10 Tips for Staying on Track This Holiday Season
I'm halfway through my 30 day custom meal plan from Christine at Gauge Girl Training (read about the planning and prep and my week 1 recap) and things are going great! That means that I'm particularly motivated not to screw things up over Thanksgiving and Christmas (I'm probably going to do a 6 week plan starting the week of Christmas).
I know that it can be very challenging to stay motivated to keep your healthy lifestyle on track during the holidays. This time of year it seems like we are constantly surrounded by delicious baked goods and endless plates of home cooked goodness. I'm pretty good at justifying just one treat or just one off-plan meal, but the problem with that is one becomes many and soon you've dug yourself in a hole that's pretty hard to get out of. Here are some simple tips to help you in situations where you know you'll be faced with challenging holiday food choices.
You have a goal and every day counts until you reach it.
It might seem silly, but this is the stone cold truth. If you've already reached your goal, you probably have a little more wiggle room to let loose and not worry so much about what you're eating. But, if you're still working towards your goal, EVERY DAY COUNTS. Even once you meet your goal you'll need to be mindful so that you don't end up back where you started. Keep your goal in sight and continue your forward momentum!
The treats will always exist.
We live in a world where we always have access all kinds of food. This is kind of nice if you want to eat apples in the middle of winter, but also kind of sad because we've created food that will grow in less than ideal conditions (and is less nutritious). So, unless you get a candy cane craving in July, you can pretty much get anything that you see at a holiday party whenever you want it. If you're working towards a goal and these treats are not part of the plan, let them go! They will be there for you after you meet your goal...and who knows, by then you might not even want them.
You'll feel much better by not eating the treats than from the few seconds of pleasure you would get from eating them.
It is a rare occurrence that I have felt like it was worth eating something "off plan." Most of the time whatever it was didn't even taste that good after the first bite...and I almost always feel terrible after. I used to abide by the two bite rule - if you really want something take a bite, if you still want more, take another bite, then that's it - but often my lack of willpower takes over and I eat the whole thing anyway. I just had a discussion with some co-workers that no one ever eats just half a cookie. You start out with good intentions by taking only half the cookie, but we all know that 100% of people go back for the second half. If you have super self control, the two bite method might work for you...but use caution!
Learn from your mistakes.
Think back to the last time you ate a treat that you were just dying to have. Did it taste as good as you thought it would? How did you feel after? I can't tell you what you should and shouldn't be eating or how it will make you feel, but you know how you feel when you eat something that you generally avoid. The last time I ate cake (not gluten free), I felt terrible after (and it wasn't even that good). Not only did I have to deal with the stomach ache, but I also had to deal with the emotional defeat of feeling lousy after doing something I knew I shouldn't.
Stop and think before you choose.
When you are ready to stick that doughnut into you mouth, take a moment to stop and think about what is really going on before you eat it. Are you hungry? Do you really want to eat it? Or are you just doing it to fit in? I don't want you to freak out when you go to a party and always have to explain why you are or aren't eating something, but I urge you to just stop and think before you put it in your mouth.
If you aren't sure that there's going to be anything at a party that you can eat, then bring a dish you can eat if it's that kind of party, or eat before you go. You don't have to make anything fancy if you aren't comfortable in the kitchen, it's pretty easy to make a delicious salad or veggie dish, and you'd be surprised at how quickly it will probably disappear. People love real food, even if they don't walk around proclaiming it!
Find a friend who is headed to the same party as you and ask them to make a dish that you can eat too. Depending on the friend, they may already be bringing something you can eat, but sometimes it helps to coordinate. If you don't have anyone you can call and team up with, make two dishes and bring them both!
Stopping is easier if you don't start.
As I mentioned earlier, the two bite rule doesn't work for me very well. Therefore, I find it easier to just not start, then I don't have to worry about being able to stop. Once you've fought this battle multiple times, you'll be able to figure out how it will end if you start in on the treats. I know that I'll be disappointed in myself, tired, and grumpy from eating half a cookie...and then going back for the second half. Sometimes knowing the ending will help you in your fight.
Indulge if you must - but within reason.
At a very minimum I suggest maintaining a gluten-free diet since gluten is often the biggest shock to someone's system if they've been doing well avoiding processed foods for awhile. It can totally disrupt your digestion and make it hard to get back on track. If you absolutely can't resist and want to indulge a little, get yourself a small serving and walk away. I know that I'm a grazer and will pretty much eat any food that is put in front of me, so it's important for me to remove myself from the food situation when I'm trying to keep it reasonable. My go to indulgences are dark chocolate, gelato, or a homemade gluten-free treat.
If you get off track for a meal or a whole day, get over it and move on. Don't beat yourself up over it, don't dwell on it, and don't let it define you. It is counterproductive to beat yourself up over something that has already happened. Use it as a learning experience to make a better choice next time. Remember that results happen as a compounding of small choices and habits, not as the result of one meal that wasn't spont on. Every day counts, but don't let one bad one turn into a bad week!
What tips do have for staying on track this holiday season? Share them in the comments!