How many times have you been doing great with workouts and eating…making steady progress and then…BAM! Holidays hit and next thing you know you’re waking up in a carb inspired stupor, gravy dribbled down your chin?
Ok, maybe that’s just me, but holidays are one of the toughest times for any eating plan. Most holiday foods just don’t fit well in a healthy diet. They’re full of yummy, delicious, fat, sugar, and carbs, all meant to add comfort and joy.
As an Orthodox Jew, I have a LOT of holidays. Every week, there’s the Sabbath, which revolves around bread, wine and delicious food. Then there are seasonal holidays galore, most of which involve large family meals. Think Thanksgiving EVERY WEEK and you get the picture.
As a result, I had to come up with a strategy even in my first week of how to handle holidays. I didn’t want to deprive my family of their favorites and I didn’t want to feel deprived, either, but I also didn’t want to have to work even harder to make up for weekly lapses. I had to find a balance.
I use a container system called the Ultimate Portion Fix from Beachbody, but these tips could work for any system, whether you’re counting calories with something like myfitness pal or daily burn or doing points with weight watchers. Here’s what I learned pretty quick in those first couple of weeks…
- I couldn’t just save up all my containers/calories/points for holiday meals.
I tried this at first. I saved up all my yellow containers for my Friday night meal so that I could enjoy yummy challah bread and a dessert. It worked as far as keeping me on track, but I found that I was tired and HANGRY all day on Friday, snapping at anyone who came into the kitchen while I was cooking. Your mileage may vary, but for me, this wasn’t going to work. I didn’t want to be miserable all day just so that I could eat up that evening. Even worse, I was so hungry by the time the holiday meal came around, that it was really hard not to overeat.
- I couldn’t just forgo all my favorites, either!
Next, I tried this. I would just stick to my plan with no more than a tiny bit of bread and a sip of wine. I ate a separate meal while my family ate freely. Again…this did NOT lead to a happy Mama. I felt left out and grumpy and my family felt guilty eating in front of me. It was no fun for anyone, even though I was still on track and felt physically good.
- What did work was a balance between these two!
Ok, this should have been obvious for me, but it wasn’t. What I eventually settled on was saving a little more for my holiday meals and making sure that I had lots of healthy options as part of the meal. In my system, this means I still eat some carbs during the day, but I eat less during the earlier part of the day than I would a normal day. Then, I have a little more wiggle room for my holiday meal without feeling depleted and hangry all day. I also stay mindful during the week that I’m going to be indulging a little on the holiday, so I’m a little more stringent sticking to my plan the rest of the week. (My plan allows 2 “unhealthy” swaps per week…I save those up for the holiday!)
My daughter loves to make desserts and is sad if I don’t try them, so I plan for a small portion and then stick to that small portion. I still feel included and she is proud to show off her growing baking skills. I do the same with my other holiday favorites. I plan for a little bit of bread, a limited portion, but enough so I don’t feel like I’m being punished. I make sure I have plenty of healthy veggies and lean protein on the table to round out my meal.
So, limiting portion sizes and eating a little less during the day, but not to the point I’m run down or irritable really works for me. Even if you’re eating someone else’s cooking, you can usually find healthier choices and control your portion sides. Another big help is sending leftovers home with others when you can and not taking leftovers home when you’re the guest. Let that holiday meal be it’s own special thing and then get back on plan!