Handling Holiday Eating (The 3 Healthy Survival Rules I Swear By!)
‘Tis the season for delicious treats, carb-loaded pasta dishes, and oh-so-much wine! Healthy and holiday eating are rarely used in the same sentence. And although this time of year is amazing, it’s also so freakin’ hard. Who’s with me?!
It’s like every other night you’re out at another Christmas function, and then every other morning you’re opting for a fancy full-fat holiday latte because yolo, and then every other afternoon your office is filled with Christmas cookies or squares or marshmallow treats, and then every other night you’re panicking about trying to sneak in a workout of some kind. GAH! Honestly, it’s no wonder that the average person puts on 7-10 lbs in December. Most of us eat like we’re starving animals!
I get it. Trust me, I’ve been there many times. However, once I began getting more serious about my health and fitness practice and career, I realized that December was the was the best time for me to get ahead for the January push. So rather than completely surrendering to the decadence, I created a structure that works for me. A little indulgence, but also a good amount of ‘staying on track’. My system includes 3 healthy holiday eating survival rules that I swear by (note: these are my rules year-round, but never are they more important to stick to than during the holiday rush.) Read on for my top 3 tips to survive the holiday season with your fitness intact.
Rule #1: I make sure to get my workouts in!
Like the rest of the world, the holidays are a time when I want to eat all the things! However, rather than sliding off the rails completely, I try to live by a philosophy of moderation. What’s the single biggest factor that helps keep me on track? Getting my workouts in regularly.
I try to prioritize:
- Strength training (and lifting heavy) to elevate my metabolism
- HIIT workouts instead of steady state cardio to spark more afterburn
- Consistency because “done” counts way more than perfection
There’s also an added bonus to keeping up with my workouts – it changes my mindset from hungry-lazy-cookie-monster to fit-and-health-conscious-holiday-lover. Meaning: I allow myself my favourite treats of the season, but in moderation, because I prioritize keeping my fitness objectives top of mind.
Another bonus? Y’all know I love fashion… and the holiday season is one of my favourite times to dress up in cute cocktail dresses and pantsuits. You know what isn’t cute? Feeling bloated, full and self conscious when you’re trying to enjoy a party. (PS – below are some of my favourite holiday looks from last year.)
Rule #2: I fill up on protein and veggies as the bulk of my intake
Even though it’s the season for constant snacking and treats galore (between decadent gorging) – I don’t stray too far from my normal approach when it comes to holiday eating . I take in the bulk of my calories from lean protein and nutrient-rich veggies, and rather than saying “no” to cookies and eggnog, I say “yes” but only in small doses because I’m actually pretty satiated from my protein-and-veg-meals.
What would happen if I were to completely throw my regular healthy-eating practices out the door? Well, let’s just say I’d probably stuff my face with grilled cheese sandwiches, chips, and other fatty faves… followed by cookies and eggnog, of course. See what I mean? A few little treats are far less damaging than a full-fat Armageddon.
Easy ‘NO’s for me are: too much sauce, dressing, and bread. I decided a long time ago that anything bland and flavourless isn’t really worth the calories.
(Swiss Chalet is my fave on-the-run healthy meal!)
Rule #3: I cut my dessert holiday eating to a half portion unless it’s insanely good
Dessert is a tricky one for me. Yes, there’s a lot of sugar – but man, almost all dessert is so damn good! Typically, I give myself a free pass when it comes to enjoying desserts, but I approach the enjoyment of them very mindfully.
What does that mean? Well….depending on our Christmas lineup of commitments, I vary my approach between ‘just going for it’ vs. really checking in with myself on how I feel.
- If we only have one event that week – I let the dessert serve as my major treat
- If we have a lot going on, I slow down and start with a smaller portion of the good stuff, reminding myself that if I still want more after I’ve mindfully enjoyed that portion, I can have it. Usually I’m pretty good about keeping things contained.
I get it guys, and I’m with you! No one wants to be suffering through a strict diet during the most delicious season of the year, but with a few simple guidelines, you can minimize ‘destructive damage’ like gaining a whopping 10 pounds – and instead stay pretty close to your normal healthy eating habits, while still enjoying the array of cocktail parties, fancy dinners and holiday pancake breakfasts. The best part is – once that New Year’s resolution season rolls around, you’ll be right on track to reach your goals without a huge uphill climb because you treated December a little bit like your January.