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‘Tis the season to holiday-proof your healthy eating goals

The holidays are a time to celebrate and enjoy family and friends. The season is filled with gatherings that feature festive meals and delectable treats – full of calories. But with a little planning, you can still enjoy yourself and stick to your wellness goals.

Jessi Boehme, a registered dietitian at Mary Free Bed, offers strategies for a healthy start to your holiday season:

Make a game plan:

  • Create a day-by-day plan that reflects calorie balancing, physical activity, accountability and environmental engineering.
  • Plan what you’re going to eat and what kind of exercise you’ll be doing. Don’t focus on what you can’t eat, but rather what you can. Focusing on what we can’t eat (or what we think we shouldn’t) can set us up for feelings of guilt and deprivation.
  • Have confidence in your ability to choose your food and the portions you desire. Feeling food-shamed by friends or family? Speak up. You know your body and lifestyle. Don’t let other’s opinions or gestures stop you from enjoying your meal.
  • Abandon “food rules” by allowing yourself to enjoy all foods. Don’t approach a holiday gathering with the mindset of “good vs. bad” food. This leaves us unsatisfied, and we tell ourselves we’ll be “stricter” in the future.

Continue your physical activity routine:

  • Most holiday meals are served mid-afternoon. That leaves plenty of time for morning or evening activity. Be sure to check ahead to see if your gym will be open. If not, plan what you can do at home.
  • Get the people around you involved by taking a walk before or after dinner.

Make conscious decisions:

  • Do not starve yourself or “save your calories” for one meal. Eat with moderation throughout the day, otherwise you’ll end up at a 1-3 on the hunger scale where our emotions run higher. That’s when it’s harder to feel connected to how much your body desires to eat.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables – fiber goes a long way!
  • Try consciously slowing down and savoring the meal. Enjoy the social gathering and how wonderful everything tastes.

Make a deliberate decision:

  • Focus on the holiday, the gathering of family and friends, and what you’re grateful for. This day is not meant to be a day of weight loss.

Start a new tradition:

  • Suggest a walk after dinner or a game that gets everyone involved.

Take some time for yourself:

  • Get a massage, read a book, take a walk, connect with an old friend – whatever makes you happy.
  • When we enrich our life with things that bring us joy, we feel more positive!

Write down what you’re grateful for:

  • Holidays are centered around food, but they also are a time to celebrate relationships with family and friends. The season also is a time of gratitude, spirituality and reflection. Enjoy the holidays with special people and make memories.
  • Meeting new people is another good way to distract yourself from food. If you’re shy, simply be a good listener.
  • Try to socialize away from the buffet – venture out!

Bring a dish you’re excited to share:

  • Bring an old favorite or a new recipe that you can’t wait for others to try.

Slowly savor:

  • Practice being mindful and in tune with how the food you’re eating makes you feel. Are you taking in the tastes, smells, textures and colors?
  • Before you go back for more, assess where you are on the hunger scale. If you’re feeling satisfied, take some time to see how you feel emotionally and then decide. There is no wrong decision!

Go easy on the alcohol:

  • Calories from alcohol can add up very quickly, and, unfortunately, when we drink we are more likely to abandon certain learned habits. If you choose to drink, have a water between beverages. Do not replace calories with alcohol.

Want a more personalized approach to the holidays or help to stay on track? Check out a free informational session offered by Mary Free Bed’s Weight Management Program, and let us help you set and reach your healthy lifestyle goals.

We also offer Outpatient Nutrition Services, which include one-on-one sessions with experts who can help you meet your wellness goals.

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