At The CogniDiet®, we pay attention to creating mental strategies that allow participants to be more mindful and in charge of what they eat and drink. Rewiring your brain to adopt new healthier behaviors is the only way to lose weight, and maintain it.
Below are a few mental tips to help you navigate the holiday season and not gain the usual extra 6-11 pounds. Because it is one party after another and you decide to go with the flow; in the back of your mind, you sabotage yourself with the future January 1st weight loss (supposedly) resolution. Research shows that we never really lose what we gained over the holiday season and carry an extra 2 to 3 pounds each yea
#1. Allocate Yourself a Party Budget
Mark all the events, parties or special occasions you plan to attend on a calendar with a RED CROSS. We did this in our class at The CogniDiet and participants were surprised they had an average of 10 crosses over the month of December. Then they realized every special occasion would bring an extra 500 to 1,000 calories to their usual diet regimen. They would not believe it initially. However when we started to count what they had eaten and drunk at the last party, they were stunned. The average came up to an extra 700 calories!
So 10 parties = 10,000 potential extra calories and possibly at least 3 to 5 pounds gained. This will change behaviors, believe me. Some participants even started to re-consider attending certain events!
#2. Count Your Bites
You will not count your calories over the holidays while enjoying yourself at a party. Too complicated. But one strategy that works is to count the bites. Usually at parties the food is rich and you will be surprised to learn that bites can be as high as 100 calories. So we allocated an average of 40 calories per bite, except for crudités w/o any extra dipping. This will make you think twice before devouring this pig in a blanket (between 50 and 100 calories a piece!).
#3. Focus on People
At a party there is usually food and drink galore. It is very easy to become mindlessly engaged in eating and drinking. If you go to a party, try to focus your attention on people, conversations, and join groups that look like they are having fun. Even create a mental goal that you are going to the party to enjoy yourself, not to eat. Stay away from the buffet as view and smell are the strongest saboteurs. I also always advise to carry something, like your phone, business cards, you name it. This is one less hand left to grab food!
#4. Be in Control of the Agenda
You may have to go to that grandmother you love but who always cooks this super rich food and feeds you like a goose. In a gentle yet firm way bring your own food, or offer to help with new recipes. If that does not work, take charge of the activities. They will force you to leave the table and be active. For example:
• Volunteer to do the shopping, set the table or wash the dishes (I did this at Thanksgiving when desserts where on the table. It worked! I had no dessert!)
• Organize some games requiring moving or going outside
• Create food breaks!
• Sit at the end of the table. People always pay less attention to what happens at the very end of the table! They won’t look at your plate!
• It is always more dangerous to have the food on the table. Try to get it on a special buffet or get temptations far away from you.
#5. Eliminate Unnecessary Stress
Stress makes us fat. Between the parties, the shopping, the family visits, the gift wrapping and travel, the holiday season rapidly becomes what it should not be: an over-active period. When chronically stressed out, the hormone cortisol is released. Cortisol elevates glucose in our blood and insulin has to rescue us and store it as fat. It also makes us crave for carbohydrates and sweets.
So eliminate, simplify, and make some decisions. Do you absolutely need to go see the Christmas tree in NYC this year? Think about the crowds and the travel time. How much time is allocated to really relax this year?
If you don’t find 30% of your holiday time is devoted to relax, the chances are you will gain weight. Create opportunities where there is no food involved! Think about healthy gifts you can share like a day at the spa, a massage, a spa pedicure, or a walk in the forest (at no cost). Again go into your calendar and note, with a GREEN CROSS, your relaxing activities. Are they at least equal to your red crosses?
#6. Use The 25% Calorie-Cut Rule
Wherever you are and eat, even at home, the holiday season brings extra calories because it is winter and the food is just richer. Plus there is this sense of hospitality and conviviality that creates the obligation to serve full meals. You may only have an entrée or a starter during the year at home but all of a sudden, the family is visiting and the meals become more sophisticated. I use the 25% cut strategy because I know how fattier and more sugary the food is in December.
Look at your plate, and your meal as a whole, and systematically cut 25% or a quarter of your plate. Now, don’t just eliminate the veggies; preferably eliminate fatty and carbohydrate rich foods.
#7. Gauge Your Hunger Level
We run from one party to another activity and there is food everywhere, right? Even in the shops, there are cookie plates, chocolate samplers, jars of candy, you name it. So we are doomed and tempted all day long.
One very important skill we teach at The CogniDiet is to learn to gauge your appetite and be mindful of your needs. On a scale of 0 to 10, zero being famished, 5 neutral and 10 over-stuffed, what is your hunger level right now? If you are at neutral, there is need to eat. You do NOT need this mini pizza. You do not need that extra bite. Just say it: I do not need this. I am not hungry!
What is the excuse left then, to grab that bite?
Follow my three rules and count to 5 before putting something in your mouth:
1. Is it delicious?
2. Is it nutritious?
3. Is it unique (like I will never have this again in my life)?
If not, you know what to do! Enjoy a healthy holiday season. Get all the tips and more for a healthy 2018 in my new book to be published mid January.Leave a reply →