Halloween is totally a holiday, so I feel completely justified posting this in October. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas. Lots of food. And often, but not inevitably! weight gain. In fact, it is likely that you are at your lowest weight of the year right now, according to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine. Setting up expectations ahead of time and having a game plan can allow you to enjoy the holidays, not feel guilty, and avoid permanent weight gain. There are X (11 at the time of publishing) weeks left in the year. If you remove the indulgences of the holidays and stick to your eating plan, how much weight could you realistically lose between now and then? (If your answer is much higher than X, you are likely not being realistic). Now add back in the holidays. If you maintain your weight during the weeks where there is a holiday, where would that put you? What if you were to gain a pound for each holiday but lose the other weeks, where would you be then?
Set the Stage
- Decide right now what is more important to you: sticking to your diet and hitting your goals sooner, or indulging in all the holidays have to offer without worrying about the number on the scale and pushing back your goal a bit. Neither answer is right or wrong, but you can’t have both.
- Under no circumstances are you to step on a scale the day after any big meal. Water weight is going to seriously inflate any number you see.
The Candy Conundrum
Halloween brings with it a sudden influx of candy. Whether you bought it to hand out to neighborhood kids, or whether your own kids came back with a pillowcase of candy weighing as much as they do, here are some tips to deal with the tsunami of sugar.
- If you are going to pass out candy, pick types you don’t particularly care for, so you are less likely to be tempted to help yourself to some of it. I’m not a huge fan of fruity candy, so I give out Skittles rather than peanut butter cups which would disappear before the trick-or-treaters made it to my door.
- Try to give away ALL the candy. Toward the end of the night, give two or even three pieces to kids so that you aren’t left with any.
- If there is any left over candy, find a way to get rid of it as soon as possible. Eating it does not count as getting rid of it. Take it into work and leave it in a common area as a free-for-all.
- If your children bring home huge hauls of Hershey’s, and they cannot be trusted with their horde themselves, forcing you to be the keeper and dole it out to them: inventory the candy. Sit with your kids and take note of how many of each kind of candy they brought home. They keep the inventory list, and to make a withdrawal from their account, they bring it to you so you can cross what they take off the list. (And this doubles as a lesson in banking!) If they don’t request anything specific, start with the ones you’re most likely to steal from their stash. Hopefully the fear of the ensuing meltdown should they come to you demanding a Kit-Kat and there aren’t any left when there should be will keep you from raiding their cache.
The Turkey Trap
Thanksgiving is a HUGE meal. And while most try to minimize the effects of that one meal, the real culprit of weight gain is in the leftovers.
- Sign up for a Turkey Trot the morning of Thanksgiving. These fun runs (which can also just be walked!) are in just about every city. Get some exercise and fresh air and focus on your end goal and your why.
- Relax, enjoy the company, and enjoy the food. Feel free to brag to anyone who will listen about the run you did earlier in the day. Have seconds without reservations or justifications.
- If you are hosting Thanksgiving dinner, buy a bunch of plastic containers to package up any leftovers and send it home with your guests. Having one big feast won’t set you back, but picking at the leftovers for the other three days of the extended holiday weekend can be tough to bounce back from.
- If you are a guest and it is insisted you take some food with you when you go, try to stick to just turkey, and avoid some of the heavier offerings. Turkey is a nice lean protein and using leftovers in other meals can help cut down on cooking time.
- Try to get right back to your normal eating plan or as close to it the day after. It’s an extra long weekend for many, so plan ahead to avoid having one cheat day turn into four.
The December Decadence
This month is tricky because instead of just one day with a huge meal, you have eight crazy nights. Or at least, there are holiday parties out the wazoo. You might have a potluck at work. Your spouse’s office might have a party for the employees and their families as well. There are get-togethers with old friends you haven’t seen in a year since the last time you went “back home”.
- As always, the key to success is planning ahead. Decide in advance which of these functions are worth indulging in completely without worry, and which you can still enjoy yourself while also moderating your intake.
- Similar rules to Thanksgiving apply at any big meals: try to get some exercise beforehand, get rid of leftovers quickly, get back on your game plan as soon as possible.
- Plan ahead on how you will deal with relatives that tend to show love with food. They may feel hurt if they feel you haven’t eaten enough, so plan to take a very small portion at first so you have room to go up for seconds so as not to offend. Come up with some scripts for fending off well-meaning forced offerings of food.
- “I’m saving room for some of your amazing [insert favorite dessert here]” (And then be sure to have a small helping!)
- “I couldn’t possibly eat another bite, it was delicious!”
- “Unfortunately, [dish] upsets my stomach if I have too much/any so I can only have a little bit/none of it”
As a bonus, if you can make a plan and stick with it through the holidays, you’ll have a jump start on all the New Year’s Resolutioners!