15 Fool-Proof Healthy Holiday Eating Strategies – BioTrust Radio #7

Healthy Holiday Eating

It’s often said that the average American puts on 5 – 10 pounds during the holiday season, but we know you’re not average or content settling with the norm. That’s exactly why we’re going to help you nip holiday weight gain in the bud before it happens. In this episode of BioTrust Radio, Shawn and Tim are going to arm you for success with 15 fool-proof healthy holiday eating strategies. Enjoy!

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The media often reports that people typically gain 5 or more pounds during the holidays; the truth is that these reports are exaggerated, and the average holiday weight gain is closer to 1 pound. That doesn’t change the fact, however, that most people rarely lose that weight, which continues to accumulate year after year. And this is why healthy holiday eating is so important and the topic of so much discussion.

We get it: The holidays are STRESSFUL, and they’re BUSY. Combine that with the abundance of rich, decadent, delicious, calorie-dense food and drink, and healthy holiday eating becomes an afterthought. After all, what would your New Year’s Resolution be if your eating habits didn’t go to hell in a handbasket?

But what if you were armed with a toolbox of healthy holiday eating strategies that could help you avoid holiday weight gain without depriving yourself or feeling guilty? And what if some of those very same healthy holiday eating tools could also help you more thoroughly enjoy the holidays, reduce stress, repair relationships, and even let go of toxic thoughts and feelings?

That’s precisely what we cover in this episode of BioTrust Radio where we reveal our top 15 healthy holiday eating strategies, which either directly or indirectly (emotional eating) affect what and how much you eat and drink. Make sure you tune in to hear Shawn and Tim talk more about these tools and how to use them:

  • Mindful meditation and increasing your awareness of the stress you’re experiencing
  • Find out how forgiveness and the following quote from Jonathan Lockwood Huie can help liberate you from stress and emotional eating. “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
  • Simply put, SIMPLIFY
  • Learn how stress management techniques (like yoga and meditation) can help squash emotional eating
  • Journal ways that events cause stress, and write down ways to de-stress
  • Healthy holiday eating starts with eating and drinking slowly and mindfully
  • Use intermittent fasting to combat a day or meal of overindulging; if you overeat one day/meal, eat less the next day/meal. One day of overeating is not going to do irreparable harm
  • Intense exercise can be a very useful tool for “damage control”
  • Sometimes you have to BYOF to ensure healthy holiday eating
  • Just like they say to never go to the grocery store hungry, have a “pre-game meal”
  • Before a big meal, “pre-load”
  • Position yourself (in the room) for healthy holiday eating
  • Out sight, out of mind
  • Healthy holiday eating isn’t about the food; it’s about the people
  • Watch what you drink if you plan to have healthy holiday eating habits

We’ll cover all these healthy holiday eating strategies, which can boost your overall health and weight loss efforts ANY time of year, and more. Enjoy! 

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Healthy Holiday Eating

Shawn: Welcome to BioTrust Radio, with Tim Skwiat and Shawn Wells. We are back for another episode, and we thought we’d make this a special one about healthy holiday eating, which can be difficult. If we think about the holidays, you’ve got Halloween, where there’s candy everywhere. Now Halloween isn’t just a kids’ holiday, it’s an adult holiday. I’d actually says it’s more of an adult holiday now, with all these Halloween parties and dressing up. Then you have Thanksgiving. Then you have Christmas parties and actual Christmas. Then you have New Years. Then you have ball games and the Super Bowl. Then you start rolling and maybe even have Easter thrown in there. You’re coming out of this holiday binge-fest and now you’re 10 lbs heavier and now it’s time to wear less clothes and be more fit. The sunshine’s out and where does this leave us?

So, let’s talk about healthy holiday eating strategies to help you avoid holiday weight gain. But I do have a quote—I’m going to try to start doing more quotes because I think they’re motivational, inspirational, and we’ll try and tie them in to the episode. This is a really good one I like, “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” I think that’s pretty deep. What do you take away from that, Tim? Does that resonate with you?

