Diet Advice for the Holidays

Though there is a handful of people who practice precise macro-tracking and dieting during the holidays for show prep and competing, most of us aren’t following a specific program and are just trying to eat healthily. However, when the holiday season comes around, more restaurants, businesses, and even loved ones of ours start banging out the sweet treats even more than ever. Now, shelves and aisles of Christmas cookies, candies, and pies at a grocery store or a shopping mall are inescapable.

You want to enjoy these treats. It would be marvelous to dig into a warm piece of apple crisp and tuck into a plate of chocolate chip cookies with cold almond milk. Nothing excites you more than drinking over three giant mugs of hot chocolate with marshmallows. Having said that, you still want to be reasonably healthy and prevent your holiday feasting from becoming an over-eating or even binging episode. Additionally, you don’t want to feel pressured into eating something undesirable to you just to please other people or to not “miss out”. What do you do? Well, you have several options.

Truth is, unless you know exactly what you’re eating–by that, I mean from every ingredient to the gram of your food–you’ll run into some uncertainty with your meals if you ever decide to try something new. One day, you’ll come across a bakery while Christmas shopping and notice all the beautiful baked delicacies tantalizing you from the glass windows–you’re more than likely to purchase one or two items, let’s be real. Your relatives may come to your house with loads of potluck meals to enjoy and will probably not bring a sheet with a calorie count and macro-breakdown of each dish. Fortunately, there are several ways you can navigate your way through the holidays, both on the day of feasting and before. Unless you decide to have a holiday feast more than once (which I’m not against by any means–it actually sounds pretty fantastic, if you ask me!).

Firstly, you can follow exactly what these show-prep individuals are doing and stick to a meal plan that will permit you a limited amount of “free” meals where you can eat what you want. These meals might range from having one dessert a week, twice a week, or even one cheat meal a week. Heck, these meals might not permit any splurges for the holidays. On top of that, if your plan does allow a weekly treat or two, you may even have to track it just in case.

Second option entails pseudo-dieting. If you don’t know what that is exactly, you’ll most certainly comprehend it once you read the defined statement. Essentially, pseudo-dieting embodies the practice of eating based on one’s personal rules and guidelines without following another concrete plan. If you find yourself sticking to a list of “safe” foods without allowing yourself to eat anything else, only abide to having your meals at specific times during the day, counting calories/macros/meals, eliminating any foods/ingredients without any medical guidance, and restricting your food/macro intake in any way, you’re pseudo-dieting. Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide how many treats you can consume, if any, based on your personal specifications. Some people sacrifice the bread basket for an extra few glasses of wine or dessert at a holiday dinner. Other people will pass on the treats so they don’t have to do cardio for an extra twenty to thirty minutes. You even have those individuals who won’t treat themselves at all.

Alternatively, there’s always taking a break from your diet. Go all out or don’t go all out. Just eat whatever you want solely based on your intuition, your environment, and your logic. Barely any nods or tips-of-the-hat towards nutrient density, diet rules (minus critical allergens such as to peanuts, soy, wheat, tree nuts, shellfish, milk, eggs, fish, etc.), or all of those types of directions. If it tastes good and if you know you won’t end up in the hospital after consuming the food, you eat it.

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First and foremost, it’s not my job to promote any specific regimen over the other. They all have their purposes, benefits, downsides, and places in our lives. Many times we have to be practical with our diet choices and not eat fast food and doughnuts, even if we have the metabolism to get away with not gaining fat over time. In other cases, consuming these junk foods may actually be beneficial because a mental disorder must be hurdled over before the individual can safely eat without practicing such rigidity. Ultimately, what you do must depend on what you want to gain from the holidays. Do you want to make memories, try new food, and/or accomplish anything important?

Personally, I’ve been indulging on the daily while consuming meals that are nutrient-dense and balanced for the rest of the part. I genuinely crave healthy foods, but I also never neglect an opportunity to treat myself to anything new or what I have not enjoyed in a very long time. Knowing how hard I already work, I genuinely understand that coasting a bit over the course of the holidays will do me more than good. The way I have been eating has not adversely impacted my workouts, my sleep, my stress, my susceptibility to sickness, and my skin. In fact, I still feel pretty freaking marvelous. That being said, I know I’ve been maintaining a higher weight average than usual with the way my clothing fits–my shirts are slightly less loose and my jeans do seem a hairline tighter. However, I genuinely don’t ponder on the size change. Surely it’s a few pounds up, but to me, it’s not worth living every single day the exact same way when I finally have the chance to switch up my routine after months and months of the same day repeated over and over again.

But in utmost honesty, if you truly, truly want some sort of applicable takeaway you can utilize into your routine for the rest of the holidays, it’s simply to be mindful and reasonable. Eat nutrient-dense foods throughout the day but do not neglect any of your desires to indulge, even if they may seem a little absurd. However, if you do have an eating disorder where intuitive eating is a critical struggle, please seek professional help.

Ask yourself all the questions in the world, but boil it all down to the foundation: will I look back at this moment with fondness, potential regret, or complete indifference–let alone, will I remember this moment at all? You may not remember the entirety of the experience when you try to visualize the memory in your head, but the emotions and sensations recalled from that event will ring true to you as vividly as if it were present. Transform something like regret into a turning point in personal growth. Physically speaking, maybe that extra slice of cake wasn’t necessary and maybe taking that rest day to chill by the fireplace was necessary. Again, since all bodies are different, we all have different health and fitness goals and routines that work the best for us individually.

On the other hand, not everything has to be experienced–whether old or new. I don’t always have to walk into every single Christmas-themed shop under the sun–let’s be real, after a while, they’ll all look the same. This is exactly the case when it comes to trying absolutely everything in sight. For instance, you don’t have to taste every single Christmas cookie in the world (unless that’s your job)–even a whole tray of cookies at the dining table–but theoretically, you could; it’s not an absolute necessity. There’s a fine line between receiving a moment versus hoarding it. Trying to clutter yourself with objects that will help you recall this moment isn’t necessary and it simply overwhelms you to the point where you either want to repeat this experience every single day or you want nothing to do with it.

Refrain from using the reason “because I can” as an excuse–rather that, use “because I want to” or “because it’s necessary for me” to enjoy the holidays. The last two statements can justify absolutely anything and it is solely up to you to decide how you want to live. Eat your greens and your chocolate cake on the same day. You could also eat just greens on one day and only chocolate cake the next, so as long as you know that this is necessary for yourself. You most likely know the answer to your own question already.


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