It’s the season of temptation. Cold weather encourages us to stay indoors just as family plies us with hearty meals, endless sweets, and booze. We’re all at risk for entering the new year with expanded waste lines, clogged arteries, and feelings of guilt. Fortunately, we can avoid this outcome with a few simple strategies.
Fear about overdoing things can lead us into a dangerous trap. The guiltier we feel, the more we tend to binge. The way out is to relax. This is supposed to be a fun time, so don’t stress about the health stuff too much. Enjoy yourself, with some basic moderation.
The most important thing is this: focus on the people, not the food. Meals are a central part of holiday traditions, but it’s the people at the table who really make a meal special. I want my kids to learn this lesson while they’re still young — take the time to chat with everybody. Talking more also means less time spent putting things in our mouths, so focusing on family is a double-win.
Some simple meal strategies can make a big difference. First, if you are hosting or contributing to a meal, do your best to include a few healthy options. Just having them there can help us avoid our worst instincts to pig out.
Avoid extra helpings when you can. Try some of everything, but one serving is usually enough. Another little trick for self-moderation is to avoid cold beverages with big meals. Cold liquids can numb our stomachs, slowing down the feeling of fullness that helps us stop when we should. Mulled wine and roasted vegetables help my mind and body handle all the meat and cakes without going too far.
Take walks between meals. Even when it’s cold and I don’t want to go out, I always end up enjoying a walk more than I expected. In front of the TV, we quiet down and consume media and calories. Out in the park, nobody eats and everybody talks. It’s a great opportunity to interact with family in a meaningful way and a little fresh air and movement just makes everything better.
The biggest pitfall of holiday eating is the fantasy that we’re going to make a big change in the new year. Chances are, we’ll keep doing exactly what we’ve been doing before. Instead of planning to “make up” for over-indulgence during the holidays, make a few small changes right now. With moderation, sometimes you can have your cake and eat it too.