The holidays! Office parties, gift swaps, cookie exchanges, eggnog parties, Secret Santa exchanges, holiday breakfasts and potlucks o’ plenty. It’s easy to see how a person could put on an extra ten pounds during the season simply abiding to a packed social calendar. But I ask you, your blogger who decided in these risky times, to begin Weight Watchers on December 1, are these social engagements because you feel obliged or because you sincerely want to attend them? Do you want to make those fattening heritage foods because you feel beholden to your ancestors or are you willing to try two percent milk rather than cream? Herein lies the distinction and this distinction can help you to navigate yourself around weight gain while still enjoying this lovely time of year, if not even more so; trust me! Let’s have a closer look at obligations and traditions.
- One, have a look-sie at your invitations. Look for duplicates. Really, how many cookie exchanges do you feel you must attend? If you socialize with a group of friends and off-shoot parties are thrown, choose them carefully.
- Two, if you must attend an event, do yourself a huge favor and stay away from the food tables. They are a magnet I know but keep away from temptation. It may seem a bit corny but before you leave for your event and before getting out of your car, imagine yourself at the party and visualize yourself abstaining from overeating; being able to eat just enough to be satisfied but not overstuffed. Professional athletes use these visualization techniques with great success, why not try them yourself. If it helps you to bring your own snacks, put them in a purse or in a bag and do it, don’t feel shy or embarrassed, you have the right to control what you consume.
- Three, perhaps you have food traditions in your family that you want to keep at your table and pass down to your children or just want to make them yourself to reconnect with old times. Great! There are two very easy ways to relive old memories of holiday cooking and baking. One: challenge yourself and your family (if they are so inclined) to make healthier versions of these fabulous dishes that have withstood the test of time. For example, some of my family’s recipes call for lard, well, I can easily give this ingredient a makeover and none of the flavor is lost. As for baking, my family has three cookies that we make. They yield dozens and dozens of cookies probably like yours. Rather than hoard our cookies, we contacted our local food kitchen and asked whether they accepted home baked goods. They enthusiastically accepted our offer so now we can make our favorite cookies, save a dozen for ourselves (3 for each of us) and give the rest to our community kitchen.
- Four, encourage movement and activities at your events or host an event (provide a prototype!) with lots of dancing, Twister, or Wii. So many parties involve standing around with a plate full of food in one hand and a drink in the other. So we eat and drink, talk and go home. If we shake a tail feather while we imbibe, at least we burn calories. If we host a holiday party, we can also serve up healthier items and let the holiday spirit come through the music and decorations.
- Finally, it is important to be a part of your community year round but during the holidays many of us are inspired to action and volunteer our time. It is very easy to regretfully decline an invitation to a social event if you are planning to go to a Habitat for Humanity event or clean up a natural area or pick up items for aging out foster kids.
These are simple ways to modernize your traditions and make new, healthy ones that not only improve your health, but the health of your family and your community. Putting on weight during the holiday leaves us feeling hung over and bluesy. Why not leave the season feeling light and bright just like the lights we’ve been admiring during these last few weeks?
In health and happiness,