Holiday Dieting Tips: How to Indulge Without the Bulge

The best way to stay fit during the holidays is to stay fit all year long.

from Reader's Digest | December 2006

The holidays are a time of abundance. So how can you celebrate while practicing girth control?

It’s not just what you do during this season, it’s how you eat the rest of the year that truly makes a difference. Keep to a healthier diet leading up to the holidays, to leave room for treats. I can motivate myself to exercise a bit more before the season if I know I’m going to indulge later on.

The key to a healthy dietistockphoto.comThe key to a healthy diet is balance.
It helps to view foods as a spectrum of choices, not as rigid “good” and “bad” foods. Once you label foods as “bad,” you may feel you’re a bad person when you eat them. This often leads to a vicious circle, in which you may say, “I feel so bad about cheating that I might as well just eat everything now.”

Instead, find ways to strike a balance: If you indulge one day, eat better the next. Likewise, if you don’t have time to exercise one day, do a little extra the next. Can’t meditate for 20 minutes? Do it for one — consistency is more important than duration.

The people with the best diet overall allow for indulgences. So if you eat a balanced diet, there’s room for the occasional scoop of ice cream. Finding a combination of being mindful of what and how you eat and allowing yourself treats can make the holidays joyful, not stressful.

When someone offers you food at a party or dinner, have a few bites and tell them how delicious it is. Thank them for the love and caring they put into making it for you. That will be more meaningful to them than if you just ate the whole thing. At a buffet, fill part of your plate with foods that are high in fiber and low in fat, sugar and salt, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Put sauces on the side; dip the tip of your fork in when you take a bite to get the flavor with fewer calories. If you’re hosting a party, try to offer a wide range of choices, from the most healthful to the most indulgent.

In our research, we’ve learned that it’s not enough to focus on diet and exercise; we need to address what motivates us. For many people, the holidays are depressing, and when people are down, they often overeat and drink to numb these feelings of pain. To offset these negative emotions, call a wise friend, do charity work, or talk with your local minister or a therapist. Then, the holidays can be a time for transforming our lives rather than our waistlines.

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