The holiday season is a wonderful time to spend with family and friends. However, if you are someone who is working hard towards being mindful of their nutrition and lifestyle, the holidays can be a real nightmare! It’s no wonder people have so much anxiety around this time of year.
It’s common to have concerns about how you will manage a holiday dinner, how to deal with treats, what to do about food that you don’t prepare, and how to handle criticism from your family and friends while still balancing your goals.
Anticipating these concerns and having a plan is paramount to success during the holiday season! A little planning and flexibility will help you have a happy and healthy holiday. So here are some of our favorite Tactics to help you out. See what we did there…
HOLIDAY MACRO HACKS
Use these tips for your own recipes to make them more “macro friendly.”
Cut out the extra. Remove high sugar/fat items from baking to significantly reduce the amount of calories. Things like nuts and dried fruit really add up. If you can’t leave them out completely, consider using half the amount and chopping them smaller to reduce total volume.
Swap butter for low fat sour cream or cream cheese.
Cook foods separately. While stuffing and veggies cooked inside of a turkey are delicious, they are also extremely high in fat. Consider making those items by themselves and allowing guests to add gravy as needed.
Add in healthy options. Serve veggies instead of cheese trays.
Say “No” to casseroles. Not only are casseroles macro-wreckers, but they are impossible to estimate for tracking. Try fresher cooking methods instead.
Try cutting your desserts into smaller portion sizes. Instead of 8 slices per pie, cut it to 12 slices per pie.
DON’T LEAVE HOME WITHOUT A PLAN
Whether you decide to bring your scale or eat intuitively, having a plan beforehand allows you to stay focused despite pressure. Remember that this is not a sacrifice, it is a decision. It’s a choice you are making to invest in your goals and your health. Once you have your plan, stick to it! If you decide you are only going to have a taste of dessert, treat that like an unbreakable promise. No matter how good the pie smells, one taste and you are done.
Try this: Instead of thinking “I can’t have that” think “I don’t need that.”
HOW TO TRACK (ESTIMATE) YOUR HOLIDAY MEAL
This is for people who are planning to track or estimate their foods during the holidays. It’s not as hard as you might think… Allow us to show you.
Not everyone will be ok bringing a scale to dinner, although feel free to do so if that’s your jam but don’t discount how accurate estimation can be! Avoid the “All or Nothing” mentality. The “If I’m not perfectly accurate, what’s the point?” way of thinking. There is a big difference between going over a little and going over a lot.
Input ahead of time. Save time (and effort) by inputting the food you anticipate eating ahead of time. Even if you don’t know the exact amounts or need to change them later, it will save you time rather than having to search your database for specific foods at the table.
Overestimate on added fats. If you are not sure how something was cooked, add in 3-5 grams of additional fat to account for hidden oils. People who don’t track their food are naturally heavy handed with cooking oils and butter. Even more so during the holidays.
HOW TO EAT INTUITIVELY DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Our main goal with clients is to EDUCATE them on nutritional profiles of foods and on good habits. This is so when you are not being exact, you are still very aware and capable of building a balanced meal.
Get some exercise the morning of. Doing this is not only good for your health and metabolism, but it also embodies the identity of someone who is athletic, healthy, and focused. Doing this will put you in the mindset of “my health is the most important thing to me” which will makes dealing with pressure later in the day much easier. So get up, get moving, and get a sweat on. Whether that is going for a run, getting a CrossFit workout in, lifting some weights, or even spending 20 minutes in your home doing air squats and pushups, use the time and resources available to you to kick start your day!
Don’t show up hungry! Don’t save all your macros for the holiday meal. This is a tempting idea when you have a plethora of food a dessert options available to you, but it is a horrible plan. Showing up hungry means you are more likely to over eat highly palatable foods. Save your carbs and fats but try to have a high protein, high volume meal right before you leave so that you are able to plan your plate intelligently.
Eat what you normally eat. Your plate should mostly be what you normally eat, lean protein, lots of veggies, and a complex carb. After you have a balanced plate, add in small servings of your holiday favorites. A small serving of stuffing or a spoonful of green bean casserole. If you are a dessert person, save room for that. If you are not in love with a food item, don’t eat it! There is no need wasting calories and macros eating something you don’t really enjoy. Don’t feel bad skipping food. Learn to say No.
Set an alcohol limit. Calories from alcohol add up fast, so have a set limit of 1-2 drinks and then alternate with non-alcoholic options like seltzer or diet sodas to balance the meal out. The other downside of alcohol is the effect it has on your decision making. It is a lot easier to let go of the reigns after 3-4 drinks, and that is the opposite of what you are trying to do. My favorite non-alcoholic drink that looks like an alcoholic drink is mineral water (Topo Chico) with lime juice and sea salt. It’s delicious.
Choose your dessert. We know, if your family is like ours there is probably a whole table dedicated to sweets. Choose one food only that you want to indulge in. Don’t waste calories on foods you don’t love.
HANDLING PRESSURE FROM FRIENDS AND FAMILY
Aside from tracking woes, this is probably the most anxiety inducing part of the holidays. With large family gatherings, there will likely be some questions or comments (some not so nice) about why you are being so mindful with what is going on your plate. Some of this comes from a genuine place of curiosity, especially if you are showing signs of your hard work. But from others it may seem harsh or critical. So how do you respond to the pressure and criticism?
First, and most importantly, realize that all of your hard work and effort to take control of your lifestyle and nutrition is done for you, not anyone else. What you are doing is not silly, an inconvenience, or taking it too far. You should feel safe and secure with your decisions knowing that you are taking care of #1 (yourself).
Go in with a positive mindset. It’s easy to go into a situation with anxiety if you have already decided that it is going to be a stressful time and that everyone will be critical. Try to allow for questions, being open about what you’re doing is better than being defensive!
know your support system. Reach out to your coach or friends to remind you of what is important and how well you are doing. You have the skill set to make it through any event, sometimes you just need to be reminded of that. Get in touch with someone who is facing the same thing or has your back, that is important affirmation.
I repeat, don’t get defensive. There will be some relatives who just don’t get it. They will push your buttons, question what you are eating, heckle you for not having dessert, etc. Resist the urge to bite their heads off. Instead have some pre-planned comebacks. Something like “I have specific goals that I am working towards and being mindful of my diet is a big part of me getting there.” Or “Thank you for your concern, but I feel really good and I am very happy with my lifestyle.” Use positivity, not negativity. And remember, you do you.
Remember that if people are responding negatively, it could be simply because your positive decisions force them to take a hard look at their own life and lifestyle, and they might not like what the see. Being open and honest about what you are doing and why could help that person take the first steps to becoming happier and healthier like you.
Lastly, one slightly higher calorie, indulgent meal will not ruin your progress as long as you are not using the occasion as a reason to over do it. You have a good understanding of where the line is between being flexible and completely losing it. Use this as an opportunity to demonstrate control!
Yours in health,
Alex and Meredith