With the holidays approaching, people commonly go one of two ways with regards calorie management.
Folks might take the “I need to lose 20 pounds before Christmas” route. Or they say, “Screw it, I’ll start dieting in January.”
Like Rome, our bodies aren’t built in a day. Our habits over the course of several weeks form the core of our weight management. Over time good calorie management habits have greater impact than a single night of overindulging or “being good”.
So develop a plan now and building good habits. Put yourself in a place to enjoy the flavors of the holidays without worrying about your .
Build an Overall Calorie Management Strategy
As a certified personal trainer and coach for over six years, I know that a long-term, sustainable calorie management plan is the key to avoiding holiday weight gain. Keep in mind, weight gain doesn’t come from 1 bad meal, or one cheat day. It comes from consistently bad meal choices and unaccounted “little bites” and snacks.
You must be mindful of what you put in your mouth throughout the day (both at meal times and in between). Drink plenty of water throughout the day and don’t forget your greens.
There are a few different ways you might accomplish this. Some people chose to count calories. A physical journal or an app on your phone are both good ways to keep track. Other folks will track macros, which allows you to tailor your food intake for specific training goals. Still others rely on intuitive eating, a method that teaches people to be more mindful of natural hunger and fullness cues.
All are great if you understand them and can stay committed. Whatever method you choose, understanding macronutrients will help you make balanced meal choices. Protein is key, it will fill you up and keep you full. Carbohydrates supply quick energy. Fat keeps you fuller longer, but a little goes a long way.
Nobody says you have to lose weight going into the holidays. But if you develop good eating habits before the holidays begin, you won’t struggle as hard with holiday weight gain. And it will mean fewer hours spent on the treadmill in January.
Day-to-Day Calorie Management Tactics
Building a plan is one thing, but executing it can get tricky, especially when you meet with complications in the real world. Here are a few tips that can help you get past common hurdles during this holiday season.
- Restaurant dining. If you plan to dine out at a restaurant, look at the menu beforehand. Most restaurants list calories (and some include macro-nutrient content) now. So you can either steer clear of high-calorie options or reliably adjust calories for the rest of the day if you choose to indulge.
- Plan and build meals ahead of time. This time of year can get hectic. You might find yourself slammed and feel the need to make unhealthy choices because you don’t have time. Instead, take a few minutes the night before (or on a day when you have extra time) to make sensible meals that you can reheat later. For example, make some eggs with spinach or chopped up zucchini, squash or broccoli. And don’t skip the egg yolks. You can also portion out leftovers from dinner to take for lunch.
- Drink water. Drinking water throughout the day helps with more than just basic hydration. It can also help curb feelings of hunger before they crop up and derail your plans. Carry a water bottle with you. If it’s close to you all the time, you’re more likely to drink it, than having to go to the water fountain or vending machine for a bottle of water.
These tips certainly don’t cover everything you might run into. You may experience set backs here and there. But each setback is an opportunity to learn and improve. If you take a step backward, analyze what went wrong and make a plan to do better next time.
Long Term Benefits
Building good habits now don’t just pay off for the holidays. These habits can affect you during the weeks and months that follow and throughout the rest of the year. If you think about it, we always look for excuses to not start the meal plan–a reason to skip the workout or justify the donuts and cake.
So don’t think of these eating habits as a diet. Consider them to be the the trade-offs we make on the way to a better lifestyle. Make conscious choices to improve your life. Make these choices not just for you, but also your family. We all love to indulge every now and then, but is being too full worth it when it means you can’t play with your kids/grandkids or go try that new workout with your friend?
My final bit of advice is always eat the real thing. Consume real ingredients (real sugars, carbs, and fats) that our bodies know how to process. We might be tempted to reduce calorie intake by opting for zero calorie and low calorie snacks. But we end up with chemicals and preservatives that our bodies may not know how to process very well. So always eat the real thing, just maybe not as much.