Tim: Yeah, it does. You start to think about how we can hold onto things and how that affects everything that we do. It affects our attitude and it affects how we treat others. Those things start to add up. Maybe it’s not just one thing, but it’s two or three things that we start to hold in. Then we start to make bad decisions and we start to treat people poorly just because of things that we’re holding in. So, I think we have to learn to let go, to really experience true freedom and live a very prosperous life that encourages others. That’s something that I want to teach my daughter, as she grows up, is that everyone’s a person. It’s really interesting when I think about that. Everyone has feelings, just like you do, and we want to treat people with kindness and respect, regardless of where we are in life and where they are. If you and I cross paths in the street, you don’t know what kind of day I’m having. You’ve talked about this before, with your own story. You don’t know how powerful your words and your actions can be on just a random stranger.

It’s taking a slightly different direction, but I just think that if you’re holding things in or if you’re holding something against someone, try to let it go. And maybe it’s not that easy. Maybe it requires a discussion. But communicate, because that other person may not even know what he or she did to have this ball of stress built up inside of you.

Shawn: You know, it’s funny, there’s also physical manifestations of these. You think that these things are just in your head, but they’re not. It’s funny that we say, “keep it in” and “let it go,” because literally, because of these past traumas or because of things that they are “holding in,” these things that they felt like they’ve been wronged about or whatever. You can have pains in places where there’s permanent knots.

We know that when your shoulders are forward and your pelvis is tilted forward, that you’re kind of in a closed-off position. And when your shoulders are rolled back and you’re standing at attention and your pelvis is tilted back, now you’re more open. There’s body language. If we’re permanently in these states of closed-off body language, then that has an impact on our body health. It’s been shown time-and-time again, this isn’t as hokie as it sounds, that when people let go of prior traumas of things that they’re holding against other people, they have less pain, less inflammation, less of these knots. You’re literally holding things in. You’re keeping yourself tense. You’re dwelling on things that aren’t healthy and that has a physical impact as well as a mental impact. One definitely affects the other.

Tim: Yeah, it’s possible that all of this holding in is resulting in a stress response and activation of sympathetic nervous system in the body. When it’s hyperactive, over time, it’s going to dampen your immune response and cause those types of aches and pains and things inside the body. So, meditation and things like that, that activate the parasympathetic nervous system could be really helpful as well.

Shawn: Well, it dampens the ability for you to deal with stress in the future, too, because you’re always in hyper-stress mode. You can’t go from calm and feeling gathered, to healthy states of dealing with stress; of being amped up in a certain way that’s healthy, because you’re always that way. Now, you can’t identify what’s stressful and not stressful because you’re always feeling tensed.

That’s a great discussion because I think it all leads into what we’re going to talk about, which is very stressful, and which is why people may overeat and not have very healthy holiday eating habits. Let’s think about this. Not only are these holidays where there’s special foods, these bliss point foods, these foods that we dream about and think are so amazing. And they are. There are definitely amazing foods.

Tim: Let’s not kid anybody.

Shawn: But let’s also think about at that holiday party—let’s take the Halloween one, now for adults—and women are dressed scantily and men have to be superheroes. That’s stressful. Can I look good in this costume? Now, you’re at Thanksgiving and there’s family around. Then Christmas, and there’s family around. Or you’re at a holiday party for work and your boss is around and other co-workers are around, and certain people are getting awards. Or when it’s your family stuff over the holidays, is there drama between your family, like “Oh, they didn’t like my present. Oh, they’re going to return it.” There’s all this stuff going on. Or maybe, with the ball games, you’re caught up in your team or you’re gambling, or whatever.

If you think about all this stuff, there is stress. It’s supposed to be fun things, good things, but we build them up so much in our mind that sometimes it’s almost impossible to live up to them, and they become stressors.

Tim: It reminds me of your quote, that a lot of times with the family gatherings, is that there’s all this pent-up stress and just resentment and things like that.

Shawn: And there’s no way it can be good.

Tim: You start over-consuming alcohol, you start overeating because you don’t want to deal with these emotions. It’s an interesting tie-in to that quote that you mentioned. So, we want to dig into some healthy holiday eating strategies to avoid weight gain and just kind of healthier behaviors during the holidays.

