Guilt-free eating: Four tips to eat smart and still enjoy the holiday feasts

Guilt-free eating: Four tips to eat smart and still enjoy the holiday feasts

Thanksgiving, December and New Year’s parties are what many call “the main culprits” of their fitness nightmare. It’s when all the progress starts to go south. For some — who are a little forgiving to themselves — it’s the right season to binge because it’s the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’

And indeed it is! It’s the perfect time to celebrate, attend festivities, events, and traditions, while nearly all of them center around food. The parties are everywhere and are all adorned with scrumptious treats and cocktails. I just had my birthday a couple of weeks ago and with back-to-back dinner dates with friends and family, it all seemed like an endless pre-holiday celebration.

I, of all people, fully understand the whole ‘having-fun-on-the-holidays’ concept. I love going to parties and celebrating over food. But just like everything else, there is a smarter way to enjoy the taste of roast turkey or lechon (if you’re Filipino), without regretting it later. You can still enjoy the most wonderful time of the year and still feel and look wonderful throughout the season.

Here are four tips to help you with your fitness goals without missing out on the fun and your favorite foods of the season.

1. Set a goal and eat smart

Studies show that the average person gains one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That said, it is not really the best time to set a goal to lose weight during the holidays.

You can, however, still be on Santa Claus’ ‘nice and fit’ list by setting a goal to maintain your weight which is more realistic than making this season a time for you to shed pounds.

You wouldn’t want to be like a rabbit in the corner eating only carrot sticks while everybody else is dining like a king. Remember what the holiday season is about. Enjoy it!

One smart way to accomplish this goal is by making sure you don’t show up at parties with an empty stomach. This is not the time for you to skip meals so you can save up on calories. Showing up hungry to a party will transform you into a calorie-absorbing machine. You will end up binging and there’s no turning back from that. Eat a light meal before you go so you have better control of your appetite and ultimately end up eating less.

2. Keep moving

Planning and attending parties is exhausting and all you want to do when you get home is to live in your bed tucked in those fluffy sheets, or on the couch drinking hot chocolate watching Hallmark movies. Blame it on the cold winter breeze which makes this season an invitation to be lazy.

But believe it or not, you are actually missing out if you spend most of the holidays bonding with your pillows. And what better way to NOT feel guilty about eating on the holidays but to burn calories when you can.

Commit to making time for two to three workouts a week. If you don’t have time for the whole thing at once, break it into small bouts of exercise throughout the day. And while we are on the subject of enjoying the holidays, remember that exercise is not just for weight loss. It’s also good for mental health. When you exercise, you sleep better, which reduces stress. Further, when you’re feeling relaxed, you lower your cortisol (known as ‘the stress hormone’ because stress activates cortisol secretion) levels – so you are less likely to eat high-fat, high-sugar foods as a result.

It is important that you make time for physical activity, however, if you really can’t squeeze work-out in your schedule, you may visit Image Spa and let our machines do the work for you.

3. Portioning is key

The art of portioning your food is not rocket science but the science behind it is fascinating. When you downsize your plate, you are actually tricking your brain into thinking you are eating more. By choosing a salad plate instead of a dinner plate, you can trick your eyes into thinking you’ve had a lot to eat when you just had enough to fill in the plate.

Also, try not to hover around the buffet table. That is a sure-fire way to set yourself up for a calorie-binge. If you are you hosting a party, you can try serving some healthier (but delicious) snacks such as fresh salsa with pita chips, roasted pine nuts, dark chocolate-covered strawberries, or whole-wheat crackers and cranberry dip.

4. Limit your alcohol-intake and stay away from diet-destroying beverages

What is a feast without some booze, am I right or am I right? (high-five!) It is okay to have some drinks at a party but be careful not to lose track of how much you’ve had. Alcohol also tends to lower your inhibition which makes you eat more than you planned to.

It’s easy to keep drinking when you are having fun but that’s not going to be too pretty the morning after. Limit yourself to two drinks if you can so you wouldn’t wake up with a bad hangover and extra calories.

Avoid festive coffee beverages and seasonal spirits like peppermint mochas, homemade hot chocolate and creamy eggnogs that are packed with up to 500 calories each. To keep from getting carried away, add cinnamon and other spices instead of sugar when mixing drinks, hold the whipped cream (which will save you about 70 calories). There are sugar-free, low-fat versions of many classic holiday drinks are widely available, so choose wisely.

Tis the season to be jolly! Use these tips to stay healthy but enjoy the holidays at the same time. By setting realistic goals and eating smart, you are less likely to feel guilty about having fun. Everything should be done in moderation. So go ahead: eat, drink and be merry!


Imee is an established aesthetician, a business owner and a managing partner for Image Spa MD and CEO of Image Body SPA. She has a degree in Biology and Doctor of Dental Medicine. Image Spa is now one of the most reputable medical spa facilities in LA and has branches in Rancho Cucamonga and Encinitas for Image SPA MD and Image Body SPA-West Hollywood. Imee has been in the aesthetics industry for over 20 years.


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