You’re doing your best this year to eat healthy. Maybe you’ve lost weight and want to lose more. You’ve finally found a lifestyle you can live with that is helping you regain your health. All you need is consistency. You’re on your way! You’re getting it done!
What follows are the most dangerous 36 days of the year.
Holiday parties, Christmas gatherings, endless treats at work–everything culminating with the diet-debauchery of “the last day before you re-start your diet,” New Year’s Eve.
Like clock-work, on New Year’s Day, it’s time to hate yourself for everything you did and purge, purge, purge.
Sound like hell to you too?
Last year, after a month of letting my nutritarian lifestyle slip, one choice at a time, I found myself face-down over a bowl of cookie dough. I’d roll out one cookie (my Grandma’s butter ball recipe) and pop the next one in my mouth.
It was 10 o’clock at night, my family was all asleep, and I was in my “fat pants,” and they felt tight.
It’s hard to be optimistic when your fat pants are tight.
I ended up gaining 10 pounds over the holidays. I’ve never felt worse. It took me a lot of effort to stop the madness and get back on track.
WHY WE’RE TRIGGERED BY THE HOLIDAYS
Special occasions trigger binges for three reasons, says David L. Katz, MD, MPH, FACPM, author of The Way to Eat
- PEER PRESSURE: The holidays provide a social license to binge because everyone’s doing it. “Indulgence loves company,” Katz says.
- HIGH EXPOSURE: The holidays provide opportunity: “You’re surrounded by foods like chocolate candy, and exposure begets indulgence.”
- SENSE OF NOVELTY: The holidays provide a festive feeling: “You think because it’s not something you usually do that it’s OK. You can compensate tomorrow.”
Special occasions are part of a complex web of hobgoblins that ensnare us in spite of our good intentions. Stress, loneliness, boredom, and feelings of deprivation all contribute. (source)
Identify Your Triggers:
What will you be up against for the next month? Knowing how you feel will help you make smarter choices. So, it’s not: “I really want to eat a bunch of cookies!” but “Why do I want to eat a bunch of cookies?”
- stress – hunting down gifts; taking, making, and mailing out Christmas cards; volunteering for the kids’ Christmas parties; family gatherings (you know the drill!)
- loneliness – family far away, missing a relative who’s passed
- boredom – those long winter nights and cold weather makes eating when you’re bored that much more attractive
- feeling of deprivation – this is a big one for dieters who feel like they’ve been saying “no” to the foods they love for far too long
After reading this, I immediately realized what went so wrong last year.
Undoubtedly, my head-down-in-the-cookie-batter episode was brought on by missing my family during the holidays. My parents and siblings all live in Florida, while I’m out in California.
And even though I have my own family now, during the holidays, you crave those childhood memories and the people who love you most. Last year was one of the first times my mom couldn’t come out for Thanksgiving, and that’s when I got triggered.
Okay, my personal holiday “hobgoblins” have been located! Now let’s do something about it…
TOP 10 TIPS TO STOP A HOLIDAY BINGE
I don’t know about you, but this year I’m taking up arms to protect my healthy lifestyle!
I’ve been scouring the web and health blogs to find an arsenal of strategies to get us safety and sanely through the holiday season.
Whether you’re mid-binge or taking measures to prevent one, you can pick the tips you like and develop a game plan, every smart decision, no matter how small, helps.
Here are the top 10 tips (from the experts) to help you navigate your holiday eating strategy (yup, you’ll need a strategy folks–cause this is war!).
TIP #1: STOP FEELING GUILTY
According to Lisa Moskovitz (Registered Dietitian and CEO of NY Nutrition Group), it’s dangerous to let yourself feel guilty for indulging.
“Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviors. So abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track with your normal eating routine the very next day.” (source)
Expect to indulge or get off track, then move on. Don’t beat yourself up or put yourself down, it can cause you to cascade into a dangerous binge.
TIP #2: STOP THINKING ITS ALL OR NOTHING
You eat something bad so you abandon your healthy eating entirely for the whole day (or several days, or for the entire holidays). You’re either all-the-way good or all-the-way bad. (Yup, I’m guilty of this one!)
“Being a perfectionist dieter is ‘the all-or-nothing mentality,’ says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RD, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association and the author of The Flexitarian Diet. ‘Real life [especially during the holidays] is just not conducive to this perfect-eating attitude.’ (source)
Think of the holidays as being a messy checkerboard of eating healthfully and indulging. The triumphs come every time you choose a healthy meal. You might not make the best choices every day, but that doesn’t mean you’re a failure!
If you indulge, don’t feel guilty, but strive your hardest to make your very next meal part of your regular healthy lifestyle.
TIP #3: EAT LOW TO HIGH (CALORIES)
Deborah Levy (Registered Dietician and Nutrition Consultant at Carrington Farms Health) advises eating foods with less calories first (source).
We’ve talked about this a lot on MMTM!
Start with the raw veggie plate or salad or a broth-based soup, then move on to a lean protein. By the time you reach the triple-fudge brownies, a few bites will be all you need to feel satisfied!
Take it a step further and make a nutritarian green smoothie before heading out to a holiday party or family meal.
TIP #4: BE A SNACK SMUGGLER
Megan Roosevelt (Registered Dietitian and founder of Healthy Grocery Girl) warns that traveling, shopping, and running errands during the holidays can lead to fast food, skipping meals, or surrendering to the siren call of Cinnabon. To keep your appetite in check, never leave home without a snack. Choose options made with real ingredients to truly energize and nourish your body.
