Your 10-Point Plan for Holiday Diet SuccessBy Steve Edwards
Good ol' "holiday cheer" doesn't always leave you feeling cheerful, especially when you can't fit into your little black dress or fancy-occasion suit for your upcoming holiday parties, and especially for New Year's Eve. Here's a simple 10-step plan to help you enjoy all your holiday events while you begin planning how to make your coming New Year something to celebrate. Let's start with the big picture, then count down toward a healthy New Year.
- Visualize. This first step won't take long. In fact, do it right now, before reading step 9. Close your eyes for a moment and visualize yourself in a place you want to be sometime next year. This is a fantasy, so make it a good one. Imagine looking and feeling a way you've always dreamed of. Now hold on to that vision.
- Target an event for next year. Think of something to focus on as a day for looking and/or feeling and/or performing your best. It can be anything from a class reunion to a triathlon to a trip to Cancun. Your goal is to find something to look forward to that will motivate you to improve between now and then.
- Plan a training program. Begin by finding a monthly calendar and figure out how much time you have until your event. Next, make a loose training program. You don't have to decide exactly what to do right now. Maybe start with progress you'd like to make each month leading to the event. Then pick an exercise program (or series of programs) that'll help you achieve your goals over that time. Be realistic. It might be difficult for you to focus on exercise and diet during the holidays, so you might want to schedule yourself a bit of flexibility for now. At this point, your aim is to plant a seed in your mind to keep you focused on a bigger goal as you go through the holidays. This little extra bit of motivation will help you keep your holidays from becoming one long binge.
- It's better to give than to receive. It's time to get busy. You've planted an image of success in your mind and on paper. Now you've got to get practical. Just how are you supposed to stick with an exercise program when temptation looms around every corner? Start by becoming proactive about this holiday season. Become a giver. Instead of letting the festivities come to you, where you'll have little control over them, plan them yourself. Organize your Thanksgiving dinner, help out with the company Christmas party, or plan your friends' New Year's get-together. If you're the organizer, you have a lot more control over the relative healthiness of the event. You must be reasonable, of course. You won't get the gig again if you turn Thanksgiving dinner into a tofu-and-broccoli Zen-fest, but being in charge allows you to make healthy options available. Plus you'll be busy, which'll leave you less time for indulging.
- Learn to cook. The easiest way to eat healthily is to cook food yourself, because that way you know exactly what's in it. There's a wealth of information out there about healthy cooking. Once you start, you might find that it's easier than you ever imagined to cook decadently tasty yet healthy meals.
- Plan to snack. Let's face it, over the next month your workplace is going to be filled with temptation. Willpower alone might not be enough. Since the easiest way to avoid these things is to be full, plan to snack throughout your day. Head to the market and fill your cart with healthy snacking options like fruit and raw veggies. Okay, this probably sounds boring, but these foods are loaded with fiber and have very few calories, so they'll fill you up without filling you out. A large apple has about the same number of calories as a tiny square of chocolate. By munching on fruits and veggies all day, you'll keep your stomach full, which will help make you far less likely to dig into the Christmas cookies. And if or when you do choose to indulge a bit, it'll be far, far easier not to overdo it.
- Drink water all day long. Another way to ensure that your stomach feels full when workplace temptations present themselves is to drink one glass of water every hour during your workday. This won't just help you resist treats—it'll also keep you hydrated, which will help reduce the effects of that aprés-work holiday "cheer," alcohol.
- Rise and shine! Begin each day with a few minutes devoted to yourself. Lie in bed, breathe, visualize, and contemplate your goals. By focusing each morning on something you really want, you'll get out of bed with a better outlook on the day. Then you'll be more apt to make positive choices throughout your day.
- How to eat your holiday meals. You're almost certainly going to overeat, but here are a few rules you can follow to stack the odds in favor of your figure:
- Drink a large glass of water 30 minutes prior to the meal.
- Begin with a salad. Go light on the dressing, and eat as much as you can. You probably see a pattern but, again, water and fiber are going to fill space in your stomach and make it much harder to overeat.
- Don't be shy. These meals were meant to be social and the more you talk and listen, the less you'll eat. Have you ever had a meal where you've been so involved in a conversation that you've forgotten to eat? Try making this your goal.
- What to do if you blow it. Because at some point, we all do. And you know what? It just doesn't matter. If we were perfect, life would be boring, right? Anyway, one day isn't going to hurt you. What you need to avoid is one day turning into two, then three, and so on. So on those days when you've backslid, try this nighttime ritual that'll have those little gaps in your willpower filled in before you wake up:
- Have a cup of herbal tea or drink a glass of water before bed. Herbal tea is great. It's both hydrating and calming. If you've been drinking alcohol and fear a hangover, take vitamins and drink some electrolytes. Don't worry about calories at this point. Offsetting the effects of alcohol is more important. The most common effects of a hangover result from dehydration and lack of sleep. You need nutrients and water to fight these off.
- Stretch. A few minutes of slow and easy stretching will relax you and help you begin the process of recovering from the day's activities. A scant 2 minutes is a million times better than no minutes.
- Relax and reflect. Lie in bed, focus on relaxed breathing, and take a minute to reflect on yourself and your future—then let it go. Don't think too much. You don't want to get excited, because you might lose your ability to sleep. You just want to center your thoughts and get them away from any negative associations with having "blown it." Tomorrow, as Scarlett O'Hara famously said, is another day.