day.
2. If you’re going elsewhere to eat, resist the invitation to take home leftovers. It isn’t just the sweets that are a potential problem, it’s anything associated with holiday eating — turkey, side dishes, etc. — that are not part of your regular diet. Politely decline the offer and you won’t have the food around to tempt you.
3. Exercise the day of the event, the day after the event, and ideally, the day after that (and so on). Among the benefits of exercise: It calms us. It increases our metabolism. It helps us digest our food. It raises our energy and improves our mood. It provides a sense of accomplishment. It gets our blood pumping. It gives us "alone" time to be with our thoughts. It burns calories. It gets us in touch with our bodies and minds.
4. Before you start, anticipate what’s likely to come. Do you want to go to the event at all? What do the holidays mean to you? Are they happy occasions? Do you feel criticized by the people you’ll be with? Do you feel like you come up short, or that you’ll be judged by others?
(You don’t have to share these feelings with others, but it’s important to be honest with yourself. You don’t have to love the holidays. The clearer you are about how you feel, the less likely you’ll be to use food to calm your emotional upset.)
5. If you’re bringing food, make it a light, healthful dish you can enjoy. By setting an example, you show others that holiday meals needn’t be limited to foods laden with butter, brown sugar, etc. Bring sautéed greens (like kale or collards), or a mix of roasted root vegetables (beets, carrots, parsnips, turnips and rutabaga). They’ll be the hit of the evening — and they’re naturally sweet!
6. Sample every dish and dessert you’d like, but take just enough to fill your plate ONCE. This is not the all-you-can-eat buffet at Shoney’s. This also relates to #1: DON’T go to a holiday dinner starving.
7. During the meal, check in with yourself. Are you really still hungry? Are you tasting your food? Are you putting food in your mouth before you’ve swallowed what’s already there? (I’m guilty of this all the time.) Think how GOOD it’s going to feel returning home not feeling like a beached whale!
8. If you do overeat, FORGIVE YOURSELF. It’s hard enough when we don’t meet our own expectations; it feels even worse when we beat ourselves up for it. In the end, we’re human. I read recently, "Perfectionism is a form of oppression." Can you relate to that?
9. When the meal is over, brush your teeth. This is a great way to mark the end of a meal. You are done eating.
10. Walk home. If you can’t walk all the way, walk part of the way home, or take a walk once you get there. This will clear your head, calm you, and ease your digestion. We were not meant to gorge ourselves and then flop down in front of a television set or immediately go to bed.
These tips are reprinted with permission from Peter Lappin. Peter is a holistic health counselor and owner/operator of Vibrant Living NYC. His mission is “to help successful professionals in demanding careers bring more balance to their lives.” Vibrant Living NYC’s holistic approach encompasses healthy diet, stress management, loving relationships, positive self-image, purposeful work, and joyful physical activity.