Health Matters: Making the holidays count

by Stephanie d'Orsay / Columnist • November 20, 2013

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, the holiday season is officially upon us. From festive parties to family gatherings, it is the time of year when traditions and fun take precedence, and healthy habits tend to fall by the wayside. But even with all the tempting treats, there are ways you can enjoy the season and still fit into your jeans by the time the new year rolls around.

 

Slow down.

It takes our brains 20 minutes to realize that we’re full. In this time, you could conceivably take down two —or even three — plates of Thanksgiving dinner before you realize you’ve had more than enough. If you’re watching your waistline, the best thing you can do for yourself, especially in a group setting, is slow down. Make a conscious decision to be the last one to start your meal, and try to pace yourself so you’re the slowest eater at the table. Doing this will help your body realize when you’re actually full, and will help save you from that uncomfortable “overstuffed” feeling later. Not to mention, this may even help you enjoy your meal a little bit more, allowing you to savor each bite instead of mindlessly shoveling forkful after forkful into your mouth.

 

Feel the burn. 

After a tough workout, your body is able to easily shuttle excess glucose into your muscles for recovery. This means a portion of the carbohydrates in your meal will be used to fuel your muscles rather than being stored as fat. Try to get in a tough workout right before a holiday meal in order to help your body use these nutrients efficiently.

 

Avoid “saving” your calories.

While many people want to fast before a big meal to save their calories for the good stuff, this often backfires. Starving yourself before an indulgent meal can weaken your self-control when it’s time to eat. This can lead to overeating, especially of foods with high fat and sugar content. Instead, have a healthy snack with fiber and protein, such as an apple with a tablespoon of almond butter, before heading to a holiday party.  This will help you make better decisions when it comes to the food on your plate, or when faced with a buffet of endless options.

 

Make your splurges special.

When you do splurge, however, make sure that it’s a food that you truly love.  Instead of eating everything in sight just because it’s the holidays, treat yourself to a few of your favorite foods and don’t feel guilty about it. Do you think pumpkin pie is bland but love your aunt’s homemade pecan pie? Go for a slice of the pecan pie and savor every bite instead of taking both. This way, you get to enjoy your favorite treats without going overboard.  Also remember that splurges aren’t just desserts. Many side dishes around the holidays, such as green bean casserole and candied yams, are high in fat, sugar, and calories. 

 

Make time for exercise.

Endless holiday parties and celebrations can leave us with much less personal time than we’re used to, which can mean less time to exercise. If you normally work out in the evening, try switching your workouts to the morning so you don’t have to choose between fitness and a holiday event. You may want to try scheduling your workouts so you view them as commitments and not something to be skipped. Sticking to a consistent schedule will be your best bet when it comes to maintaining your fitness level throughout this busy time.