Nutrition-wise blog

Use the holidays to exercise healthy eating habits

By Jennifer K. Nelson, R.D., L.D. and Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. November 13, 2009

Do your thoughts about the upcoming holidays seem to go like this — munch, feast, indulge and overindulge? And are they followed by feelings of remorse, distress and worry? You're not alone.

More than 65 percent of U.S. adults are overweight, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you're among them, you're probably already working on controlling your weight and anticipating the challenges of the holiday season. You've heard all the advice before: Skip the appetizers, watch those trimmings and avoid alcohol. But let's get real. Aren't these things what holiday fare is all about?

We need an attitude adjustment for the holiday season. After all, when you think about it, the holidays make up only a handful of days out of the year. There's nothing special about the calories we eat on these days — even though they seem to miraculously go right to "those parts" of our bodies. (A calorie is a calorie no matter when it's consumed.) It's just that so many holidays come at us in such a short space of time.

Why not embrace the holidays and use this compressed period of time as an "intense workout" to establish lifestyle changes shown to be most effective? Here's how to get started:

  • Keep it fresh. Choose and fill up on foods with fewer calories — think plant-based (veggies, fruit, whole grain) and fresh or lightly prepared.
  • Slow down. Take your time when you're eating and drinking. Between bites, put your fork down.
  • Limit alcohol. Skip the cocktails before meals — alcohol can stimulate your appetite. You'll also avoid extra calories from alcohol.
  • Move it. Keep physically active.

Most important, be "mindful" when eating (aware, nonjudgmental, appreciative) and not "mindless" (unaware, guilty, unmoved). Part of your workout should be to savor, appreciate and be thankful for favorite holiday fare in terms of quality — not quantity. Celebrate the holidays, and your successes. This workout may be just the thing you need to uncover the "new you."

Get ready, get set — get on with it! Let me know how it goes and what tips work for you.


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Nov. 13, 2009