It’s that time of year again when chocolates adorn the conference room tables at work or appear on your doorstep from that lovely, well-intentioned neighbour who thinks you need an entire gift basket of chocolate every year, and since you don’t want your kids to eat it, you end up eating it all by yourself :)
Sound vaguely familiar?
It does to me! During my time working at the Children’s Hospital in Hamilton Ontario, patients and their families would often gift the staff on their child’s unit with chocolate at the holidays, and it would usually sit in the conference room where it would tease you until you had a few bites with your colleagues … or twenty!
Is it possible to avoid gaining those extra few pounds over the holidays or should we just succumb to the inevitable fact that it is our destiny to pull out our 'fat pants' to ring in the New Year?
In trying to keep with a light-hearted theme to holiday eating, I have devised a list of what I hope are eight amusing diet tips that keep you laughing for a while, but also reveal some more sensible and realistic approaches to counter the crazy ideas that pop into our heads at this time of year!
Enjoy, laugh, and learn a little too I hope :)
8 Unrealistic Holiday Diet Tips!
#1 You should be losing weight over the holidays.
WRONG. Why would you set yourself up for a miserable holiday season by aiming to lose weight when tempting treats will be dancing around you as freely as the Sugar Plum Fairies from the Nutcracker? Seems like a lot of extra and unnecessary stress to me!
TRY THIS INSTEAD. By making it your goal to MAINTAIN your current weight you can still enjoy some treats in moderation while also guaranteeing others’ happiness since you won’t be Oscar the Grouch! And if you are in the process of gradually losing weight right now, simply re-start your goal for weight loss at the beginning of January again. Set yourself up for success, not failure my friends.
#2 If you have a holiday party in the evening, you should starve yourself all day so you can eat more at the party.
WRONG. For many reasons, one of which is the fact that you are depriving yourself of nutrition and fuel required for the day’s activities ... hello headaches/migraines and welcome back Oscar the Grouch! Secondly, you are pre-punishing yourself for the evening of food to come, which promotes an unhealthy relationship with food. Eating should be a source of pleasure, not a time to feel punished or deprived.
TRY THIS INSTEAD. Bulk up on fiber (veggies, whole grains) and lean proteins during the day to help keep you feeling full without adding on a whole bunch of empty calories. Keeping well hydrated wouldn’t hurt either!
#3 When you first lay eyes on the table of appetizers, go directly to the foods that are labelled as gluten-free/dairy-free/allergen-free etc. (substitute any trendy diet label here)
WRONG. Gluten-free eating is totally trendy right now. Going dairy-free is fashionable too, almost just as chic as it is to have a cowhide rug in your living room. Regardless of one's reasoning to avoid certain foods or nutrients, the point here is that foods that are “free” of certain ingredients or allergens are not “free” of calories.
TRY THIS INSTEAD. Make sure you look at all the options on the table before digging into the gluten-free pastries or dairy-free desserts. There may be better choices available that don’t have a label on them … like that veggie or fruit tray maybe?!!
#4 Eat a lot of appetizers and skip the main meal to save on calories.
WRONG. Appetizers are some of the worst culprits for being laden with calories, specifically from saturated fats, and can be absurdly high in salt! Take for example, Mozzarella Sticks – eat two of these and there goes 160 calories, 9 grams of fat and 1/3 of your daily requirement of salt! Whoops!! Additionally, since we are left without any evidence of how much we are eating (i.e. no bones or wrappers left on our plate) and servers continue to come around frequently, we are more likely to overeat, even before supper begins. Researcher Brian Wansink from Cornell University did a great job of showing the power of visual cues over one's feeling of satiety (or fullness) in his bottomless bowls experiment from 2005 (here).
TRY THIS INSTEAD. As we discussed above, have some nutrient-rich meals at breakfast and lunch prior to arriving at the party so that you are not ravenous. You may feel satisfied to wait for dinner then or simply choose to snack on a few more nutritious choices such as that raw veggie plate :)
#5 The big plate is for your turkey, stuffing and taters and the small side plate is for your bun.
WRONG. Social science research in eating behaviours does show us that the larger the plate we have, the more food we tend to pile on it and therefore eat, regardless of whether we are hungry or not. SO, should the large plate really house our calorie-dense dishes like the turkey, stuffing and taters?
TRY THIS INSTEAD. Use the big plate to fill up with salad and veggies … and eat that first! Keep the smaller side plate for your turkey and stuffing. Better yet, if you are hosting, give yourself a smaller luncheon sized plate that doesn’t look too much smaller but helps with portion control.
#6 Holiday drinks don’t have as many calories as the party foods so just hover around the bar area all night to avoid eating too much food.
WRONG. Liquid calories count. In fact, we may need to be even more leery of calories from our fancy drinks over the holidays because some research shows us that your body does not sense liquid calories from sugar-sweetened beverages and alcohol the way it senses calories from solid food. (Read about this in a fascinating experiment here!) Did you know that 1 cup of Egg Nog gives, at a minimum, 240 calories and 43 grams of sugar, which is the same number of calories as a hamburger at McDonald’s and equal to 11 teaspoons of sugar?
TRY THIS INSTEAD. Ask for water or sparkling water to sip on with a fresh squeeze of lemon or lime. Cut juices with sparkling water instead of soda. Use a tall, skinny glass for your drinks. Research shows us that you will drink less from a tall skinny glass than from a short wide glass.
#7 This may be the very last time in your life that you can have _______ (fill in the blank) so get your fix before it’s gone!
WRONG. I call this the “Last Supper” mentality, which is telling yourself that you should eat as much as possible of a certain food (or all foods!) because this is the ONLY time of the year when you can ever have this food. This may have been true back in the 1880s for Laura Ingalls from Little House on the Prairie but it is certainly not the case in the 21st century my friends.
TRY THIS INSTEAD. Please realize that most foods are available all year long! For example, Ferraro Roches chocolates can be purchased all year long, and you can make mashed potatoes with gravy at home any weeknight too if you chose. Look at the table and determine what you would miss out on not having and enjoy that in moderation but skip the common treats. For me, I would enjoy my husband’s crockpot dressing, as we only make dressing at Christmas but I would skip the potato chips at night, since we can get those any day.
#8 Forget about being active because it’s too cold outside and there is no time for the gym!
WRONG. It may be turning into a cold Canadian winter here but even if you aren’t a fan of the snow or cold, it is no excuse not to be active.
TRY THIS INSTEAD. Keep your regular routine throughout the holidays. If you are having a hard time sticking to it, set an alarm on your phone to remind you of your upcoming class at the gym or enlist a buddy to text you and ask how you are doing with your activity. Need a powerful motivator to get moving and enjoy the outdoors? Ask to babysit some kids for the day (or grab your own)! Kids love going outside in all weather. And if you want to stay warm while you are out with them, it’s best to move and jump around. Wanna know the added bonus? You’ll give the neighbours something to talk about when they see you frantically doing the chicken dance to stay warm!
Eat real food this holiday season. Mostly plants. Enjoy the authentic "once a year" Christmas treats and don't feel guilty about eating them. And then after the meal, get outside and enjoy that fresh Canadian winter air.
Want to chat more about this topic or any other burning questions? We are here to help.
B. Wansink, JE Painter, J. North. Bottomless bowls: why visual cues of portion size may influence intake. Obesity Research. 2005 Jan; 13(1):93-100. Retrieved December 1, 2016 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15761167
D.P. DiMeglio, R.D. Mattes. Liquid versus solid carbohydrate: effects on food intake and body weight. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord. 2000 Jun;24(6):794-800. Retrieved December 1, 2016 at https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10878689