TW: Mentions eating disorders, disordered eating.
With all the food, fun and festivities surrounding the holidays, many of us who have struggled with disordered eating (or even eating disorders) face greater worry and anxiety around how to navigate the holidays and maintain what we believe are healthy habits.
I've been there and plan to share more in the New Year about my ugly dieting past.
For most of my adult life, obsessing over calories, portions, macros, reading labels, food groups, etc. was a habit that I believed was making me healthier. During the holidays, I amped it up in order to avoid what was sure to be a 10 lb. weight gain.
Years later and lots of higher education under my belt and I now know better. And, I'm going to share with you more. I am going to show you why dieting is the least healthy thing you could do.
So let's talk holiday weight gain and the "healthy hacks" many diet gurus like to share. Firstly, you don't gain 5-7 lbs. during the holidays. The reality is that you may gain 1-2 lbs. and that's likely just water weight and bloating from eating foods you're not used to eating on a regular basis. So, chill.
The five "health hacks" below were things I actually did to avoid weight gain and in my head they were "working."
These aren't healthy. They were steeped in deprivation, restriction and some disordered eating/exercising habits. So, I'm sharing my mistakes here so you don't get caught in the same cycle of destructive diet behaviors.
5 Holiday "Health Hacks" to Stop Doing...NOW!
1. Not eating all day before a party.
This might be my most hated yet most used strategy in my dieting days. On the surface, saving all your calories up for a big meal later seems like a great way to avoid overeating. Nope. It actually can backfire, leaving you starving and more likely to eat and drink even MORE than you expected. A better bet: Eat healthy, slightly smaller meals throughout the day and then enjoy your favorites at the party!
2. Avoiding Carbs, Fat, Sugar, or any food group.
I have done every fad diet out there. But no more! Carbs, sugar, fat, etc. are not the enemy. While I love a charcuterie board almost as much as I love my children, a woman cannot live on meats and cheeses alone. And, you can bet your holiday budget I won't be snacking on carrot sticks and hummus all night when there is an amazing cookie table. Your body needs carbohydrates and fat...they are great sources of energy. So balance the goodies with some healthy and delicious foods that will keep you full and fueled up for the holidays.
3. Measuring, counting, weighing...everything!
This was the last destructive dieting habit I gave up. I still struggle with it. I measured, weighed and portioned out everything I ate. I lived and died by my MyFitnessPal food journal and the calories and macros it tracked. Here's a story...One time at a party, I caught myself counting Triscuits because I knew that 6 of them = 120 calories. And, I couldn't hear the conversation around me or enjoy the party because I was trying to eyeball an exact 1 oz. portion of cheese. How can you enjoy food, family, friends, etc. during the holiday season when you're counting Triscuits? If you really need help with portion sizes think of your plate like this...fill half of it with fruits and veggies and the other half with whole grains and protein. When grazing at a party practice mindful eating. Eat slowly, enjoy your food, socialize, stay hydrated, listen to your body's hunger signals and be present.
4. "Working out to work off" last night's food.
Exercise is not punishment for eating food (I said what I said!).
Exercise is for your heart, lungs, muscles, brain, soul, spirit, etc. Not to erase what you ate. Exercise for the stress relief it brings, for the creativity it spurs, for the endorphins it releases, for the feeling of accomplishment and for the confidence it builds. Look at the previous day's food as just what your body needs to have a great workout today - use it to challenge yourself to run a little faster or go heavier with the weights!
5. Planning a detox, cleanse or fast to rid your body of what you ate over the holidays.
This one is a close second to the "not eating before a party" on my list of health advice I hate. First some biology for ya...if your kidneys, liver, lymphatic, digestive and respiratory systems are healthy and operating as they should, your body is already a highly-sophisticated detoxing machine. No pill, drink, shake, fast or diet will rid your body of what it doesn't need as well as these amazing internal systems. Detox products are pure marketing (and mostly garbage) and a waste of money. Want to feel better after eating foods that you're not used to (heavy sauces, lots of salt, more fat than usual)? Drink more water and eat more lean protein and fiber the next day. That will help with digestion, lack of energy and that bloated feeling
I hope I shattered some myths for you. I hope I gave you permission to let go of some unhealthy habits that are not serving you. And, most of all, I hope I helped you see that you don't have to "health hack" your way to a healthier lifestyle. Don't get caught in these traps like I did. It takes years to undo the deeply ingrained habits and have a healthy relationship with food, exercise and your body.
Truth is, being a healthier version of yourself isn't a short-term, quick-fix kind of thing.
So, enjoy the holidays and all the food, fun, friends and family that come with it.
If you need help pulling yourself out of these behaviors, let's talk. My Executive Wellness Check Up is a great place to start to unravel these habits and build new ones. Schedule your Executive Wellness Check Up to get started.
Much love this holiday season,