It can be challenging to lose weight and stay fit during the holiday season, as I'm sure you know. Not only are there lots of unhealthy food triggers, but you may also find yourself in situations where you feel obliged to eat just to be polite. Or, where you're being coerced to eat more by friends and family.
There's also the added stress of the holiday season, which may lead to junk food cravings. This can include trying to be "good" at parties, or visiting with relatives who press your buttons, or feelings of loneliness because your loved ones aren't around.
Here are a few quick strategies for eating healthy, feeling relaxed, staying in control and having a great time during the holiday season.
1. Visualize success.
Mental simulation — that is, visualizing yourself doing something with a successful outcome — reinforces neural pathways in your brain, which make it much easier to be successful.
Before you go to a party, or before you go home for the holidays, visualize yourself there. Imagine yourself feeling calm; relaxed; centered; not hungry; choosing live, vibrant, healthy foods; eating slowly and calmly; and feeling satisfied and content. Also visualize really enjoying the people and the party, as opposed to being stressed about food. Imagine yourself having a great time and leaving the party feeling happy, and truly proud of yourself for doing so well.
Practice this visualization for a few seconds in the mornings and the evenings leading up to the event, then once again right before you're actually going to the party. You'll notice a dramatic difference in your behavior, your food cravings and your mental state.
2. Nourish your body beforehand.
Make sure you've eaten real, healthy, live food before you go to a party. That way you won't be as hungry. Eat healthy greens, or a big salad with protein, and add chia seeds or chia seed oil to get omega-3s. This combination will keep your blood sugar stable for hours, so you won't end up craving junk food simply because your blood sugar has dropped.
3. Bring your own food and drinks.
If it's the type of party that allows you to bring a plate, then bring some of your own favorites. For example, dehydrated flax or chia seed crackers. These crackers don't have any grains that will elevate insulin levels, and they don't have any gluten to cause inflammatory problems.
Or, bring a bowl of guacamole and cut up veggies; chicken wings or meatballs made with grass-fed, free-range and organic ingredients; cauli-nori rolls — nori rolls made with cauliflower instead of rice, combined with veggies, salmon or whatever your favorite sushi ingredients might be.
Another idea is to bring your own raw cookies, chocolate, cakes and snacks. These choices are much healthier than processed sweets, because the ingredients have not been corrupted and the sugars and fats are much easier to digest.
There are also lots of fun, nonalcoholic drinks you can make and bring to a gathering too. For example — lemonade made with soda water, lemon and sweetened with stevia or coconut palm sugar; spiced apple soda using fresh squeezed apple juice, soda water, and spices; nonalcoholic piña colada made with real pineapple and organic coconut milk.
Or, bring fermented beverages, such as kombucha or coconut water kefir. Fermented beverages are loaded with friendly bacteria.
In this way you can enjoy the party without having to worry about what you're going to eat or drink.
4. Familiarize yourself with the options.
When you get to a party, scan the room, and familiarize yourself with what the food choices are, before you actually start putting things on your plate. Look for salads, veggies, healthy meats - real foods that aren't too processed. You can always find some real food, and add that to your plate first.
At a buffet, put salad on your plate first, then put everything else on top of it. That will help nourish your body so you don't get junk food cravings.
If there are hors d'oeuvres being served, choose the least processed items. You can usually find things like veggies with dip, meatballs on toothpicks, or fruit skewers, all of which are preferable to highly processed, deep-fried foods, like pigs in blankets or mini egg rolls.
At the bar, try having soda water with lemon. If they have unsweetened fruit juice, try a drink that is a quarter full with fruit juice and the rest with soda water. If you're having a cocktail, use sparkling water, as apposed to sodas. Even diet soft drinks can cause weight gain.
5. Forget it and move on.
Try not to have an all-or-nothing approach to eating healthy. When you go to a party, it's never going to be perfect. But that doesn't mean you have to throw in the towel and go off the rails just because you ate one thing that was problematic. If you're eating trigger foods, include some healthy options, too. Then once you've eaten, forget it and move on. This will keep you from having a binge simply because you're "off your diet."
Most importantly, whatever you are eating, relax, eat slowly, eat consciously and make sure you're nourishing your body. Then, enjoy the people that you're with, enjoy the party and have an awesome time.