I think sometimes the amount of weight that’s gained during the holidays is a bit overstated. One of the recent studies in the New England Journal of Medicine, basically, looked at a large sample size of people. And it looks like from Thanksgiving to Christmas—we’re just talking a month’s time—we’re looking at about a 1% weight gain on average. Some people are going to be above that and some people below that. Which doesn’t seem like much, but what happens is that people don’t tend to lose that weight over time, so it just kind of sticks around.

Shawn:   Year after year after year. Then you become less active, so maybe that 1% weight gain is actually 2% fat gain and 1% muscle loss. Over time, over 10 years, where are you going to be at? What’s the net effect of you eating like this for what ends up being the holidays lasting four months? This period of time, especially because it’s through the winter, where we tend to be less active. So it’s a double-whammy. There’s a lot to this.

And dealing with some of these prior traumas that you may put off the whole year and not think about, but then you’re forced to deal with. It’s in your face. That stuff from your childhood or those siblings, or those relationships that have gone sour for whatever reason, you’re forced to deal with. And that does become a huge stressor, sometimes on a pretty massive scale. I’ve seen people almost in tears, just thinking about the holidays because either I’m going to be lonely, by myself, which is dreadful; or I get to choose dealing with prior trauma, with my family. Because we’ve built these holidays up so much, that there’s so much stress that’s going on there.

At the very least, going back to mindful meditation, one of the best things I think someone can do, before we even get to strategies, is just be aware of it. And that’s mindful meditation. So just being aware that I have stress being by myself. I also have stress dealing with this certain relationship when I go to my parents’ house for the holidays.

Tim: Yeah.

Shawn:   You may think that’s obvious. I know that in my head. But actually thinking that through and saying that to yourself can put you in a very different place, to where now you say, “I know that’s a stressor to me. Here’s the things I’m going to do to make that something I can deal with.”

Whether you choose to not go, that’s one way to deal with it; or, whether you have some strategies like you bring a significant other and you tend to focus on other conversations. Or you let what they say roll off of you, because now you’re aware that they’re just toxic and they’re negative. Another thing is, like we talked about, is forgiveness. That’s a huge one. If you can forgive, then I think that allows you to move on. Whether they move or not, that’s not up to you, but if you forgive, and you forgive yourself, you forgive them, then you can move on. You can be healthier. That’s all you can do. I would say that’s one of the biggest things to do with holiday eating.

We can get into the actual foods and how to make healthy holiday eating decisions there, but I feel like the stress of the holidays. We didn’t even mention the stress that you’re under, not in the actual holiday event, but leading up to it with the shopping and the money. Do I have enough money? Is there enough money in the bank account? I’m racking up my credit cards. I’m trying to get to this mall at this time. I’m trying to get to this Amazon lightning deal at 2:00 in the morning, to get my kid this video game system that’s now 50% off. It’s just crazy stressful thinking about it. Then there’s the travel and rental cars, and flights being delayed. It can be overwhelming.

So one thing I would recommend is, if you can, simplify and simplify. Find ways to destress. Write down all the ways that these events are causing stress, and then find ways to say with your family, “Let’s find ways to destress, here.” I know that Shelley and I, we don’t have kids, but on Christmas day we go out to a very nice restaurant and then we’ll go to a spa and get a massage. We’re sharing time with each other and it’s special that way, and we don’t have to get each other any gifts. It’s nice that we can do that. It’s not like a financial thing, it’s not a money thing. It’s not, “She got me the wrong thing. I’ve got to return it,” or “Oh, that’s my money she’s spending to get me a present.” All these kinds of things. Seriously. It becomes so crazy and stressful. Why not find ways to destress.

So, if you do have a family, one thing I would suggest is all go skiing, all go to Disneyworld. Make it a memory instead of about stuff. That’s one way. I’m getting a little off track. But I think it all still applies.

