It’s absolutely normal to eat more than usual during the holidays; having a taste of your favorite Christmas cake, trying your mom’s holiday home-cooked meals, eating puto bumbong and bibingka during Misa de Gallo and enjoying evening parties while drinking with your friends. However, having too much of anything is not good. Aside from weight gain, overeating can lead to mental and physical health issues such as eating disorders, heart problems, and diabetes. It can also aggravate any existing medical issues that you have and can negatively affect your immune system, making you more susceptible to diseases like COVID-19.
I’ve already discussed the importance of early preparation for the holidays to too much avoid stress and weight gain, and for this week, as we enter the Christmas season, let me share the most effective lifestyle strategies that you can apply all throughout your day to prevent overeating during social gatherings (revenge parties, reunions, holiday travel, weddings, Noche Buena and New Year’s Eve) so you can still start 2023 well and strong. You really need to prepare and strategize your day so that your best intentions of eating well during a social gathering can lead to favorable outcomes.
Prioritize sleep this holiday season so you can always fully and effectively face a new day with enthusiasm and be more productive (for yourself, for work, and for others). Lack of sleep is already a major source of stress that can lead to sickness, lack of energy for important tasks (exercise, work, and other obligations), lack of control over food, and unstable moods. An imbalance of your hunger and appetite hormones from lack of sleep can cause overeating.
Get around 7 to 8 hours of sleep by giving up long hours of television watching and excessive use of social media. Nutrition also plays a big role in the quality of sleep. Late-night eating and excessive intake of alcohol can affect your sleep cycle, making you feel sluggish and tired in the morning.
Try to start your day with any form of physical activity that is readily accessible to you at this moment. Make the extra effort to workout early, before or even 1-2 hours after a light breakfast. You don’t need to stress yourself out this month when it comes to getting exactly the same amount and quality of the workout that you used to get during your regular days. What’s important is that you move your body and increase your heart rate so you can effectively burn calories and at least maintain your fitness level. Walk, run, do bodyweight exercise, play a 20-45-minute YouTube video or join an online fitness class. If you still have extra time and energy to do formal workouts in the afternoon or evening (online or face-to-face classes), then that’s already a big bonus.
You need to burn more this holiday season because you can eat double the calories when you eat out or during social gatherings even if you apply portion control because of the type of ingredients used in restaurants and party foods. Movement can remind you how much you prioritize health and wellness which leads to feelings of balance and happiness. The right amount of exercise can increase your control over food, especially during social gatherings and celebrations.
Your first meal of the day can be your usual breakfast or a pre or post-workout meal. Breakfast is so important, especially this season because it gives you enough energy to achieve a good workout intensity and to deal effectively with the rest of your busy day (with work, family, and other responsibilities). You can have whole wheat bread with egg and avocado, a small bowl of oatmeal with almonds and a glass of low-fat or nut milk, or Greek or plain yogurt with fresh fruits and chia seeds.
Lunch, dinner, and afternoon snacks
As much as possible, eat home-cooked meals with the right amount of fiber from vegetables and some good carbs, proteins, and healthy fats to achieve the right amount of fullness and satisfaction after every meal so you can prevent unnecessary sweet cravings.
Don’t skip meals if you have planned socials for dinner. Excessive hunger can always lead to overeating. You can have a lighter-than-usual breakfast and/or lunch and even have a light snack before a dinner party such as a piece of bread and egg, a handful of nuts and/or seeds with a piece of fruit, or a fruit and veggie smoothie with yogurt or milk. Most importantly, drink enough water (at least 8 glasses) during the day.
During social gatherings
- Before a social event, try to breathe, meditate and remind yourself how much you look forward to meeting your friends and family and that you can always try your best to be in control of eating and drinking. Think of social connection, while you eat in moderation.
- Instead of white bread, pasta or pizza, fill half of your plate with a salad (with dressing on the side) or cooked vegetables so you have less room for high-calorie foods such as sweets and heavy carbs. Then choose protein dishes that you really like such as seafood, or lean meat that can occupy a quarter of your plate. Lastly, fill the remaining quarter of your plate with carbs (can be combined) such as rice, noodles, and or pasta.
- Choose grilled, baked, or boiled chicken, seafood, and meat. Avoid deep-fried foods (fried chicken, sweets and sour pork or fish, calamari, fried spring roll, tempura) and limit the intake of fatty meats (lechon, sisig, crispy pasta) and dishes with rich sauces (kare-kare and viands with coconut milk).
- Drink more water and skip sodas and sugary flavored drinks if you can.
- You can try the desserts after your main meal. Just have a bite, a taste, or share a small portion with your friend or spouse. You don’t need to try everything and just get what you really like.
- Limit alcohol servings to 1-2 servings only so you can still get quality sleep and prevent a hangover.
- Move, walk around and dance after dinner to burn extra calories and to help balance your blood sugar so you can continue to enjoy the rest of the night!
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