When I was really big, I would see holidays as a complete free pass to eat anything and everything all day. In fact, many times I would extend holidays to multiple days, eating leftover meals, desserts, chips, and candy for days, justifying my behavior with the high cost of food and my desire to not want to waste things, with no regard to the fact that my good health, which is far more important than anything else, was being wasted in the process.
I’ve really tried to change my thinking about treat meals (I don’t call them cheat meals anymore) and love to enjoy occasions in balanced ways. For me personally, I neither want to be sitting at the table with a food scale and measuring cups and spoons (which I use every other day) nor just piling everything on my plate without a second thought. I think that the balanced, healthy living “sweet spot” is somewhere in between those two extremes. While control and accountability are necessary to good health, especially if you’ve had issues with food, you also need to feel like occasionally you can loosen things up a little and enjoy a little food planning freedom. Here are some strategies I use a few days a year, for me it’s Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, and a few days when I go on vacation where I just put down the tracking/calorie counting. I try to keep this to one meal, but on certain holidays, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, it usually turns into lunch and dinner and that’s ok!
- Have a good breakfast. Do not skip it. Especially if you’re cooking for everyone else. You will pick at things and have to taste what you’re preparing. If you’re hungry you are so much more likely to make those tastes larger in order to satisfy your hunger rather than just have a taste to adjust seasonings. Prepare some oats with nuts and seeds, yogurt and fruit, a slice of toast with an egg and cheese – any good choice that is filling and will give you some carbs and protein. Limit the indulgences to one (or two) meals and but try not to see it as an excuse to spiral into the “I have ruined my diet so I am just going to have a week/month/year long binge and I promise I will start my diet again Monday/the 1st of the month/year” bender. You can absolutely enjoy yourself, guilt-free, and one or two meals does not mean you’re off track and will not dramatically slow your progress. In fact, it means you are living a balanced healthy lifestyle where you can enjoy yourself occasionally while being on track and yes, you can have some gravy.
- Get in some activity, any activity, first thing if you can – but anytime. I am not suggesting this as a way to burn off what you eat, if you’re really going for it that’s probably not going to happen and, and that’s totally ok! Besides, that’s a short-term, diet-like mentality about the point of healthy eating and exercise anyway. But, something about getting in activity puts me in a better mindset when it comes to food choices. I feel like I’ve done something good for my body that day and it sets the tone for better choices, even if I plan to indulge a bit. It also makes me feel good, mind and body. If you can’t get it in first thing, then go for an after dinner walk, that will help set the tone for the next meal and next day, rather than have you feel like since you are already carrying a bloated food baby, you might as well just eat all of the leftover Reeses Peanut Butter Cup Eggs for breakfast and lunch.
- Drink lots of water – all day! This is always important, but it’s especially important when we are eating off our usual list of foods. Holiday meals, and meals that other people have prepared, can sometimes be really full of sodium. Water hydrates us and helps to keep things moving in every way, so drink up! I have real difficulty getting water in sometimes, so I like to make ice cubes out of fresh cut strawberries, lemon juice and a little sweetener. They look beautiful and make plain water feel a bit more sophisticated – and taste great! You can freeze herbs, cucumbers, grapes, lemon or orange slices with water in regular ice cube trays to infuse water with a little flavor and make it fun. If there’s a specific drink you love, alcoholic or otherwise, enjoy one with your meal but try not to drink your calories/points – it’s just not worth it, save those for dessert!
- Pick your treats wisely. If you’ve prepared the meal, you know what you really want, but if you are eating food others have prepared and have lots of choices, try to choose wisely. One thing I hate is when I select a larger portion of something I sort of like and then get to the end of the food selections and see something I really like. Before you start to make your meal choices, take a walk around the table first and decided what’s worth saving a little more plate and belly room for. If you choose to really indulge, feel good about your choices, knowing that you selected a few real favorites to treat yourself on a special occasion.
- Never feel guilty about food choices. I am going to say that twice, never feel guilty about food choices.One of the main lessons I have learned over the last couple years is that when it comes to healthy living, guilt is an absolutely useless emotion. In fact, it’s counterproductive. Guilt about food choices and negative self-talk about what you’ve chosen to eat is destructive to your progress. If you’ve eaten more than you planned to, or made a choice that is not in line with your healthy living plan (not diet!) than guess what? It’s over. That moment has passed and can be learned from. Were you bored? Eating mindlessly because it was just there? Stressed? Angry? Felt peer pressure to eat something in a group? Whatever the case may be, think about the food choice productively and ask, “What can I learn about myself and my eating habits from this?” That is the sort of self-talk, in any aspect of life, that will move you forward rather than backward like the “I-am-so-stupid-and-have-no-willpower-why-did-I-do-that-and-this-is-why-I-suck-so-bad-at-everything” kind of negative and cyclical self talk. I did that for years and it got me nowhere. Now, if I eat something unplanned, I just think about it for a second and the answer to why I made that choice becomes apparent. I own it. I try and spot it if it’s happening on another occasion so that I have learned what makes me tick and can try to adjust. I move forward. No guilt about food choices – no matter how bad or how ugly – ever. You can always readjust for the next meal and with that mindset, you are never off track, you’re just on a journey to health and every journey has got a few bumps. Rather than let them veer you completely off the road, just adjust your steering a little.
Happy Easter to you and your family from me and mine!
So much love,