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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

How to Diet During the Holidays

If you are on a restricted meal plan trying to be good this time of year, good luck. As you’ll probably hear, no one diets during the holidays. January is when we give it all up and endure the DTs of sugar, salt and carb withdrawals. It is a time to celebrate now and enjoy food, festivities and cheer. Diets are next to impossible to adhere to against grandma’s famous mac n cheese, the office cookie exchange and parties laden with festive cocktails.

While it is true the holidays are tough time to start or be on a diet, it is also where the diet mentality has failed us and our waistlines. This idea we must deprive, restrict, and limit ourselves in order to lose weight has corrupted what it means to diet and how it is done. It has also made it so we don’t lose weight. Despite the billions spent each year on meal plans, coaching, plans and programs, we are obese and only getting fatter. In fact, the United States ranks number one for the number of people considered obese and overweight. It really doesn’t matter what time of year it is either.

Dieting Gone Wrong

The way we diet sets us up for failure. Most diet plans contain restrictions on foods in either type or quantity or both. This puts our body into starvation or with uncontrolled cravings. Most of us cannot overcome that uncomfortableness and will revert to old habits within the first week on a new diet.

Then there are diets and meal plans with pre-packaged meals, fuelings or some other name for what we should be eating on their program. Almost 90% of these program’s meals contain unnatural ingredients that are no better than processed foods we are already eating off a diet. From artificial sweeteners to preservatives and chemicals these foods put us at risk for creating further health complications.

My favorite is the programs that require payment for you to receive coaching from someone who has gone through the program themselves successfully. Often these are unqualified every day people who just by chance lost some weight. They use a one sized fits all script they are taught.

It really doesn’t matter the program you look at as you will find these elements in all of them. There is a lack of personalization for your specific needs and you are left feeling hangry. If you manage to make it through the first couple months you may lose weight but as soon as you stop it often comes back.

How to Diet, Even During the Holidays

If you are serious about improving your waistline, cleaning up what you eat and being healthier than a diet is a good place to start. However, a diet is not all there is to achieving those admirable goals. There are some foundations we need to establish to ensure we don’t fall into one of the diet scams this time.

  • We cannot supplement or deprive our way into healthy weight loss

  • There will be exercise

  • We need water, a lot of water

  • Positivity is a must

  • Rapid weight loss is not healthy

There is no one way to diet that is right for everyone. Each person needs to define what the list above means for them and what their body says it needs. We have to keep in mind we are one whole person of mind-body-spirit and separating ourselves physically from the rest of our being is not a formula for success.

Elements of a Healthy Diet

To begin, we need to assess where we are physically, mentally and spiritually before taking on a new diet. Getting a good check up with our physician or natural health practitioner helps us understand our numbers and get their support in personalizing our strategy.

Secondly, we need to be honest with ourselves. What is our motivator for wanting to lose weight?

What will that mean to us when we achieve it? What holds us back now from having it despite our size? We have to look past the pounds to make sure we are looking at our whole being. Consider our mental outlook, spiritual intentions and physical body in this honesty. The problems we have in life today won’t necessarily go away if we lose weight so we have to be honest now about those.

We also need to look at our stress and current lifestyle. Does it support changes in our habits or will that further add to our stress every day? Being realistic about stress is often a great place to look to see what else we need to modify to support other healthy changes. If you’re in the middle of a crisis or chaos than it may not be the best time. You can always add in healthy things to your day but going full fledge on something new while in the middle of a storm is a sure fire way to see challenges we often cannot overcome.

Now it’s time to define what it means to diet. Specifically, what our diet will look like and how it will serve and support us. What are our nutritional needs? Where are we deficient now in vitamins and minerals? What doesn’t appeal to us at all and what are we willing to try?

Alongside improving what we eat we need to consider how we will navigate the real world. A life without birthday cake, holiday foods and treats is not sustainable the rest of our days. We have to acknowledge these things will always be part our experience and we must learn to live with food as friends not enemies.

The best diets contain these types of foods and activities:

  • Water – at least 50% of your body weight in water daily

  • Good quality water – as in not from a plastic bottle or tap water but high quality filtered water

  • Fruit

  • Veggies

  • Proteins

  • Carbs

  • Fats

  • Treats

A good formula to follow is the Rule of 25% that consists of 25% protein, 25% fats, 25% fruits and veggies and 25% carbs. That allows us to fill out plate using easy to use considerations. From there we can modify the percentages to fit your health needs. For instance if you have diabetes then lower carbs may be needed while increasing fats. This is where working with a trained professional who is helping you personalize your approach matters. You will not get that type of support from a standard program.

