Can Holiday Celebrations Be Balanced with a Weight Loss Plan?
MAKING HEALTHY CHOICES
The holidays can be a frustrating time for anyone with weight loss goals. There’s always the obvious struggle between sticking to your diet and joining in calorie rich family celebrations. It’s unfortunate, but most holidays simply are not tailored to help a person make healthy choices, especially in the winter months where meals are extra comforting in spite of the colder weather.
With this working against you, it’s hard to see these traditions as an opportunity to move closer to your goals. Nevertheless, holiday meals can indeed help in certain ways, and there are strategies for balancing the overabundance of food and drink. This is why you shouldn’t look at holidays as a setback to your goals and instead should embrace them for the benefits they bring.
Why it’s Important to Partake
The key word here is balance, because holidays and family traditions should never be avoided (even for those who would prefer family being further away). Here’s why. There’s actually a lot of value to eating together and sharing meals with one another. It benefits people psychologically, emotionally and yes, even physically too! Unfortunately, busy schedules force many people to eat meals alone or while running out the door and this behavior is damaging to health.
We tend to eat healthier with others.
It’s actually been shown that those who eat more frequently with friends and family tend to eat healthier vs. someone who eats alone (1). Call it peer pressure or just encouragement for healthy choices, but there is definitely something that helps keep you on track when eating with others.
Furthermore, there are numerous emotional benefits to eating with your family or friends too. It’s been well known that family dinners are important for children and teens, but research has also shown strong evidence that family meals are vital for adult’s emotional health too (2). Experts say meals can be a time of stress relief, sharing and bonding; all values that commonly get overlooked today. In fact the three behaviors most related to happiness are all social ones: having sex, socializing after work and having dinner with friends (3). This means that not only holiday meals, but ALL meals shared with others can be quite vital.
Pre-planning for the Meal
So holiday meals and eating with others can be beneficial for health and happiness. Now there’s also a variety of strategies one can use to make sure their day of fun doesn’t set them back too far. The first is related to hunger. If you show up to a large holiday meal with a raging hunger, you're setting yourself up for trouble.
Having some light snacks beforehand can keep ravaging hunger at bay.
This will help you make smarter choices during the meal. If you know that no healthy options will be on the table, then plan on bringing a small dish with a healthier recipe you can enjoy.
Remember to also eat slower and incorporate healthy fruits and vegetables to slow down digestion and avoid that overly-full “food coma”.
After you've finished with your large meal, try to get rid of left overs quickly by giving them to friends and family or donating to a homeless shelter. If your family or friends are up to it, mix in a small walk or activity after the meal too. These types of activities will help avoid feelings of guilt for overeating and will still allow you to take part in festivities - it’s important to enjoy these times.
On occasions where you need to present for large meals and gatherings try to be present for company, not calories. Be sure to check out calculating metabolism and weight loss so that you're aware of portion sizes, macronutrients and calorie conversions - when you're consciously aware of this information you're in a better position to make informed decisions. Incorporate balance into your eating choices, but also realize that the holidays are an important time to remember the people around you and strengthen family bonds. Your plan to lose weight should definitely include these occasions and not avoid them, realizing that your emotional health and happiness are just as important to your wellbeing.
1. Lyttle, J., & Baugh, E. (2008). The importance of family dinners. Gainesville, FL: Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. FY 1054, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fy1054.
2. "Study: Family Dinnertime Feeds the Company’s Bottom Line." Brigham Young University. Family and Consumer Sciences Research Journal, n.d. Web. 20 Nov. 2012. http://news.byu.edu/archive08-Jun-dinner.aspx>.
3. Brooks, David. The social animal: The hidden sources of love, character, and achievement. Pg. 197. Random House LLC, 2012.
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