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Holiday Meals: Don't Regret the Holidays!

Written By Arkansas Physical Health & Rehab on June 26, 2020

Thanksgiving food meal


Don't Regret the Holidays!

During the Holiday Season you are going to have the opportunity to consume some diet busting meals that you may regret later.

I’ve compiled a list of tips and strategies that you can use to make this time of year as painless as possible and something that you won’t regret with a massive New Years resolution come January 1st

Strategy #1: Feast On Protein

So you’re scoping out the buffet set-up at a holiday party and you’re contemplating what to eat. I’m betting there’s a turkey there. Or a ham. Or some shrimp cocktail. Eat it, and only that, until you’re full. Protein is, by nature, very filling. And by filling up on lean protein, you’ll avoid other, potentially more destructive food items at the buffet. And best yet, you still leave satisfied.

Another benefit of protein is that it also helps your body process carbohydrates more effectively by stimulating the release of the hormone glucagon—a hormone which helps to control blood sugar and curb the fat-storage properties of insulin.

So if you do indeed add some carbs, they’ll become much less of a threat to your waistline.

Strategy #2: Do NOT Drink Calories

Calories in beverages are wasted calories. They do nothing to increase your satisfaction or fullness, and can very easily tack on a serious amount of caloric damage to any evening. If it has calories, don’t drink it, plain and simple. If you’d like some variety beyond plain water, put some lemon or lime in your water. Or have un-sweet tea. Just please, do NOT fall victim to 500 calories of fat-storing high fructose corn syrup. Simple avoidance, great benefit.

Strategy #3: Know Your First Move

While we’re on the topic of beverages, here’s a great tip to go into any holiday

party with. As soon as you arrive, before you do anything else, pour yourself a big glass of water, drink it down, and wait 15 minutes before eating anything. Mingle with the crowd, say hello, etc. This is a simple, extremely effective way to curb your appetite and give yourself a sense of fullness before heading to the dinner line and is sure to make a difference in the amount of food you end up adding to your plate.

Strategy #4: Be Hospitable

Many times the parties we attend throughout the holidays are “potluck” buffet style where each person is responsible for bringing their own dish to contribute to the menu. This is a great opportunity for you to contribute something healthy to the table, and in turn make it extremely easy for you to make a healthy choice. Simply eat your own meal. This way you KNOW exactly what’s in it and how it was prepared, a huge plus (i.e. everything that looks healthy isn’t necessarily so).

And even if the party isn’t potluck, bring something to contribute anyway. I haven’t met a host yet that doesn’t appreciate help from others when it comes to feeding the guests.

Strategy #5: Arrive “Full”

I’m sure you’ve heard the recommendation that you never go to the grocery store hungry as you’ll just end up buying everything in sight, spending way too much money, and making a bunch of unhealthy choices because everything looks “so good”. Well, I’m going to give the same suggestion for holiday parties (again, this is for the one or two that don’t fall into your holiday “cheat” schedule).

Instead of showing up with your stomach growling and mouth salivating, take action to ensure you arrive in the exact opposite position. How? Easy. Eat a BIG, healthy meal or snack before heading to the party. When you arrive at the party full, all of a sudden all those desserts don’t look nearly as appetizing. Easy, super effective way to avoid falling into temptation.

Strategy #6: Be “Normal”

This one goes right along with the previous tip. In an effort to avoid the “damage” of a big meal or party, most people don’t eat anything else all day leading up to the big event in order to “save up” the calories. A Big mistake, and for several reasons. First, when you go into a meal or party incredibly hungry, you will absolutely overeat to a much higher degree than you would otherwise.

Bigger portions of calorie dense, fatty/carb-laden food = WAY more calories than you would have naturally eaten throughout the day. Secondly, eating nothing only to follow it up with a big, high-fat/high-carb/high calorie meal leads to a greater percentage of those calories than normal to be stored as fat.

Don’t shoot yourself in the foot by starving yourself all day. Eat as you normally would and then hit up the party.

Strategy #7: Try An (Effective) Appetite Suppressant

While we’re on the topic of arriving “full”, if you want a little extra “curb” to your appetite, you may want to give a little known supplement a try that has considerable appetite suppressant effects. It’s called 5-HTP and it can actually have a noticeable effect on your appetite. 5-HTP, which we have at the office, helps your body produce the hormone serotonin. Serotonin is responsible for telling your brain that you are full. Shoot for 100mg about 30 minutes prior to a meal, if you’d like to give this one a shot.

Strategy #8: Deplete Before A “Big” Day

While the previous tip doesn’t work for “damage control”, this one certainly does.

One of the things I tell my patients to do is “prep” for a big day full of food with a depletion workout the day before. You may or may not know, but there’s plenty of “food” stored within your muscles in the form of both carbohydrate and fats.

Carbohydrate (when stored in muscle, called “glycogen”) and fats (when stored in muscle, called “intracellular triglycerides”) are actually stored within muscle tissue as an energy source to fuel activity. Fat is a slower energy source, so something as simple as doing a lot of walking the day before a party is a great way to deplete some of your intracellular triglyceride stores.

As for glycogen depletion, go with something akin to circuit-style weight training.

Keep the load light, do a lot of repetitions, and really “go for the burn”.