Notice too the list included treats but they were not included in the percentages. It is good to have treats and we will need to learn to navigate these in real life. Restricting, limiting or eliminating all sugar, salt and carbs is not a lifetime success for managing weight and health. Certainly, most of can do with reducing sugar and improving salt but it is not realistic to completely never again have these things. A better approach looks to:

  • Improve salt by using Himalayan or Celtic salt and eliminating table salt

  • Improve snacks with processed ingredients in favor of natural sugar from fruit

  • Look at serving sizes of treats such as cake, ice cream and baked goods

  • Occasional realistically means one to two times a week at most ideally

  • Be careful not to replace sugar with artificial sweeteners or sugar free options. These often contain chemicals that inhibit our body systems from operating optimally and can cause further health risks

Holiday Diet Help

Again, here it is the time of year where food is plentiful, sweet, savory and delectable. Some would say it is a horrible idea to start a diet now but that’s only because they don’t realize our diet is what we eat every day. Holidays count.

When it comes to eating healthy during the holidays try these natural health tips:

  • Include fresh veggies and fruits in your day, veggie trays are a wonderful way to have them ready to eat

  • Eat a protein prior to sweet treats

  • Drink adequate water

  • Avoid saying no but rather take smaller portions. It’s hurtful when you won’t try someone’s dish or treat they made special for you. Try a little and share it! Simply giving it away or re-gifting is not the right move.

  • Take a walk afterwards to process the food you’ve eaten and boost metabolism

  • Fill your plate with your favorites and fresh healthy options. Balance is everything

  • Try a little of everything and when you want more go for the healthier choices over other items

  • Watch your alcoholic beverage intake. Seltzer and carbonated flavored waters can also be festive

  • Be careful with artificial sweeteners as they may introduce health risk and trigger cravings

If you overdo it, there are some important things to remember:

  • It is not helpful to punish yourself with harsh exercise or talk negativity about your behavior. Forgive and have grace with yourself

  • Reflect on what triggered you to overdo it and assess that patterns

  • Make your next meal healthier, include healthy choices and options

  • Listen to your body. What is it craving or needing that is pulled from a sweet or salty treat?

  • Have a plan. You know the all-time favorites and sweets will be there. If you’re asked to bring a dish, make a healthy choice.

  • Enjoy your meal! The holiday meal is about being together, celebrating and enjoying the food, friends and family around us

  • Don’t let a diet ruin your day and bigger meaning of the holiday together with those we love the most

Emotional eating and pressure eating are both very probable during the holidays. Between family members, social situations and even peer pressure we can find ourselves stuffed with carbs, sweets and alcohol that defeats our best attempt at being good. We can feel obligated to overfill our plates and have a clean plate afterwards. Be mindful of what triggers you have that can cause emotional and pressure eating and make a plan to navigate those situations. As you navigate the food being served and offered, be curious what appeals to you and why. Make selections based on where you are and what it means to you Accept it as a moment of time that is able to be balanced overall.

Not all of our problems are going to go away by losing weight. The same pressures we feel now will exist even if we skip the mac n cheese casserole. When we restrict ourselves from comfort foods or things that have a near and dear feeling in our hearts then we feel deprived and resentful making matters worse. On any diet it is important to learn to live with food, all types of foods and not just those that fit into a restricted diet. There is strength in learning to live with food that can long serve you on your diet improvement journey.

Diet Meal Plans and Coaching Programs

Well intended indeed. The diet industry is a multi-billion dollar business. There’s good money in weight you could say. The honest truth though is most of these programs do nothing to actually help you live in the real world. From restrictions to limitations many of us find it frustrating and lacking in results. Not only have we spent a lot of money on these things but the likelihood of gaining back the weight we lost is significant. In fact, almost 80% of people who succeed in losing 10 pounds or more on a weight loss program gain it back within 3 years.

So skip the expensive coaching and meal plan programs and opt for a natural way to not only feel your best but enjoy the holidays without the guilt. Find a natural health practitioner or professional licensed nutritionist specializing in natural health that will help you live in the real world, navigate the holiday buffet and feel your best where you are now and where you want to be in the future. Learn to rebuild your relationship with food rather than restrict and deprive yourself.

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