So often during the holidays we are presented with large spreads of food and many are tempted to over-eat and then feel guilty after. Thus the New Year starts with the resolution to lose weight and start over!
The holidays can also be an extremely stressful time for people for many reasons from having to do too much, travel, complicated family relationships, or addressing losses which feel much harder during the times when family traditionally gets together.
Here are some of my favorite tried and true methods for clients that work to not only not over-eat during the holidays, but often even to stick to a weight loss plan as well. It is very common for people to either gain weight or just barely tread water with weight loss goals over the holiday season… but not with these strategies.
1.Eat regular meals just like you always would.
If you are used to feeling restricted with food, you may feel like the holidays are a great time to eat all of those foods you wouldn’t normally eat creating a scarcity mindset in effect. So often when people feel this way they will restrict food until meal time or at a party or event and then significantly over-eat. The first rule of avoiding over-eating at any time under any circumstances, holidays or otherwise is to eat regular meals. In other words, eat breakfast and lunch just like you always would before going to holiday parties or dinner parties. This will help to control blood sugar and hunger signals which prevents over-eating in many cases.
2. Eat enough protein with your meals so that sweets and processed food cravings are lessened.
Protein is often the one category of macronutrient that many don’t eat enough of in our society, especially women I’ve noticed if there are issues with cravings and over-eating. Including enough healthy organic and quality protein at breakfast and lunch will change your life and change your cravings to be sure. Sugar and sweet cravings are often due to under-eating protein early in the day (this is part of step 1 above.) When my clients eat protein to their own needs, they often eliminate sugar cravings almost over-night. Try it. The proof is in the pudding. Pun intended!
3. Stay hydrated.
Thirst is often mistaken for hunger and so many are significantly under-hydrated in our culture even though we have an obsession with bottled water. It isn’t enough. We have to drink it. Starting as early in the day as possible is also key. We may also be dehydrated because of medications, coffee intake, stress and sometimes health issues. One way to be sure to get enough water is to fill a few large water bottles that have a days supply and leave one where you will drink it in the morning and one in the afternoon. Out of sight out of mind, so put that bottle somewhere you will see it. I also highly recommending sticking to re-fillable glass bottles at much as possible and not over-using plastic of any kind.
4. Avoid difficult people or situations wherever possible.
If you know you over-eat when stressed or in situations with difficult people avoid them wherever possible. This sounds easier than it is I know but think about any ways to avoid difficult people or situations whenever and wherever possible. Are you going to a party because you want to or feel you have to? If you feel you have to, why is that? I find that often the obligations people think they have change when they decide that they want it to change and take action. It can be that simple. If you feel you have to go to an event or be in a difficult situation, find ways to shorten your time and exposure and limit the interactions. This is radical self care in action and though it may feel difficult, it’s worth it. I once helped a client troubleshoot an entirely new way to make it all happen in a way that worked for her over the holidays AND see the people she wanted to see while mostly avoiding those she didn’t. It was easier than she’d ever imagined but it required seeing with new eyes what was possible for her. We did some work around taking care of her own needs instead of others and then her perception shifted almost as if by magic.
5. Get a good night’s sleep- try leg up the wall yoga pose.
I find that this pose can be done by almost anyone anywhere. In many cases you can lie on the floor of a bedroom and raise your legs over a bed and do a half pose. If you do try this pose do it for at least 10 to 15 minutes for the full effect on your nervous system. This is hands down one of my favorite relaxation yoga poses. It will change your life and help to heal from stress and with getting a good night’s sleep. Nothing is more important almost than a good night’s sleep for emotional well-being. Practice good sleep hygiene and try this pose along with that. Anything that helps with stress relief often helps with over-eating as over-eating is often stress related.
6. Be extra kind to yourself.
What? What’s that you say? It can be the hardest thing to do. We can often give a lot of support and compassion to others but neglect our own needs. If there is something or someone bothering you over the holidays, instead of resisting the feeling try allowing it and finding a way to work with it. Sometimes just taking a hike and letting yourself feel whatever you need to is enough, but resistance is often futile and will actually contribute to mindless eating or emotional eating. Being kind to ourselves is allowing our true feelings- not judging them immediately as wrong. This also isn’t dwelling, but allowing. It is different I feel. So often we skip this step because we want to avoid pain but I’m not sure this actually works. Be kind to yourself by truly allowing your feelings and being willing to implement as many strategies of “self care” that work for you if you feel stressed.
7. Address unresolved emotional stress that can contribute to feeling overly “triggered” when with family or over the holidays especially.
This can be a long term process and it is most of the focus of my work with clients. Who doesn’t have stress that may be unresolved or that get’s triggered at times? However, having a long term and a short term plan for addressing it is key to not needing to over-eat during the holidays for many. Find a strategy that works for you to begin to look at the stress in your life that may be lingering from the past in the unconscious mind (unresolved childhood stress and even trauma) or present life situations. My favorite tool is EFT tapping. If you already know how to tap and feel comfortable addressing stressful situations with it, use it. If you are in family situations and feel triggered I recommend finding a place by yourself, even the bathroom will work and just tap it out for a few minutes. It works wonders for my clients and can in many instances for specific times of need.