’Tis the season…to get busy and go on vacation, skip workouts and eat unhealthily until you’ve nearly completely undone nearly everything that you’ve done over the past year. But it doesn’t have to be this way. The next several weeks will constitute a 3 part series detailing how to keep up on your workouts and healthy habits over the holiday season. We’ll cover everything from working out away from home to working out at home, as well as keeping your eating in check over this upcoming holiday season.
The holidays are always a festive season. No matter what religion you practice or festivities you engage in, you’re likely to get invited to a holiday party or two in the next month or two and the chances the host serves paleo are probably slim to none. Holiday parties can be the tracks that derail your train of healthy eating you’ve been keeping up for the last few months. Luckily, it doesn’t have to be this way. You can attend your friend's holiday festivities (even if they aren’t 100% paleo) and keep up your good eating habits while still splurging a little.
For starters, know that over-eating at one holiday party is not going to kill you and eating that homemade brownie you’ve been offered won’t cause you to gain 20 pounds and lose your six pack. Rather the problem arises when one holiday party turns into a weekly ordeal followed by brunch the next day and eating those christmas cookies your grandma sent you later in the week as you watch tv.
To avoid overeating on a weekly basis at holiday parties, there are some key things to avoid at the parties. For starters, appetizers. If you’re going to a dinner party proceeded by a cocktail hour, eat something small before you go to avoid binging on the bacon wrapped shrimp tray. If you show up absolutely famished, you’re more likely to overeat during the appetizers followed by your overeating at dinner. Another trick is to drink water and lots of it. If your hand is full with a glass of water, it will be much more difficult to double fist those stuffed scallops and drinking the water will make you feel more full. While they may seem small, the appetizers can really pack a punch calorically and add a couple hundred additional calories.
The next thing to avoid or at least consume in moderation, is alcohol. While it can be easy to fall into the trap of weekly drinks with your friends, try to opt for the soda water instead of a sugary cocktail which can add a few extra hundred calories to your meal. A serving of red wine can hand over 125 calories. Multiply that by your four glasses on top of your mixed drink, and you’ve already drank a solid 500 calories. While peer pressure is very real and very convincing (trust me it didn’t end after middle school), learn to say no when someone offers you a drink. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for your lack of alcohol consumption. If you do choose to drink, keep it light and keep it to a minimum. Try to limit yourself to one night per week. I.e., if you have two parties in one weekend, pick one to drink at and go sober at the other. Your diet and your liver will thank you.
When it comes time for the actual dinner or meal, it can be difficult to eat exactly what you need to keep you on track with your diet, especially if it’s not buffet style. If you have little to no selection in your choice of food, it can be easy to just kick your diet to the curb and let it go for the evening and eat that giant portion of chicken parmesan. However, when it comes to sticky situations, remember that portion size is your best weapon. Most hosts/restaurants will serve portions that are far larger than the recommended serving size. Rather than asking for your eggplant parmesan sans parmesan, cut your portion size. This doesn’t mean eating a meal for ants, but rather eating slowly and only until your full. Eating quickly doesn’t give your stomach time to cue your brain to tell you your full. Chat with friends and family between bites and only eat until you are full. While proper macronutrient appropriation is important in a successful diet, when push comes to shove, it really comes down to calories in versus calories out. If you can control your portion sizes, you can find yourself to be fairly successful throughout the holiday season.
Last, but certainly not least comes perhaps one of the most difficult parts of the holiday season. Desert. Deserts, cookies, brownies, hot chocolate, cake, and eggnog are all holiday stapes and practically unavoidable. Everywhere you go seems to present you with a challenging test of sheer will power. Starbucks calls at you to ditch your black coffee for a peppermint mocha latte and your grandma sends you Christmas cookies on a weekly basis. While avoiding the holiday sugar high can seem like an impossible task, it can be done. For starters, avoid keeping sugar in your house. Those cookies your neighbor dropped by? Enjoy one or two and then bring them to the breakroom at work the next day. Your diet and your co-workers will certainly thank you. When it comes to handling the free pie samples at Trader Joe’s and desserts at holiday parties, allow yourself to splurge every once in awhile, but for the most part a simple no thank you will do the trick. While it can be difficult to execute in reality, as peer pressure is definitely a real thing, remind yourself of how great you’ll feel without all that extra sugar in your belly. If you do decide to splurge on dessert at your next holiday party, make it hearty. Don’t take tiny pieces to nibble and go back for more, as you’ll probably end up eating more than you intended. Instead, grab a big piece of cake or a full brownie. Don’t offer to “split” a cookie or bar with someone. Eating a full real dessert will leave you feeling more satisfied and less tempted to visit the dessert cart a second time. And when it comes time for hot chocolate and peppermint lattes, stick with your regular coffee. Those rich drinks can pack on tons of sugar and calories that would better be spent on a holiday cookie or bar that will fill you up more and satisfy your dessert cravings completely.
When it comes time for the holiday season, there’s no reason to just let go on your diet and call it quits. Letting yourself splurge a little on a brownie or cookie does not mean an end to your diet. With some self control and moderation, you can make it a successful and fun holiday season.
Kaylyn Wiese has been CrossFitting of more than five years and has been competing against athletes from across the country since age 16. She currently coaches and trains in Boston at CrossFit Coolidge Corner and is a sophomore at Boston College studying business and data analytics. Find her on Instagram @kaylynwiese and Twitter @kaylyn_wiese.