We are fast approaching the holiday season and many people are concerned about gaining weight between Thanksgiving and Christmas. This is a valid concern as the average person gains between 5-8 pounds during the holiday season. But with all the Halloween candy that we tend to accumulate after the trick-or-treaters have gone, the real concern should really start on Halloween. Everybody knows that oatmeal is a healthier choice than a doughnut and that a big spinach salad trumps a Big Mac any day of the week. But how many times have we told ourselves as we reach for that mini Reese’s peanut butter cup or when we find ourselves waiting for our dinner in the drive-through line; “I really shouldn’t be eating this. I really should be eating better.” Let’s see how easy it is to avoid holiday weight gain by simply following the three P’s: Prepare, Plan and Perseverance.
So let’s get prepared for your new healthy lifestyle. The first thing that must be done is to clean out the refrigerator and the pantry of anything that is coming between you and your skinny jeans. I know that Twinkie looks pretty good at 8pm when hunger strikes but you know that it’s not serving you well. You can tell yourself that you will have the resolve and the self-discipline to resist those treats but willpower will only take you so far and then temptation takes over. Soon you’ll be justifying eating “just a little more” ice cream in the freezer until suddenly you’re looking at an empty pint. It’s best to get rid of the unhealthy choices so that those lures don’t exist in the first place.
Next, with any big project you will need to prepare some goals. Will you be flying solo with this endeavor or will you recruit some willing participants? Are you deficient in a certain food group or is there a food that triggers you to overeat so you need to stay away from it completely? Also consider your health goals. Are you trying to get down to a certain weight or are you trying to lower your cholesterol? Give some thought over your short and long term goals and determine how you will reach them. Write those goals down and keep them visible so you can reference them on a regular basis.
Speaking of willing participants, don’t be afraid to ask for support. Let your friends, family, and co-workers know that you are making healthier choices and encourage them to support your decision by keeping unhealthy snacks out of sight for awhile. Perhaps instead of meeting at a bakery, you could suggest that the get-togethers occur over a game of bowling or a walk through the forest preserve or something else that is active and doesn’t revolve around food. Who knows? You may just inspire several people to follow your good example!
So now that you are prepared, let’s plan for your success. One of the most important things that you can do is to invest in a journal. It could be a simple spiral notebook or a special journal log you purchase at the bookstore. Use this journal to record your meals. This will help to keep you accountable as nobody wants to write down that they just consumed 5 candy bars in one sitting. By keeping a journal, you will be able to pinpoint times when your resolve waivers and you tend to overeat. This is important to understand so that are better able to plan for those events and take action to prevent poor decisions when it comes to your diet. It is also very motivating to look back and see how you were able to successfully conquer that situation and persevere. Studies have shown that people who keep a journal of their daily diet and activities tend to lose more weight and are also more likely to stay consistent with their goals. Your journal may end up being your best friend throughout this journey!
Have you ever heard of the saying, “When you fail to plan, you plan to fail?” When you plan your meals for the day, you are planning for success. Pack a small cooler to take with you to work with a healthy lunch and fresh fruit and nuts for snacks. Be prepared for when hunger strikes on the way home or when well-intended co-workers ask you to go out to lunch for pizza.
Plan for the times that you will need to say, “No, thanks.” Before you go to a holiday party, have a healthy snack before you go so your hunger will not steer you towards the plate of pies and cookies. Stand away from the buffet table and sip on water instead of high calorie drinks like egg nog and cream liqueurs. Offer to bring a healthy alternative such as sliced vegetables and low-fat cheese and crackers. The host or hostess will appreciate your generosity and you will be guaranteed something healthy to snack on.
Changing habits that you have kept for years will take a lot of patience but be persistent! Don’t give up the fight if you have an occasional slip up. If you ate two cookies, just stop there. All is not lost. Keep your journal handy so you stay motivated to make the right decisions when the going gets tough. Celebrate your success when you conquer the toughest obstacles or meet one of your goals. Reward your hard work with a relaxing massage, a shopping trip, or a special outing. You deserve to be pampered so ENJOY!
Remember that the number on the scale isn’t the most important number to focus on. Eating the right foods means that you are decreasing your risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and countless other debilitating illnesses. Count the number of years that will add to your life to enjoy your family and your friends. Those numbers are much more important than the number on the scale or the number on the measuring tape.
Stay persistent and you will soon find that these new practices will become second nature to you. You will look incredible and feel more energetic. You will never want to go back to your old habits again.
It’s hard not to indulge in the traditional festive treats that the holiday season brings us. But if we remember the 3 P’s (prepare, plan, and perseverance), we can also PREVENT those holiday pounds from creeping up that then PROMPT us to make those New Years Resolutions to clean up our diet. Stay strong.