Holiday Health Battle Plan

How to get on the offensive when it comes to overeating

Written by Michael Richardson

Holiday memories are great—except for the ones that remain in your love handles.

The holidays are about family, fun and food, and we shun anything that tries to take away from those joys. But we also worry about our weight during the festive time of the year, which can take the pleasure out of family meals. These meals should warm the heart, not make you feel guilty.

The solution? Have a battle plan.

Scout it Out

Yes, soldier, the first step in winning any battle is to survey the field to know what you’re up against.

Upon arriving at a dinner party, pot-luck or buffet, don’t immediately attack the deliciousness in front of you. Get a drink, chat it up and inspect the table. Reconnaissance will help you avoid eating foods you don’t like, which is a big-time holiday health nemesis. Besides, it’s a big downer to fill your stomach with things you don’t really want when so many other good foods are available.

In addition, examining the table will help you avoid overloading your plate. The more we put on our plates, the more we eat. Pick and choose the foods you want in reasonable portions, remembering to be somewhat balanced nutritionally.

Where are the Snipers?

Festive foods aren’t necessarily unhealthy. Oftentimes it’s what’s on top that hurts. Gravy, cream sauce, whipped cream and things of this nature are especially unhealthy. But a family dinner without these things is certainly a drab idea, so we aren’t saying avoid them altogether. Just be aware of them and try to be reasonable. Remember that simply limiting calories may not be sufficient planning. The source of calories you get may be just as important.

Surprise Attack!

You just ate an hour ago, but that toffee on the table is looking irresistible. It’s a snack attack, and you aren’t ready.

We love snacking, especially during the holidays when snacks are better than any other time of year. But snacking can lead to overeating. Sometimes if we snack too much then we skip meals, going all T-Rex when we finally eat again.

Here are some solutions:

  • Give away leftovers to friends and family.
  • Chew gum in between meals
  • Put it away. Easy access to food leads to snacking.

Counterattack: Dessert

You’ve handled yourself well for the main course, but here comes dessert, and it has a power that may be invincible.

Some suggest eating dessert first, because it can lower the total calories taken in for the meal. It’s probably true, if you think about it. Usually we stuff our faces with the main meal, and then tack on dessert even though we’re already full. Eating dessert first can curb overeating.

Lora Erickson, a professional fitness coach in northern Utah, recommends a 90/10 rule, where 90 percent of eating is smart, and 10 percent of eating is free. Why so strict?

“It simply doesn’t feel good to overindulge and the body usually rebels,” she said. “As always, it’s about balance.”

As a side note, remember that “lite” holiday desserts aren’t much healthier than the real thing and often taste much worse.

On Your Feet, Soldier

Holiday pounds often come not just from food, but from being sedentary. Whether it’s the football game or a long fireside chat, we spend extensive amounts of time on our bottoms.

It’s a smart idea to get the family out the door after or before meals. Take a stroll to find the prettiest fall-colored trees, build a snowman, or do one of a hundred other things to counterbalance the diet that comes with festivities. At night, have a family dance or play an active game.

Maybe we will never call the holiday diet “healthy,” but with a little organization and planning, the long-term effects of holiday eating become insignificant, especially if the focus on good diet is year-round.

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