A Personal Trainer & Dietician’s Holiday Tips For Food, Family, And Fun

'Tis the season to be jolly, folks! Let’s talk about the upcoming holiday season, “How do I get through the holiday season without halting my goals?” I thought 2020 would be different, but the fact that I’m still receiving questions on how to get through the holiday season sanely and healthily shows we still have the same concerns as every year, and I’m happy to help you guys through them.  

I’m excited to share my top tips to get you through the holidays, and if you’d like to hear this episode instead of reading, check out episode #98 on B for Better Health.

Dealing With Food In The Holiday Season

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Picture this scenario, team: you’ve just arrived at your grandmother’s house, the entire family is there and you haven’t seen some of them in months or even a year. Most likely, there’s a meal prepared and the buzz and excitement of reuniting with everybody just takes over and you enjoy that meal from A to Z. You go for seconds, you have dessert, you and your cousins make some popcorn for a movie night. 

This sounds like the perfect day, doesn’t it? 

You wake up the next day probably feeling a little off because that’s not how you eat in your normal days, only to find there’s a huge breakfast waiting for you. You might start to panic, thinking this is what your life is going to be like for the next 2 weeks and you might feel like you have to avoid the kitchen or the food entirely just to feel like yourself again, but that means missing out on making memories with the fam and enjoying yourself during this festive time. 

You don’t have to choose, guys! You can partake in the family events AND stick to your plan. I do it all the time. The important thing is to create something called “boundaries”, which means you stick to your guns no matter what anyone says or comments. This could mean balancing the foods you choose to eat between healthy and the not-so-healthy, sticking to your guns or sticking to your plan, simply goes back to YOU and what goal YOU have. 

The Trick To Eating Healthy In The Holidays 

So let’s say you’ve put down your boundaries, how can you practically apply being healthy with so many options and people around? Here’s the trick: put the food you want to have on your plate and eat what’s on there. Then, give yourself 10 minutes before going for seconds, because you might be full but you’re preoccupied in conversation, entertainment, and your brain hasn’t been told that your stomach is full yet. 

Now, what if you decide, you know what B, I won’t put food on my plate, I’ll just take bites, isn’t that better? Nope, that’s when you fall into the trap of grazing, which means you’ll keep eating a bite here and there and will likely result in you overeating. 

What Kind Of Food Should I Be Putting On My Plate? 

Protein and fiber are your friends here! The more of those you eat, the more full & balanced you’ll be. Meaning less chance of blood sugar crashes and snacking in between meals. You with me team? So the key is NOT to starve yourself. Sit down with everybody, enjoy the food and the family stories, all while sticking to your boundaries and eating the amount of food that will keep you happy. 

You guys might have read my husband’s burger story on Instagram, but I’ll repeat it here just in case: Basically while we were on vacation in the US over the summer, Ali wanted to have a burger night but it was literally the day after we had fried fish tacos for dinner. The day after I have greasy or fried food, my body kind of tires out, so I didn’t want to harm it further the next day, but was I going to tell Ali not to have burgers? No way, jose! 

Everyone should eat and prepare the food they enjoy, without interfering with someone else’s choices. So while Ali prepped and got the burgers ready, I headed to the grocery store, picked up some shrimps, marinated them, and grilled them at dinner time. Every single one of us was happy! Which is the goal during the holidays, isn’t it? 

Being Mindful During The Holidays

Did you know that there were activities that don’t involve eating? It’s true! For me, having time for myself is what keeps me sane on holiday, especially if I’m away for more than 4 days. If you were going on a staycation over the weekend, then you probably want a break from your routine but if you’re going for 3 weeks or something, then you can recreate a routine that’s similar to your normal life - for me that’s a workout a day, journaling, meditating, or reading a good book.   

If you want to combine family time with your me time, that’s cool too! You could offer to teach them how to paint or knit or whatever activity it is you like to do. For me, I can sometimes convince my brother to join me for a high intensity workout, and other times I’m the one convinced to skip the workout and go for a walk with my sister instead, and I do it happily, not because I’m forced to or anything.

