Article: PURSUE HEALTHY: Food and the Holidays

To most, the holiday season in the year-end months is most often associated with family gatherings, vacation, a stuffed bird, gift giving, and a break from school. But to a fitness professional such as myself, I see the holidays to be a season of growth, learning, and resolutions. 

If you’ve got a New Year’s resolution in mind, stop right there, cut out the New Year’s part, and let’s talk resolutions. 

Why does your resolution have to involve the new year? A resolution is a conscious effort to do something. Why does that something have to begin on a new year? Why can’t you start right now? 

These questions are meant to be thought-provoking, and I’ve brought them up to my clients quite a few times over the years. The most commonplace answer: “The holidays are coming up.” 

What they aren’t saying is, “I know how I will be eating through the holidays …”

After a simple search engine query, I discovered a host of articles, easy-reads, factoids, and infographics from a variety of sources providing tips and tricks on how to counter overeating during the holidays. What I did not find was the same level of dedication to managing food intake during the holidays. 

How disappointing, considering the average slice of pumpkin pie has 320 calories (16 percent of the average daily caloric necessity of 2,000 calories), a half-cup of yams is equal to about 210 calories (10 percent of the average daily caloric necessity), and 4 ounces of turkey breast is equal to about 166 calories (8 percent of the average daily caloric necessity). What this looks like is 34 percent of the average person’s caloric needs for a day are consumed in a single serving of the basic food items during Thanksgiving dinner. Throw in ice cream, turkey stuffing, vegetables, gravy, potatoes, alcohol, and seconds, and we have a recipe for overeating, bloat, and even, sometimes, guilt. 

This isn’t meant to guilt anyone into not enjoying time with family or a solid meal. This is meant to be the focal point of a resolution. Instead of setting the goal beginning in the new year, set it now with a few tricks I’ve laid out below to encourage resolution eating.

1. Maintain a 2:1:1 mindset. For every two servings of low-fat protein sources (turkey, chicken, white fish), have one serving of carbohydrates and one serving of fats. 

2. Encourage an alcohol beverage be paired with a glass of water.

3. Split your desert servings in half. (Easier said than done: I love ice cream and pie like everyone else)

4. Do not skip your workout! Walk, run, go to the gym, exercise at home — whatever you do for a fitness routine, do not stop now. An hour workout is 4 percent of your day.

5. Sleep for at least 8 hours prior to a major meal. Simple carbohydrates and salts are shown to be directly linked to a lack of sleep. 

6. Count your calories! Know where your calories come from and which type of food corresponds to which macro-nutrient. (Protein, carbohydrates, fats)

7. Sit back, relax, and enjoy time with family and friends. Too often, the hustle of life leaves little room for personal time; use this time to its fullest potential. 

8. Stay clear from sodas and sweet tea. High fructose corn syrup, refined sugars, artificial sweeteners, and the like hide in these drinks and are any easy way to go overboard and drink your calories. Plus, bloat is no fun.

9. Save some for later. The wonderful part of the holidays is the overabundance. 

10. Finally, give thanks. Religious or not, we all can count our blessings and appreciate all that we have. 

Let the list above be a straight shot into your resolutions to be active and involved in your conscious eating. The holidays are a time to celebrate, not a time to celebrate then regret and remorse later. We can all make conscious decisions not to overeat. We all know when enough is enough. Save your leftovers, monitor your carbohydrate sources, avoid the cans of sugar, and, of course, enjoy your time of family and rest.