Some travel-friendly (and Nutritarian-friendly) snacks:
- carrots & hummus
- apples & celery with raw, unsweetened almond butter
- grape tomatoes with cilantro cashew cream sauce
- 2 tbsp. raw walnuts or pumpkin seeds with 1 tbsp. raisins
TIP #5: FOCUS ON EATING ONLY WHEN HUNGRY
This tip comes from Dr. Fuhrman’s 6 Holiday Weight Loss Tips article (that I highly recommend giving a read).
He reminds us to only eat when hungry–one of the tenets of his nutritarian lifestyle. But holiday indulgences of low-nutrient foods can cause us to feel toxic hunger that tricks us into eating more of the bad stuff.
Again, if your developing a binge-busting strategy, you’ll want to focus on identifying when you feel full.
Maybe it’s as easy as putting your fork down after every bite and really focusing on what you’re eating at the moment. Or waiting a certain amount of time before you get another serving or have dessert.
I can’t emphasize enough the power of a green smoothie giving you a shot of the micro-nutrients your body requires to feel full. Make and take one before your next holiday meal and feel the difference in your perceived hunger levels.
TIP #6: DON’T “SAVE UP” CALORIES
This tip is from Registered Dietician, Edwina Clark.
“Fasting before a big meal can backfire worse than posting a Justin Bieber fan video on YouTube. Low blood sugar from hunger increases cortisol levels, which leads to cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods. Instead of saving up for the big meal, nibble on healthy snacks likeraw nuts, raw veggies and fruit throughout the day to avoid a full-blown gorgefest where no crumb is left behind.” (source)
Dr. Fuhrman also backs this up by saying:
“First and foremost, don’t starve yourself during the day, figuring that doing so will allow you to eat more that evening. Eat a healthy meal before you go out and you will be less likely to be tempted to fill up on unhealthful foods at the event. The ‘just one bite’ rule is too quickly discarded when you’re hungry.” (source)
TIP #7: THREE BITES & GOOD NIGHT!
I love this tip by Lauren Harris-Pincus (R.D.N., of Nutrition Starring You)
“Stick to the three-bite rule for desserts: The first bite is the best, the last the grand finale, and every bite in between is the same. In three bites, you get the full dessert experience, so really focus on savoring those three and you’re less likely to overindulge.” (source)
TIP #8: B.Y.O.F
This is another great, and practical tip from Dr. Fuhrman’s 6 Holiday Weight Loss Tips article.
“If you are going to a gathering with food, offer to bring a healthful dish. Then you will know that there is at least one option available for you to eat.”
It may not be socially acceptable to bring your own entire meal to a holiday party, but any hostess would be happy to accommodate a dish that everyone can try and enjoy!
Get creative with a salad that’s loaded with raw veggies, beans for fiber and protein, and a vegan dressing (like this No-Honey Mustard from Minialist Baker).
This is exactly what I did for our Thanksgiving at my sister-in-laws. Everyone appreciated it and I had my “safe” food to fill up on.
TIP #9: BRING OUT THE SKINNY JEANS
JJ Virgin (author of JJ Virgin’s Sugar Impact Diet)
“Elastic waistbands, ‘relaxed fit’ sweaters, and other loose clothing are practically an engraved invitation to overeat. Leave those roomy pants in the back of the closet. Instead, bring out the bandage dresses, skinny jeans, slim-fit suit, or nipped-in blazer—whatever ensemble makes you feel sleek and slim.” (source)
Last year I threw away my “fat pants” (I mentioned earlier) for good.
I never wanted to be back at that size.
Keeping my clothes stocked at my current weight gives me immediate feedback on whether what I’m doing (or not doing) is helping or hurting my health.
Trust me you are going to feel way more comfortable to binge when you have those elastic waistbands and baggy tops.
TIP #10: TRIM THE TRIMMINGS
Simone Gloger (Registed Dietician and Head Nutritionist for The Dukan Diet) has a practical approach to making every health decision count, no matter how small.
“It turns out that most traditional holiday dishes are really not that unhealthy–think lean turkey, roasted vegetables, nuts–but adding in all the additional trimmings to the dishes are what make the calories soar into the stratosphere. Simply eliminate extras such as gravy, cream sauces, butter, and crust on pies, and you’ll axe loads of unnecessary calories and fat.” (source)
I hope these tips will help you this holiday season! Pick the one’s you like, develop a game-plan. Even if you’re in a bit of a binge right now, you can employ these tips and make a difference!
I actually sat down with my calendar and marked our holiday events and engagements. I wrote down what I’m going to do before, during and after.
Every great general has a battle-plan, now it’s time to make yours!
I’m committed to preventing an epic-holiday-binge-repeat of last year.
Trust me, no one wants to wake up on New Year’s day having totally let themselves go for the past month. You want to wake up that day feeling like you celebrated, within reason, and are ready to continue your health journey!
And if you need an iron-clad plan for success, join my Nutritarian Power Plan program–you’ll get 6 weeks of game plans with all the checklists, recipes and resources you need, plus access to our exclusive support group!
Kristen, thanks for this post. That “Eat all the feelings” pic made me laugh and then cry. I’ve thought about this post so much over the last couple of days, and it’s really helped. Your blog has made a real difference in my life. Best wishes for happy and healthy holidays!
Wow, Brandi! You’ve just given me the best Christmas present ever!! There is nothing more important that knowing something I wrote has helped someone else!! I’m so, so glad you are fighting back against the holiday binge-train!! Best wishes to you as well! And I can’t thank you enough for this comment, xo, Kristen