Get through the holidays feeling healthy! No need to gain weight, feel crummy, or bail on your health-related goals.
Five keys for you to stay focused on your body and your health from Halloween through New Years.
“When I knew better, I did better. “Oprah
It’s almost that time again. Halloween can be the time when you begin to practice healthy holidays and good habits. Hopefully, you won’t get tricked by treating yourself to candy, junk food, and eating things that have no place in a healthy diet. It may appear that sweet treats jump out and scare you into having some. If so, you may want to have a plan not to be fooled.
Sugar in the morning, sugar in the evening, sugar at suppertime. Or maybe not. Because Halloween falls in the month before Thanksgiving, which falls in the month before the December holidays, it’s good to get a running start early in the year. I have been promoting for a very long time that you do not have to be a statistic like others who pile on an extra six to eight pounds between Halloween and New Year’s.
My intention is that by the time you are finished reading this, you will be more determined and confident to steer clear of any pitfalls associated with holiday eating. Keep an eye out for my annual Healthy Holiday Habits where you will get even more support.
Some experts call sugar habit-forming, claiming that it is in fact not an addictive substance. Others argue that when we eat sugar, the same place in our brain lights up as when a cocaine or heroin user gets high. Whether sugar is habit-forming or addictive, it is easy to crave it along with other simple carbs, like junk food and processed food.
There are a variety of foods that behave like sugar does and it is useful to keep an eye out for them before, during, and after the holidays as well. Some of them are alcohol, bread, pasta, bagels, pretzels, potato chips, cookies and other food that is sweet, salty, and highly processed. The famous marketing jingle Bet you can’t eat just one is compelling for consumers who do want to eat this food.
I have five suggestions for ways you can stay in charge, and not get spooked by temptation.
- Recognize your habits. I sat with a friend recently at his desk while he transferred handfuls of little hard candies from a baggy that was on his desk to his mouth while we were working. I can’t say the degree to which he enjoyed what he was eating, but from the outside, it looked like a skit about mindless snacking. It appeared that he was doing this automatically. What about you? Are there habits you may have picked up that you can review and adjust? When I think back to the huge sums of candy I used to eat throughout the day as a habit, it makes me grateful to have broken free of that. What about bread before a meal? Automatically having a glass of wine when you get home? Grabbing a handful (or two or three) of M&M’s every time you walk by a certain desk at work. To the degree that you have slipped into habits like these, you can slip back out.
- Set some limits. What works for me in the dessert department is to have some dark chocolate after dinner. Interestingly, my husband and I recently decided that four little squares of Trader Joe’s dark chocolate were too big of a portion. It took a while of wanting to eat more, but we are now adjusted to two small squares. I recommend that you pre-decide what quantities or frequencies make sense for you and your health standards. Instead of having no plan, give some real thought to what a systematic approach would be and follow it. An example of a great limit to set around Halloween is to pre-decide the number of pieces candy you give yourself permission to eat. Hint: a good number is one. But the best number is zero.
- Practice saying “No, thank you.” When my kids were little, I could not imagine myself avoiding handfuls of their trick-or-treat candy. That was almost thirty years. Now I could not imagine myself eating any Halloween candy. Abstaining from poor food choices is like using a muscle that gets stronger each time you flex it. Sometimes the best way not to eat too much dessert is not having any at all. Personally, I think an advanced practice is to be able to control yourself with no guilt or remorse having an occasional sweet treat, like what I wrote above in the section on setting limits. But I have learned from my own experience and in working with countless clients and students that it might make sense to practice saying no until you have the confidence to have just a little nibble.
- Raise your standards. Junk food, candy, cookies, cake and the like should take up as little space in your food choices as possible. One of my clients recently told me that he has given up candy because he is no longer a person who eats candy. Learning how to “eat clean” and how to select whole, fresh food that is loaded with health-boosting nutrition says a lot about who you have become. Passing on candy during Halloween can be more about the fact that you simply don’t eat junk like that and less about you barely being able to resist temptation.
- Discover delicious alternatives. There are countless ways to enjoy food that tastes great and is good for you. One of our favorite breakfasts is to put in a large bowl (to save to have for a few days) a simple combination of the following: a yogurt/cottage cheese blend; a few drops of pure vanilla extract; a few teaspoons of my famous chia/flax/hemp seed blend (equal parts); a couple teaspoons of pure maple syrup; pomegranate seeds; an assortment of toasted or soaked and dried nuts; a handful of cacao nibs; and some fresh seasonal fruit. This insanely delicious dish is a no-brainer when it comes to assembling the ingredients. It makes a very healthy breakfast or lunch. It is slightly sweetened, and I am urging you to calibrate to food like this that is tasty, satisfying, without tipping the sugar meter up to a health hazard. At www.RosieBank.com and www.Facebook.com/GetYourBodyToLoveYouBack I continue to share these simple recipes because I believe that you can learn to make and enjoy food that tastes like a treat while staying on track with your health.
Hmmm… I am wondering how I can offer a dish like this to the kids when they ring the bell on Halloween. Recipe cards for their parents? That might not go over so well. In past years I used to buy the crummiest, grossest candy to give to the trick-or-treaters just to make sure that I wouldn’t be tempted. Then I realized that I did not like that because I was giving the kids such awful candy. So, I learned to recognize my habits, set some limits, just say no, raise my standards, and discover delicious alternatives. We give the kids boxes of raisins now and make peace with the tradition.
Where will you make some adjustments? How can you raise your standards? Your teeth, your waistline, and your heart are a few body segments that will rejoice when you keep your health top of mind and don’t let the bogeyman scare you into doing anything else.
Rosie Bank is Board Certified Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and the founder of Health Matters Coaching. She is the author of the book, Health Matters and is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition. Rosie is an international speaker, blogger, and the founder of Health Matters podcast. She is certified as a Nutrition and Wellness Consultant through the American Fitness Professional Association and as a Nutrition Advisor through Sanoviv Medical Institute. Rosie’s partner in nutrition since 1999 is USANA Health Sciences. To learn how Rosie can help you maximize your health and achieve your goals, schedule here. Join our online community at Facebook to keep up on ways to stay healthy.