Stress-Free Holiday Eating

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Tomorrow is the Fourth of July (Happy Birthday America!) and that means fireworks, friends, and most importantly, food. And let’s be honest, the menu won’t just be snow peas and grilled salmon. (If it is, please tag me on Instagram: @nicolehnit.) I know what I’m having at my cookout: burgers, hotdogs, broccoli salad (and it’s not the reformed “healthy” kind), chips & dip, homemade lemonade, beer, margaritas, s’mores and cupcakes! There will be fresh fruit and cut veggies there of course, but I’m pretty excited about that juicy burger. And the s’mores. And yeah, the margaritas too.

So that got me thinking about how I balance my diet on holidays. When I first started on this health journey, holidays gave me some anxiety. I was trying so hard to do everything the “right” way (whatever the hell that means). I gave a ton of thought to what I brought to the get-togethers, and I analyzed the dishes everyone else brought.  Was it “good” food or “bad” food? Should I just stay away from the dessert table altogether or would it be okay if I had a little bit of this? And that? And maybe that over there too? And hell, okay, just a little more of this. Oh screw it. Just give me aaaaaaaaall the food.

But I’m now over five years into this weight loss and health thing, and I think I can finally say I have a handle on the holidays and all the food that comes along with them. While I think it’s incredibly important to balance my plate with healthy choices, I definitely don’t stress about the dishes being served.  Because if I do that, I’m giving power over to the food. And no matter how good it smells or how delectable I know it’s going to taste, I’m still in total control. So I have to remember that.

So what do I do? Well, I make sure that I keep track of everything I eat. Simple as that. In my case, I count calories. There’s no way I can possibly know the nutritional facts of every single dish. I get that. But I can make my best guess, and that’s a lot better than just deluding myself into thinking the day is a free-for-all.

But even if you aren’t into calorie counting, this still works very well. Write it all down. Or better yet, make sure you’re eating deliberately so when you’re driving home from the barbecue at your Aunt Sally’s house, you can easily recall each thing you put into your mouth. It doesn’t matter if you’re logging the numbers – simply being cognizant of each serving you consume impacts how much you eat.

This is called mindful eating, and it doesn’t have to stop simply because it’s a holiday. You can have a serving of your sister’s creamy mac & cheese, and some of your dad’s famous ribs, and yes, even a slice of your own dessert pizza. Having a single day of indulgence will not make you gain back five pounds. However, be aware that it’s entirely possible to eat 3500 calories or more at a single sitting. I swear it seems crazy, but it’s possible. And that’s why I like tracking my food. It doesn’t stop me from eating the calories, but it’s a concrete reminder of why the scale may not reflect a pleasant number in the following days.

Enjoy yourself! But take care to actually savor the food you’re eating, and pay attention to each bite. (Same thing goes for what you drink!) Make plates instead of grazing, and if something doesn’t taste all that good, STOP EATING IT. You can slide it into the trash can without your fifth cousin noticing. This also goes for when your body is screaming at you to put the food down because your stomach is about to burst. The starving children across the world will not be affected by you wasting a few bites. You don’t need to be president of the Clean Plate Club. I promise.

Holidays are supposed to be fun, and you don’t have to sabotage your healthy living plan to have a good time. You really don’t. Pay attention to what you’re putting in your mouth, and that alone will make you eat less.

Now tell me, what are you looking forward to eating tomorrow!?

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