Going into a big meal with depleted intramuscular energy stores (brought about via energy-depleting exercise) will lead to much of that meal refilling those stores as opposed to being tacked onto your waist, hips, and the ol’ Gluteus Maximus.

Strategy #9: Go Non-Alcoholic

Don’t get me wrong, I like to have a beer or a glass of wine from time to time, so I’m not going to tell you to completely give up alcohol throughout the holidays. But, what I will suggest is that the majority of your beverages at holiday get-togethers be of the non-alcoholic variety. Simply put, alcoholic beverages are perhaps the easiest way to add unnecessary calories to your daily total, and unfortunately, it doesn’t end with just the calorie total. Excessive alcohol intake also creates a hormonal environment in the body very conducive to fat storage, making those calories much more likely to negatively impact the number that shows next time you step on the scale. So, what’s “excessive” or “how much is too much”. Well, I think we all know that. If you’re regularly getting “tipsy” or drinking to the point of intoxication, then you’re physique is going to take a hit for it. Enjoy a (non-sugary) drink or two when appropriate, but stick with non-calorie beverages otherwise.

Strategy #10: Modify Your Plate

Sometimes you just want to enjoy what’s there without having to be picky, choosey, or limit your selections. If that’s the case, here’s a tip that will absolutely keep you from overdoing it while keeping your calorie intake in check:

Use dessert sized plates. Yep, just go ahead and grab a plate from the dessert line and then head over to the “dinner” line. Controlling portion size just happens to be one of the best ways you can regulate calorie intake without necessarily giving up your favorite foods. Smaller plate = smaller portions, and with smaller portions come fewer calories across the board. As an added benefit, research has shown that people tend to overeat and eat beyond the point of “fullness” when large portions are in front of them. With the smaller plate option, you’ll likely be very content when you finish without “mindlessly” continuing to stuff yourself just because the food is there in front of you.

Strategy #11: If You Don’t Love It, Don’t Eat It

Learning to be selective will prove to be a highly helpful skill when approaching holiday meals, parties, and buffet lines. Simply put, you don’t need to eat everything that’s there. If we’re being completely honest, we probably don’t even really like everything that we toss on our plate and instead just include it because it’s available. So, here’s another valuable suggestion: If you don’t absolutely love it, don’t eat it. As you go through the line or as foods are passed along the table, only dish out your absolute favorites while skipping over the selections that you can probably do without. Stock Up on the “Good Stuff” In addition to choosing your favorites, whatever veggies are available, piling them on your plate. They’re filling, will compliment the other items on your plate, and will easily help you adhere to the next rule.

Strategy #12: One and Done

Here’s a realistic insight: Most of the weight we put on during the holiday season comes from the second (and sometimes third) helping, not the first. And while it’s easy to go back in for more, a great way to cut out half the calories you’d normally eat at a holiday function is to limit yourself to only one helping. So, go ahead and fill up your plate (remember, we’re using smaller plates), but once you’re done, you’re done.

Adhere to this one rule alone and you’ll automatically cut in half your calorie intake this holiday season.

Strategy #13: Make the “Announcement”

Here’s perhaps the easiest way to avoid going back for seconds. When you arrive at a party or sit down to the table, let people know what you’ve committed to. Something as simple as “Hey, just want to let everyone know, I’m on a mission to drop some pounds. This food looks amazing, and I plan to enjoy a full plate, but if you see me back in the buffet line, kick my butt into gear.”

People respect that and they’ll back you up. From then on out, you never have to worry about people who “don’t know” your goals constantly offering you food, and beyond that, it’s a huge source of accountability for you.

I can guarantee that when you put this simple strategy into practice, you won’t even think of going in for seconds. It’s extremely easy to resist once you give people “expectations” for you to live up to.

Strategy #14: Chew, Chew, Chew

Now, I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but let me ask you this. Do you ever really make a conscious effort to take your time between mouthfuls? Probably not. A good rule of thumb is to chew your food at least 20 times before swallowing while giving yourself a bit of a breather between bites. Trust me, the food will still be there. Eating slowly and with a high chew-count gives your body time to realize it’s getting full—in the end you’ll be just as content while consuming far fewer calories.

Consciously give it a try, and I guarantee it will make a difference.

Strategy #15: Compensate

Fact is, you’re going to consume more calories from November through January than you normally would at other times of year, even if it’s just moderately more— that’s reality. A natural combatant would then be to increase your physical activity to burn more calories. Walk more, run more, throw in an extra gym session or stay a bit longer than usual—whatever you can do to be more active and burn more calories during this time will go a long way.

Strategy #16: Write It Down

In addition to the “announcement” tip above, another great way to establish accountability is to keep a food journal and daily exercise log. While you may or may not be used to doing this, during times where it’s easy to go off track, keeping a journal of some sort is exceptionally helpful to keep you in check. There’s just something about having something in writing and tracking your progress simply throughout the day that makes you that much more apt to “stick to it”.

Strategy #17: Serve Yourself “Half” First

Here’s an idea that can make the small plate method even more effective:

Serve yourself only “half” first, filling up the plate half-way and then taking time to sit, eat slowly, chew, and enjoy what’s there. Then, you have the added bonus of being able to go back for the other half! It’s funny how simple psychology works, but even though it’s the same amount, you just feel like you’re eating more when you’re able to “go back” for.

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