So, tomorrow is Thanksgiving. There are usually 2 types of reactions to big eating holidays like Thanksgiving and Christmas. There are people that are super excited and bust out their stretchy pants, ready to consume everything in sight. Then, there are people who are scared to death that all of their hard work is about to be ruined, and OMG what if I lose control and gain 5 pounds. Neither are healthy and balanced. I want to show you a better way to eat for the holidays.
The first set of people will typically over-indulge. They tend to completely ignore their body’s hunger and fullness cues. They will eat past fullness and end up feeling miserable for the rest of the day and possibly into the next day as well. This feeling of lethargy, nausea, and bloating are where we get the terms “Food Coma” and “Carb Hangover”. Now, this happening once a year is usually not that big of a deal. But, this likely isn’t just a once a year occurrence. If this is a typical reaction when confronted with a delicious meal, then it could have detrimental effects to your health.
Our bodies are smart! There is a hormonal reaction we have to eating that tells us when we are hungry and when we are full. We just need to get better at listening to them. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy the meal without feeling miserable afterward? Constantly ignoring these cues could lead to weight gain, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and possibly even binge eating disorder. All of which, are undesirable health outcomes.
The second set of people are what I like to call “chronic dieters”. To most, the eating habits of this group may appear to be “healthy” or “good” but, they can also have issues with their health. This attitude of over-restriction is often counter intuitive to our goals. Will power is a limited resource. There is a growing amount of research that shows us that will power is not enough to completely change our lifestyles. There is a really good article that goes into more detail on this here. This is why, 97% of people who lost weight on a restrictive diet will regain all of the weight, if not more, within 3 years.
This attitude can also lead to the “yo-yo” effect of weight loss. You are really “good” on your diet and workout program for 3-4 weeks and even lose 8 pounds! Then, real life kicks in. All the sudden, you can’t find time(or motivation) to spend 2 hours a day exercising. You start to get really tired of unseasoned baked chicken, green beans, and brown rice everyday. Then, you come into work that day, only to see a delicious looking chocolate cake in the office that your co-worker had left over from a birthday party.
You tell yourself no all day long, but all you think about all day is that cake. You work slower than usual because most of your energy is going toward resisting that cake. It’s finally almost time to leave, when you just can’t take it anymore. You go over and have a hefty slice of the cake. This sends you into a downward spiral. You feel like you ruined all of your progress so, what the heck, might as well grab your favorite fast food meal on the way home. This continues for a couple of weeks. One day, you see a beautiful, skinny person walking down the street and you remember how displeased you are with your own appearance. You step on the scale, and oh crap! How did I gain 10 pounds this fast!? Again the cycle of restrict, binge, repeat starts…
It may seem simple, but listen to your body!
- Eat when you are hungry, stop when you are full. It really is that simple! Take your time and savor every bite. Thoroughly enjoy your meal without restriction. When you realize you are satisfied, don’t keep going.
- DON’T Skip meals in preparation for your feast! This is an issue I see from both sets of people. The feasters want to make sure they have plenty of room to cram in as much food as they can at the meal. The fasters want to leave room in their calorie goal in case they lose control at the meal. Either way, terrible plan! Skipping breakfast, and even lunch for some, will cause your blood sugar levels to drop. This will increase the amount of Ghrelin (the hunger hormone) your body produces. This means that by the time the meal comes, you are ravenous and gloves are off. You eat everything in sight so quickly that you don’t even enjoy the food and you are uncomfortably full.
- Eat a balanced meal to stabilize blood sugars before the meal. Have my Holiday High Protein Oats for breakfast or have a grilled chicken salad for lunch. Have a meal with all three macronutrients represented (carbohydrates, fats, and protein). This will keep your blood sugars stable and enable you to have an enjoyable meal later!
- Don’t force yourself to eat everything! Eating something, just to prevent wasting it is not healthful. That’s what leftovers are for! If you are full, stop eating! That way you are able to enjoy the holiday meal all week if you want! If you want to try aunt sues casserole, and you hate it, don’t force yourself to keep going just to be nice!
- If you are like me and want to try everything, make a tasting plate. Make a plate with 1-2 bites of everything that looks appetizing. If you are still hungry afterward, go back and make a small plate of the things that were your favorite!
See! Holiday meals don’t have to be gluttonous or a difficult test of will power. It’s just food! Enjoy the opportunity to spend time with your friends and family and enjoy your meal comfortably, without restriction and without over-indulgence.