For 6 years, from November to January 1, I hosted a free Holiday Challenge designed to keep us all moving and maybe just a bit more aware of our food choices. It was a fun way connect with other sweaty women who shared our goals.
During that time I learned so much about what motivates each of us to show up for our workouts, what most commonly knocks us off track and yes some of our biggest fears…including holiday weight gain.
Because many of us started working out with weight loss as the primary goal, I noticed that around the holidays a little fear started creeping in to the group.
There were nerves about:
- constant parties,
- favorite foods being piled high on the tables
- over scheduled life stress causing us to dive in a little more readily
- how to make workouts happen while traveling
Add to that every magazine cover warning us about holiday weight gain and telling us how to avoid it…we basically believed it was a war we needed to wage!
We needed to fight back to prevent the bulge.
But what were we fighting?? The fear…nope, usually we turned food in to enemy.
First of all, NEWS FLASH, most studies show the average person only gains 1 pound, not the long ago reported 7-10. And because we’re active and focused on our health, that pound goes away pretty quickly post holiday season.
Second, you’ve got to eat. You should enjoy the holidays. Food is not the enemy and we all know thinking of it that way not only makes us miserable, but doesn’t really excite us to stay focused on the healthy choices either.Shifting the mindset around holiday food to avoid the supposed weight gain and the stress! Click To Tweet
How to Handle Holiday Food Stress
As one might surmise my Thanksgiving post won’t focus upon how to eat less on this special day. In fact, based on the above I hope you realize it’s entirely up to you and just one day! We aren’t talking about a lifetime of second stuffing servings.
Stress Makes You Fat
Well there we go, that was blunt. But I figured we might as well start with the big one because I think simply knowing that your emotions around food can actually impact your body is eye opening!
According to many health coaches, when you feel guilty about eating a food that sends out stress signals, yup you know cortisol. This slows down your digestion, inhibits absorption of nutrients and of course the cortisol increase releases glucose that you don’t need and well on and on which leads to weight gain.
Know the Weak Spots
Buffets are one of the easiest places to overeat because we can constantly stimulate our mouth with different flavors, which seems to keep tricking our brain in to not recognizing we’re full.Photo from Twin Cities Eater
Additionally, when we see others heading back for seconds…err thirds, we feel less guilty about our own extra indulgences. It’s an interesting phenomena as to why couples and friends often gain weight together.
A few scientists did some buffet research and found these tips to help:
- Scout the options before filling your plate
- Start with a smaller plate
- Move the items you want to gorge on away from you (i.e. the stuffing cannot sit in front of me! Pass it down.)
- Spending more time talking without food in your mouth
- Put your fork down between bites to help you slow down and chew
- Plan for leftovers then you won’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t get more right away
- Don’t go in starving, you’ll almost always over eat
Feel Good Not Stuffed
There really is no law stating you must feel bloated, lethargic and in need of a nap after your holiday meal. You might and if you do, then you darn well better enjoy every bite and leave the guilt for not taking your dog for another walk in the frigid temps.
But you could also look at the food as a chance to feel good.
- really savor the homemade stuffing you only get once a year
- remember that you love vegetables so it’s totally ok to pile those on your plate
- turkey is a great protein source to fill you up and recover from your Turkey Trot
- cherry pie is delicious, but is the second slice really going to leave you feeling psyched to run tomorrow? I dunno, maybe it’s your super food!
- Know that dairy isn’t your friend? Avoid the cheese tray like I do and save a little space to try a couple bits of that out of this world chorizo mac and cheese.
It’s really just a small mindset shift, to remember you can think about all that beautiful food in a positive way. It doesn’t have to mean weight gain or stress.
Is the Stress Even About Food?
And because Carla Birnberg contributed a post on this very topic during one of those long ago Holiday Challenges, I’m bringing it back here because as always it’s insightful and useful!
Onward. Past the numbers to what I think many of us struggle with on these highINTENSITYfamily holidays: the stress of the get together.
The frazzling familial collision of who we want to be/are now versus who we used to be and whom they still view us as being.
Bottom line: as with all things in life the best preparation is to set ourselves up for success (here’s where you skip to the comments should you come from a family whose Thanksgiving is jam packed with sweetness, joy, love and support. seriously.)!
practice a few go-to phrases BEFORE you enter the Thanksgiving experience.
Just like with accepting compliments, you may want to plan out some key responses to memorize ahead of time & just *calmly* repeat them when necessary.
Perhaps try: Thank you for your opinion. I shall definitely keep that in mind. OR Enough about me. You haven’t filled me in on what you’ve been up to! OR That’s an interesting perspective! ORI think my Toddler is about to wet herself. can all serve to distract well meaning (& not so well meaning) friends/family when they’re inquiring about topics you’d rather not discuss.
plan to be the best listener in attendance.
I’m not known for advocating passivity yet sometimes it is the path of least resistance. If you anticipate fights erupting (on anything from politics to food preferences) plan ahead of time to be a nod & smiler (& internal eye roller). I know from experience it’s virtually impossible to drag the nod & smiler into the fray.
be the event planner. Assign yourself the position of bring the FUN back into the dysfunctional!
Bring a white sheet & some sharpies to Thanksgiving dinner & announce that everyone is going to write on the tablecloth things for which they’re thankful. Fun and a time killer!
Perhaps plan a post-meal scavenger hunt and drag a few family members along with you before dinner to sent the whole thing up!
No time for chatting—– there’s a hunt to be planned! Maybe lead the family on an after dinner walk and take turns sharing what you’re most thankful for from the past year. Gratitude & exercise? Whats not to love?
Thanks to Carla for sharing her witty and truthful insights about family with us! A blogger since 2001, she launched CarlaBirnberg.com in 2007 to share her health & fitness knowledge with those who might not have access to one-on-one training.
Do you stress over holiday eating?
What helps you?
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