But to get back to the actual food and making the best, healthy holiday eating choices, let’s take on these holiday meals, in particular Thanksgiving, Christmas, holiday parties, work parties, and whatever. Let’s set it up. Not only is there going to be “the meal,” where there might be turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, pecan pie, pumpkin pie, ice cream, all this stuff. But there’s also egg nog and there’s alcoholic drinks. But there’s also around the house, there’s candy dishes, there’s fruitcake and different snacks, and rolls that are sitting out with honey and butter. It can get crazy sometimes because everyone wants to entertain and have this feeling of warmth and comfort. Even though we said there’s a lot of stress, sometimes the one thing that’s destressing during all this stress is the food and the drink. So, how do you get through this battle of the bulge?

Tim: Yeah, Shawn, there’s just a lot of power and wisdom in everything you just said, and I think that the mindfulness piece applies there too. Healthy holiday eating begins with being aware of what you’re doing. It always applies. Regardless of what you’re eating or drinking, try to be mindful of it. Eat slowly and mindfully, and just try not to stuff yourself is probably a good rule of thumb at any point in time.

Shawn: So, slowing down and enjoying it.

Tim: Right.

Shawn: If it’s going to be a special meal, then make it a special meal. Don’t make it a guilt-filled meal. Don’t hate yourself for eating the food. Decide on what you’re going to eat and be happy with it. You can enjoy it. It should be an enjoyable experience. So bring the joy back to these meals. You don’t have to deprive yourself. You can have a special meal. And you don’t have to say, “I’m going to avoid 2/3 of these things that I love on the table.” Maybe just have a little less. Then maybe take a meal off—like calories in, calories out—like intermittent fasting.

Tim: That would be one of my healthy holiday eating strategies, is to remember what we’ve talked about before, not that you have to pay a penance if you’ve overeaten, but it’s not one day or one meal is not going to do undoable damage. Like we talked about before, intermittent fasting; especially like an alternate day fasting type of thing where if you eat too much one day, just eat a little bit less the next day. And the same thing applies with exercise. Exercise can be a preventive healthy holiday eating tool. It’s like damage control. You have to be careful when we talk about these things with food and exercise as kind of balancing things out. It’s compensatory, but some people take it the wrong way, and that’s where eating disorders can come into play.

Shawn: Right. You don’t want it to be a bunch of guilt when you eat, but you need to just make more balanced, healthy holiday eating decisions. Be aware of what the food is. You don’t have to have tons of it. Slow down, enjoy it. That’s what we’re saying. And then maybe eat a little less the next meal, to compensate, and exercise a little bit more, and it’s not a big deal. Ultimately, one meal is not like a massive impact, no matter what the meal is. If you eat crap all year round, let’s say you ate like Thanksgiving every meal and then one meal a year you have salad, it doesn’t make you healthy. It’s okay to have one meal and then get back on track.

I think that leads to that “all or nothing” mindset, where you do feel guilty over it and you do hate yourself and shame yourself and say, “Well, I’ve fallen off the wagon, so screw it.” And then what happens?

Tim: It’s just all downhill from there. You just overeat, you gorge yourself, and then you probably don’t get back on track right off the bat. Or you punish yourself with exercise or fasting or something, so we have to be careful when we’re talking to certain people about that kind of thing.

I think that there are a few other healthy holiday eating strategies that I have in mind that could be helpful. One is that what I like to call “BYOF” Bring Your Own Food. Sometimes you don’t know what’s going to be at a party, so you don’t know if there’s going to be any healthy options. And if you really want to try to do your best to stick with your eating plan—not to say that you can’t enjoy things that are there—but make sure there’s at least one thing there that you like.

We have a bunch of recipes on our blog that I think are fitting for healthy holiday eating. For instance, whenever we go to a party, we always brings something. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to eat anything else that’s there, but I know at least I brought chicken tenders or something that I could have to snack on. That’s one thing. If you bring something that you know is a healthy option, at least you know you’ll have at least one thing there.