How To Stick To Your Goals In The Holidays

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My tip is to eat a gingerbread cookie today. Yes you heard me correctly! What I mean is, if you’ve been depriving yourself of dessert or baking sessions with the family, this could impact you negatively. You’d be fine for a week or so, but then one night you’d just go to town on the desserts in the kitchen because you haven’t had anything sweet all week even though you really wanted to. 

Not having a cookie or slice of cake with everyone is fine if you really don’t want it - BUT, if you really wanted something, my advice would be to listen to your body and eat whatever it is you want so that the craving doesn’t escalate down the line. 

Healthy Side Dishes To Include At Christmas 

Another suggestion during meal time that’s helped me a lot is having a variety of side dishes on the table for lunch or dinner. Think roasted vegetables, carrot fries, or baked sweet potato! Tell whoever’s in charge of the cooking that you’d love for there to be a plate of roasted vegetables or a colorful salad at most meals. It’s not just for you! Others can load up on these dishes and also feel great about themselves. You can even volunteer to make those dishes to help out, as it’s another family bonding activity that you could add to the list. 

Don’t Come To The Dining Table Feeling Ravished

That’s probably going to make you put a lot more food on your plate than you wanted, which will leave you feeling uncomfortably full and tired. Space out your meals so they’re not too far apart and right in time for when hunger strikes! Alternatively you can also have a snack like a couple of apple slices & nuts, and you’ll be able to enjoy every meal a whole lot more. 

If you drink alcohol, I want you to know that drinking a few drinks before dinner does increase your appetite and makes you reach for things a little more on the less inhibited side so i recommend you be mindful of that. If you want to learn more about alcohol and its effects on your health, check out episode #90.

Covid Related Holiday Tips

Alright team, I couldn’t end this episode without giving a few covid-related tips that have helped me out as well. We can’t deny this was a stressful year, and for a lot of us it’s affected our jobs, school life, social lives, and of course, our health. Remember that people go through different types of challenges, some they share with you and some they don’t. So try to be sensitive to that when you see a family member after months of not being in touch. 

They might have gained or lost a lot of weight, which we should avoid commenting on. If they bring it up with you, listen to them and guide them to a beneficial resource they can listen to or suggest a program they can try if they want to make a change. 

As for traveling during this time, if you’re reading this in December of 2020, I’ve read that it’s better to travel on off-peak days just so there’s not a lot of traffic at the airports and train stations. Remember to wipe down the seats with wet wipes and pack your own meals if it’s a long flight! 

HOME IMPROVEMENT 

Before I let you go, let’s recap the tips that are going to make your holiday extra festive:

  1. Go for protein and fiber at every meal to keep you full and satisfied, 
  2. Avoid grazing by putting the food you want to eat on your plate and waiting 10 minutes before going for seconds, 
  3. Offer to prepare the side dishes or provide the recipes for a roasted vegetable dish or salad to make sure you’re getting your greens every day. 
  4. Plan an activity that doesn’t revolve around food! It could be walking, exercising, painting, reading, or planning a trivia night for your friends and family! I can’t believe I didn’t mention that earlier, game nights are the funnest, make sure to get some board games and you’ll be surprised to see who of your family members gets competitive the most! 
  5. Don’t deprive yourself of sweets! This is a holiday after all, either bake your favorite cookies to share with everyone or stop for ice cream on your evening walk if you are in Dubai or have a hot chocolate if you’re in the colder areas around the world. 
  6. Try to recreate your home routine so you don’t feel completely disoriented the entire time you’re on vacation. If you workout before breakfast, keep doing that. If you have a protein shake after your workout, pack the ingredients or go for a grocery run after your arrival to get your things.
  7. Try to keep conversations away from weight gain or loss. If you see someone struggling to reply to a comment about their weight, be their person and change the subject to travel, work, and kids. 
  8. Last but not least, remember to stay safe during travel - we’ve got a bright new year ahead of us that we need to be amped up for! 

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