Surviving Holiday Feasts

Surviving holiday feasts in a healthy way can be  challenging.  The biggest challenge is to prevent poor eating, overeating, and weight gain. The fact that most Americans suffer from irregular metabolisms makes us more susceptible to weight gain during this time of year.

The reason for the season is to appreciate life at the spiritual level, spend time with family and friends, meet people, and do things that we don't have the opportunity to do any other time of the year. Food is used as the common thread, and as a major element of an affirming, wholesome environment in which to be social. 

We have six suggestions that will help you push back from the table and override those impulses to overeat:

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1. Start thinking of food differently.

The holiday season is the perfect time to become a more conscious eater. Conscious eaters don’t eat at holiday feasts because food is present. They make decisions about food based on what the body needs to be healthy. Appearance and stature are not built solely upon foods that taste good. Each time you eat, choose a little for taste and a lot for your health and beauty. Don’t be fooled! Most food looks good, but not all food is good for you.

2. Eat colorful foods.

If your meals include fruits and vegetables that are at least three different colors, you have the nutritional properties of a healthy meal. Also, eat foods that have few ingredients and little processing. Remember that every non-food ingredient (preservatives, fats, additives, and fillers) that is eaten causes the body extra work. Prior to digestion, the body must rummage through these non-foods to find nutrients that the body can use for cell development and repair. This extra work takes energy (life) out of the body.

3. Never arrive at an event hungry.

It is almost impossible to survive holiday feasts and control your food choices when you are hungry. The desire for large volumes of whatever looks and tastes good is too strong. Have a bowl of soup, a piece of fruit, yogurt, or toast. This will send the body a message to stay calm. Use a smaller plate and start with smaller portions. This makes it safer to go back for a little more.

4. Protect your metabolism.

Many of us skip meals to save calories in an effort to reduce weight. Others go on diets that yield rapid weight loss initially (which is probably water loss). Rapid weight loss is a trap that can destroy your metabolism. The metabolism is the manner and rate of speed at which the body uses the food we eat. The best way to reduce weight is to reduce the overall volume of food eaten at each meal and to eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables. Animal protein is the major source of fat and cholesterol. It is difficult to survive holiday feasts when animal protein is top priority.

Improper eating puts the body into starvation mode—the body goes into crisis and slows down the metabolism. Thus, much of what is eaten is stored as body fat. Vegetables and grains provide a better source of protein.

5. Plan your meals.

Develop a food strategy before it is time to eat. Decide what you are going to eat (and drink) and determine your limits before you go out. Remember that the peak energy level for the body is when the sun is most intense (around 11 a.m.–2 p.m.). This is when you should eat your heaviest meal. If you are eating after 7 p.m., eat less, consuming those foods that are lower in fat. If appropriate, prepare a covered dish to contribute to the meal. This ensures that there will be something there for you to eat. You can also consider the Once-in-Awhile diet. This concept was introduced by Surina Ann Jordan in her book the Seven Disciplines of Wellness, The Spiritual Connection to Good Health. It basically encourages periodic consumption of less healthy foods. 

6. Exercise.

Don't forget to dance! It will ease hunger and increase your thirst. Any kind of dance is a great workout and easy to do during this time of year. A brisk walk or jog (for 15–30 minutes daily) is also good. Regular aerobic exercise is essential for good health and weight control.

During the holiday season, there is no healthy substitute for self-control and a commitment to eat consciously. As time goes on, dieting, improper eating, and poor health can alter our metabolism making it easy to gain weight. As you remember the reason for the season,  surviving holiday feasts is possible. Take the high road of self-discipline and make food choices that let you have fun, feel good, and look great the next morning.

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