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Thanksgiving Dinner with friends and family is delightful.  However, it is our family tradition to put dinner second to watching the football games.  Food and Drinks are premier during   Christmas, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s.  December marks the beginning of holiday office parties, Black Tie Social events, and mini get- together’ s with friends and family as we reflect and celebrate the accomplishments of the old year and welcome the promises of a new one.  Often, holiday eating and entertaining can be a real issue.  Many individuals face the yearly dilemma of striving to maintain healthy eating habits during this short festive time, with weight gain being the primary concern.

Contrary to how we may feel, it is impossible to gain a pound of weight from eating one or two traditional meals.  Three thousand five hundred calories equal to one pound of fat, no one could eat that many calories in one meal.   Nevertheless, here are a few conscious safeguards we can put into practice to prevent a return to old eating habits.

Mindful Eating:   is one of the tactics which can utilize not only in Eating but also in everyday life.  Mindfulness comes from the Buddhist religion focusing around meditation and conscious awareness of here and now. Mindful Eating is having a perception of how food tastes, receiving the full sensory pleasure of meal paying attention to the various taste buds, the texture or feel of food, and chewing and swallowing.  Many times, people are eating semiconsciously, chewing, and swallowing food without really tasting or focusing on the next bite before they have savory what’s already in their mouth.  Their attention is away from the experience of Eating or their food.  This type of behavior has led to overeating resulting in overweight or obesity.  Another consequence of rapid/ unmindful Eating is missing the full sensory pleasure of food and enjoyment of the meal.  The host/hostess or chef spends hours to prepare a meal for the pure purpose of straightforward enjoyment.

Over Eating and Stress:  The holiday season, unfortunately, brings with it a great deal of stress and worries for some. A Harvard research study reports that stress is a significant cause of overeating.  Both physical and emotional distress increases the release of two hormones from the adrenal gland, epinephrine, and cortisol (fight or flight response hormones).  These two hormones increase the propensity to consume foods high in fat, sugar, or both i.e., holiday cakes, cookies, pies, and specialty candies. Studies indicate that stress eating affects women more than men, whereas men turn to alcohol or smoking. To discourage the tendency to overeat calorie-dense foods, throw out all high-fat, sugary items from the refrigerator and kitchen cabinets.  Calories from Stress eating can add up and ruin your weight loss goals.

Avoid Skipping Breakfast:  A study conducted by the American Journal of Nutrition suggests by skipping breakfast results in the possibility of consuming more calories for the next meal you consume.  To prevent over-eating, when invited out for lunch, eat a healthy breakfast and a mid-day high fiber snack i.e., apple.   Invited out for dinner, eat a protein-packed lunch like grilled fish or chicken followed by a high fiber snack. These are just two evidence-based methods to safeguard the over-consumption of calories.

Choose Fruits and Vegetables:   When in doubt, eat the rainbow.  Colorful fruit and vegetables are always an excellent nutritious choice that is low in calories and rich in phytochemicals and fiber.   Choose more of these foods over the high fat sugary-desserts.  However, when you choose to have regular desserts, to cut calories in half and avoid being wasteful, try requesting half portions if feasible, or share with someone. 

Food and Drinks can be both a blessing and a curse for those who are striving to maintain healthy eating habits.   However, if we remember the concept of all things in moderation and exercise mindfulness, we can successfully manage it.  This season is the most beautiful time of the year. Let’s all Enjoy it.