I’m Dreaming of Light Holidays the Non-Dieting Way

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My philosophy has changed over time from the “traditional rules of calorie counting” approach to one of non-dieting which is the way I currently present weight management programs at worksites.  I find this way is kinder, gentler and more effective because it emphasizes a healthy life-style instead of weight loss.

I’m dreaming of a light Christmas…Do memories of Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas conjure up images of a Norman Rockwell painting or a picture wrapped in social demands, to-do lists, jangled nerves, overeating and guilt? Our expectations and the pressure to create the perfect holiday turns the season of goodwill into a marathon of survival.

A lighter more flexible holiday attitude allows you to go the distance from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day with your health and sanity intact. And it frees you up to focus on the true meaning of the season.

Winter wonderland…A lighter holiday begins with wondering. Take some time to reflect on what the holidays mean to you. Make up your mind right now that this will be a great holiday season. Set meaningful, realistic and practical goals, which may mean saying no to certain things.

Eat and drink light…Enjoy merriment with no regrets. The holidays can challenge even the healthiest eaters, with “goodies” so accessible. Healthy eating strategies like moderating portion sizes and going for the lowfat options are always a good choice. Allowing yourself the pleasures of holiday eating doesn’t mean going overboard.

For some folks, Thanksgiving Day is the starting line of a six week eating and drinking marathon with participants filling up at every turn. A 2,000 calorie dinner begins the race, followed by holiday baking, office treats, cocktail parties, banquets, candy for the stockings, cookies for Santa, rich desserts and a New Year’s Eve Bash at the finish line.

The lighter approach to holiday eating means striving for balance and letting go of  “guilt trip” thinking. Feeling guilty over eating the candy, pie, cookies, gravy, or big holiday dinners feeds the “what the heck” mentality that says, “I already blew it by eating all this bad stuff,  I may as well eat more. I’ll start eating right again in January.” Balanced eating is much kinder. You had a high fat meal, so you follow it with a lowfat meal. Or you had a high calorie and fat day so you eat lighter the next day. This flexible thinking will serve you well through the holidays and into the new year.

Exercise creatively…With time at a premium during the holidays, structured exercise programs are often dropped to allow for shopping, baking or partying. Rather than skipping exercise totally, replace the missed workouts with a more playful and spontaneous movement plan. Go for a walk and view the decorated homes in your neighborhood, take a break from shopping and walk quickly through the mall; invite your guests for a before or after dinner walk; dance around the tree in your living room or make snow angels with your kids. Move your body to the tune of the holiday, and then in January, jump back into your regular routine.

Happy holidays…With a little planning, balance and moderation, holidays can be healthy and fun. As with any race, it’s how you pace yourself.

Janice L. Krouskop is a registered dietitian with a Master’s degree in Public Health.  She is a speaker, writer and consultant specializing in health promotion and worksite wellness.  She is the author of “Happy Thoughts for a Healthy Life.”

By Janice L. Krouskop, M.P.H., R.D.

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