(I should probably title this one "How, when & how often to splurge during the holidays so you don't feel gross and big everyday, and like a complete failure in January...that's probably more accurate.)
I like to sum up eating for a trim and fit body very simply: eat your PRO’s. It’s important that you fall into a regular rhythm of eating meals that consist mostly of lean PROtein and lots of fresh PROduce. Healthy fats and whole grains are important as well, but if you can make the bulk of your diet protein and produce, you will feel so much leaner and stronger. I guarantee it. (Read all about the healthy eating habits here.)
Of course, if you follow these nutritious guidelines, it eliminates a lot of the so-called “fun foods”. Delicious pasta dishes, beer and wine, chips and dip, desserts, lattes, soda, fancy pastries and breads, and any other crave-able foods are out. Bummer. Often, when you begin a healthy eating regimen, all you can think about is when you’ll get to eat the “fun food” again. “When can I cheat?”
And the holidays are the worst for this attitude. We're constantly surrounded by treats and sweets, far more than any other time of the year. It's so hard!
The most important thing with creating a healthy eating lifestyle is that you do your best to re-engineer your brain so you’re not craving these foods all the time. If all you can think about is diving into a big bowl of ice cream or chowing down on a bag of chips, it’s gonna be a giant uphill battle to your body composition goals! Get your mind off of it.
You need to redirect your focus when the cravings begin. Go for a walk, play a quick game on your phone, do 10 push-ups, strike up a (text) conversation with a friend. And stop watching those cooking shows and looking at recipes on Pinterest! Generally, cravings have nothing to do with physical needs for nourishment.
Also, the more lean protein and fresh produce you eat, the more your brain will crave these foods instead. It’s a great place to be. I know that if I go more than a day without some giant servings of leafy greens I start to get a little desperate and feel gross. You need to get here, too.
But you have to splurge
It’s nearly impossible and not necessarily healthy (mentally) to never again eat foods that deviate from nutritious guidelines. Most people are aware of the phrase “cheat meals”…essentially full meals or just instances that you cheat, or don’t stick to the rules. (I prefer to call them "splurges". Cheating has the connotation that you're doing something bad.)
It’s important to splurge. The reason is mostly psychological. I believe we were created to enjoy and delight in the many amazing flavors of food that surround us. I always picture heaven as a huge Christmas dinner with the most amazing foods, and the emotions and feelings that come with dining with friends and family. Nothing better than that! But, when we obsessively restrict what we can eat for a long period of time, the pressure builds and the cravings become so strong that we end up completely binge eating. Been there, done that?
We need a "pressure release valve".
You will be much more successful with your long-term fitness goals if you allow yourself to eat foods and drink beverages that deviate from the guidelines in a controlled manner. This releases any built up pressure to "avoid", and keeps you grounded.
But, you need a plan. Most people don't have a splurge plan at all, and tend to just eat or not eat when the mood strikes. However, with a plan, you can encounter tricky situations like the baking extravaganza on Saturday or the office party Friday night.
Here are some simple guidelines for splurging:
Decide what you'd like to achieve this holiday season. Do you actually want to make forward progress toward your physical goals? Then makes sure your splurges are no more than 3-4 meals per week. If maintenance sounds like a better goal right now, then simply enjoy one thing in moderation every day, but no more than 7 total splurges for the whole week. But no matter what, don’t overeat and stuff yourself, drink lots of water, stay mindful, and get right back on track at the very next meal.
With these strategies, you will be able to fully enjoy the season without overdoing it. I promise!
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