Another healthy holiday eating strategy is what I like to call “the pregame meal.” Some people, if you go into it too hungry, you’re going to overeat. So, having at least a high protein snack an hour or so before, can help keep cravings down and keep hunger suppressed just enough so that you don’t overeat a bunch of junk food. Like we’ve talked about before, a lot of these calorie-dense foods are easy to overeat. For a certain volume of food, we’re going to overconsume some calories. So, maybe having a little pregame meal.

Shawn: It’s similar to the concept of when you go shopping, to shop on a full stomach versus hungry.

Tim: Yeah. Exactly.

Shawn: You’ll make better decisions. And isn’t there some data on just drinking water prior to the meal?

Tim: Right. It’s called a “preload”, which is another effective healthy holiday eating strategy. Even having 16 oz of water before you eat a meal, can help fill you up enough, because the body’s responding to the volume of food and liquid in the digestive tract, can help you eat a little bit less. Same thing as if you were to eat a big salad before a meal, or even grapefruit. There’s studies with grapefruit preloads, where eating those low-calorie high-volume foods before a meal can help you feel full faster, so you’re not overeating as much.

Another interesting healthy holiday eating habit that comes to mind, too, is where you’re at in the room. If you situate yourself near the table where all the food is, you’re way more likely to overeat than if you are across the room having your conversations over there. If all the food’s here on this table, between you and I and we’re chit-chatting, we’re bound to eat more of this than if we were out in the hallway.

Shawn: That is a great point. Absolutely. That makes a lot of sense. Maybe if you are sitting there watching TV and there’s two candy dishes in front of you, and that’s a point of weakness, maybe move those somewhere else. Just say, “Hey mom, I figured some other people might want these, so I’m going to put this where more people are.” Like you said in a prior episode, about “being in arm’s reach.” Even just being out of your reach can help, or out of your eyesight can help encourage healthy holiday eating.

Tim: The thing about going to a Mexican food restaurant with tortilla chips on the table. If they’re there, you’re bound to eat them. But if you tell the server not to bring them out or put them out of sight, you’re not going to eat them. Same thing. So, that candy dish one is a great point.

Shawn: Exactly. That’s a great point too. With keto, I have to do that very thing with the tortilla chips and with bread rolls. Those are torture. If they’re out on the table, I am literally tortured. It’s evil because they smell good, they’re crispy, or they have a great texture and they’re warm, and you’re hungry and you’re waiting for your meal. What else?

Tim: We’ve talked a little bit about being mindful about your food and what you’re eating, but also remember that these parties—for some people they are about the food and the drink—it’s also about the people that you’re around. Healthy holiday eating may be more about emphasizing your time with those people, especially if it’s company that you want to be in.

Another healthy holiday eating strategy that comes to mind is just watch what you drink. Sometimes when we drink alcohol, we make poor food decisions as a result. If you choose to drink alcohol, maybe have at least a glass of water in-between alcoholic beverages.

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Shawn: One thing I find is that drinking dry red wine, which obviously has a lot of health benefits, but because of its astringency on my tongue, it’s drying, and it’s a little bit more maybe on the bitter side than a white wine or beer or some of these other things that might drive you to eat. I don’t feel that drive to eat as much, for that possible reason. But those are great points.

I think also, at these parties, there’s sodas. There’s Coke, there’s cider, there’s all these things like hot cocoa, egg nog. Even irrespective of alcohol, there’s all these high glycemic drinks that will make you overeat as well. That’s been shown as well and we’ve talked about that before, that when you’re eating food with these sweet beverages, that you tend to keep eating. That even goes for these diet sodas and diet drinks, so I would be mindful of that. There again, I think it’s better if you’re drinking water or maybe having one glass, so try red wine with your meal. I think those are healthier decisions to make.

I think we’re going to wrap it up, but hopefully you’ve found a lot of value in this and all the healthy holiday eating strategies we shared. Again, we really appreciate you guys listening and we look forward to doing more episodes. Check out BioTrust VIP on Facebook and go to our blog on BioTrust.com, and give us some feedback, ask us some questions. We really appreciate it. Hopefully you have happy holidays, or whenever you’re listening to this, we hope that you’re feeling better, that you’re more mindful, and you live a healthier life. Thanks a lot.

Tim: Happy holidays.