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Dieting During the Holidays Shouldn’t Make You Miserable

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Dieting During the Holidays

If you’re thinking about restrictive dieting during the holidays, registered dietitian Paige Prestigiacomo has another idea for you. Read how “everything in moderation” should be your motto this holiday season.

As the holiday season arrives, many of us prepare for additional family time, festivities, and food. So many holiday traditions include indulgent meals and platters upon platters of sweets. Does this sound familiar? You’ve been trying to lose weight, so you drastically cut calories in the week leading up to your big holiday gathering, “saving” calories for the big day. By the time you get to the event, you’re starving and overeating. You end up feeling terrible on a day meant for enjoying family time.

The holidays don’t need to look like this. Furthermore, this approach is counterproductive. In our weight loss program at the Bloomington Clinic, we follow an “all foods fit” approach to eating. The focus is on healthy sustainable habits.

Paige Prestigiacomo, registered dietitian nutritionist at the Bloomington Clinic, has suggestions to keep in mind as you enjoy everything the holiday season has to offer—including the food.

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Don’t over restrict or “save” calories for a big holiday meal

Big, indulgent meals tend to go hand-in-hand with the holidays. Overeating at a big holiday meal can stem from feelings of hunger after restricting calories earlier in the day.

“People often overindulge because they’re restricting somewhere else,” Prestigiacomo says. “When it comes to holidays they try to ‘save up’ their calories for later in the day. Then when you go into a big holiday feast hungry, who’s not going to overindulge?”

To avoid this, Prestigiacomo recommends starting your day with a balanced breakfast consisting of protein, a colorful aspect like fruit, and something rich in healthy carbs.

One meal isn’t going to break you

If you do get caught up in enjoying holiday meals and treats, remember that one meal in itself isn’t going to break a healthy habit or make you gain weight. Think of it on a larger scale. If you eat 21 meals each week, one meal isn’t going to have a huge effect on your body. After a less healthy meal, aim to get yourself back on track with your healthy habits.

“I like to think of it with an analogy,” Prestigiacomo says. “You’re not going to expect to score 100% on every test you take in school. So why would we expect to be 100% perfect with food?”

Instead of focusing on dieting during the holidays, remember that the key to an overall healthy diet is balance. It’s not so much counting calories—which can also lead to you over- or under-eating—but a balance of what you’re eating.

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Fuel vs. Fun

Prestigiacomo likes to take an 80/20 approach. “Eat 80% ‘fuel’ foods that give you the nourishment and nutrients you need. Then 20% of the time it can be ‘fun’ foods.”

She doesn’t like to label anything a “bad food” to avoid the negative connotations and adverse feelings about eating those foods. When you’re eating a balanced diet, and in moderation, everything can fit.

“There may be more fun foods around the holiday. If you have a meal that’s more ‘fun’ than normal, you can have the next meal ‘fuel’ you,” she explained. “Waking up the next day after a big holiday meal, let’s have fuel food.”

For that morning after breakfast, Prestigiacomo suggests two eggs, a slice of whole grain toast with peanut butter, and berries. Maybe also a protein yogurt or leftover ham or steak from the holiday dinner the night before. “You want to get at least 20 grams of protein, but that’s tough. For context, one egg is about six grams of protein.”

All Foods Fit, All Year Round

The best way to prepare for eating during the holidays is to have a sustainable, yearlong plan for eating healthy and losing weight. The Weight Loss program at Bloomington Clinic helps you do just that.

“It’s a customized program, not a crazy diet,” Prestigiacomo says. “We work on creating sustainable changes and creating awareness. Focus on one thing at time that you can see yourself following forever.”

Taking this sustainable approach helps you to enjoy a guilt-free craving without it disrupting your overall health plan. Enjoy the family time, the festivities, and the holiday food. If you’re keeping it all in balance, all foods can fit into your plans.