In today’s world, we see or smell food almost everywhere we look:
- strolling through the mall scented with the fragrance of freshly-baked cinnamon rolls
- driving past the donut shop on a busy morning when we didn’t plan ahead for breakfast
- passing burger joints as we drive home late from work, hungry and not having planned dinner
- walking past the box of chocolate on the officemate’s desk
- flipping through the pages of magazines or while watching tv
Even just listening to someone talk about food (such as in this list!) can create food cravings. When the holidays arrive, things get even more challenging for those of us who have difficulty dealing with seeing food everywhere we turn.
Take our eating behavior quiz to see if your behaviors spell trouble for you during the holidays. If they do, try the tips and strategies below to avoid holiday weight gain. Here’s another article that gives you more valuable healthy holiday eating tips, too.
Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating
Step #1: Heighten awareness to separate food exposure from hunger cues.
- Ask yourself before each eating opportunity, “Am I hungry?”
- If the answer is no, then ask, “What is prompting me to want to eat?”
- Keep a list to note if it’s mere exposure to food vs. emotional eating or something else.
Step #2: With list in hand, identify situations where the food exposure could have been avoided. How could you handle the situation differently in the future?
Sample strategies to help you avoid eating:
- Salty snacks after dinner with the family while watching TV in the family room.
- Ask the family to enjoy snacks at the dining room table instead. It’s a healthy habit for all of us!
- Set up food-free zones, such as no food in bedroom so you can watch TV there free of temptation.
- Cookies that caught your eye while taking stock of the pantry to put together your grocery list.
- Keep challenging foods in an opaque container.
- Decide you don’t need cookies in the house 24-7. Buy them from the bakery in small amounts when you really want them.
- Pastries at the coffee shop where I like to gather with friends.
- Talk to friends about activities or meeting places that don’t involve food.
Step #3: Stay well fed throughout the day. As we approach the holidays, we can expect a dramatic increase in the amount of foods we’ll be exposed to. Our eating habits may become a little more chaotic than normal, too, e.g., skipping meals, going too long between meals. This combination can lead to less than desirable food choices or episodes of overeating. Make regular meals and snacks a priority.
Step #4: Practice managing your reaction to foods. At Green Mountain we talk about the 4 D’s. Use these when you’re not hungry.
- Delay – Wait at least 10 – 15 minutes before deciding whether you really want to eat a food.
- Distract – Do something else. Ideally something that requires concentration and is pleasurable.
- Decide – Become a food critic. Consider the type of food, quality, whether or not you might enjoy it more later on when you are hungry. If all signs point towards “yes I want it and I want it now”, proceed to the next D.
- Determine – Determine how much you want to eat at the moment – an amount that doesn’t leave you feeling deprived or overly full is a good start.
Final Step: Eat mindfully, enjoying every bite.
Changing the way we react to foods we see is something that takes practice and time. It can help to remember that you are in charge. Also remember that it’s a normal reaction to consider eating when you’re not hungry.
Making a conscious decision about eating or not, compared to an impulse or habit-driven decision, is a huge success and can go far towards helping you avoid holiday weight gain.