Certain things happen once a year like clockwork – New Years, tax season, another Peter Jackson installment of The Never Ending Hobbit – plus the one annual tradition flooding the internet as we speak: holiday eating blog posts.
From Facebook to HuffPost to probably Pinterest (which I was recently disappointed to learn isn’t an online draught beer community), the world wide web is rife with tips this week on how to exit the holiday season healthy and trim and ready for bathing suit season.
Unfortunately, most of the advice on the subject of holiday eating is downright hogwash. And not the good kind of hogwash, that ends with a plate of clean, sizzling bacon.
Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s smart to go into the indulgence-laden holiday season with a game plan in order to kickstart January able to squeeze into more than just your elastic-waist Christmas jammies. But with so many of the so-called tips circling the ‘net silly, arbitrary or downright ridiculous, it’s tempting to ignore them altogether and eat for two (turtledoves) straight through Epiphany.
Take, for instance, these “healthy holiday eating strategies” I found on usually worthwhile website realsimple.com:
At a cocktail party: “Stand more than an arm’s length away from munchies, like a bowl of nuts or chips, while you chat so you’re not tempted to raise your hand to your mouth every few seconds.” (When has an extra foot of space ever stopped me from getting another cheese and cracker, honestly?)
At dinner: “Keep visual evidence around of what you’ve consumed so you don’t forget. Leave an empty bottle of wine or beer in view and you’ll be less tempted to drink more.” (Because hoarding shrimp tails and olive pits is so in this season.)
While Christmas shopping: “Avoid fast-food places that emphasize red in their color schemes. Red has been shown to stimulate the appetite more than many other colors, and many restaurants add it to their decor, in everything from the flowers on the table to the squiggles on the plates.” (Yes, because I’m sure it’s the red advertising, NOT THE FACT THAT YOU’RE GETTING FAST FOOD WHILE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING, that’s behind that holiday weight gain.)
Or my personal favorite ridiculous Christmas eating tip online: “Eat with a small group when you can. One study found that dining with six or more people can cause you to eat 76 percent more, most likely because the meal can last so long.”
What if you have 24 first cousins like I do, huh? Realsimple.com = the anti-Catholic.
But while most tips I found online made me cringe at their absurdity, there are a few pieces of advice I’d say are, in fact, worth keeping in mind as you enter Christmas Week. They’re not going to see you shedding the pounds, no, but keeping them in mind as you rock around the Christmas tree could help you do the only thing you should be aiming for weightwise between Advent and New Years — maintenance.
So without further ado, here’s my list of achievable, sustainable, non-misery-inducing holiday eating tips.
- Indulge in your seasonal favorites, but skip the snacks you could have any time of the year. Seriously, which of these sounds wrong to you? “I really shouldn’t, but it’s Christmas Eve, so I’m going to treat myself to a piece of Gram’s mincemeat pie.” vs. “I really shouldn’t, but it’s Christmas Eve, so I’m going to treat myself to these Cool Ranch Doritos.” Skip the extra calories without any seasonal significance, and save room for that favorite fruitcase instead.
- Offer to contribute your own dish. If you aren’t hosting the holiday party or dinner yourself, plan to bring along an appetizer or side to add to the spread — and make it something on the healthier side. That way, as you’re overfilling your plate because you have more than six friends (ahem), at least you’ll know one dish along the buffet won’t completely undo a year’s worth of good eating. Could be a plate of crudite and hummus, or a side of roasted Brussels sprouts, or even a healthier version of a holiday classic, so long as you know exactly how many sticks of butter went into it.
- Commit to getting out and moving every day. You don’t have to sign on for a holiday streak like this stubborn runner, but resolving to do one active thing a day between Christmas and New Years is a great way to undo the previous night’s damage. Whether it’s taking your younger cousins sledding or playing some touch footfall or walking the dog around the block, getting your heart beating again is the best way to counteract that gallon of gravy you drank the night before.
The truth is, the holidays come once a year, and they’re a time for celebration, not calorie counting. But I know from experience laying in bed holding your stretched-out stomach in agony isn’t the best way to ring in the new year either, which is why I advocate exercising a little (but not too much) moderation this holiday season. That, and getting a fur cover-up before spring break.
What is your best tip for maintaining healthy habits during the most gluttonous time of the year?