Wouldn't you like to have the best holiday meals ever this holiday season? I'm not talking about the tastiest turkey recipe or the least caloric dishes. What I am talking about is what everyone really desires: the feeling of thorough satisfaction at the end of the day after a holiday meal get-together.
It's no fun worrying before the meal about portion control, weight gain, fixing the perfect dinner, pleasing everyone. You also don't want to feel physically uncomfortable because you ate too much, or feel guilty about what or how much you ate, how you acted — or anything else for that matter. You want to feel totally satisfied, body and mind.
With that in mind, here are some tips to help you make your 2015 holiday meals the best ever:
1 Get a good night's sleep the night before so you're not tired the next day. Being rested and refreshed helps to prevent mindless eating and cravings.
2 Get some exercise early in the day. This gets your metabolism burning and relaxes you. There is no better fat-burning "pill" than exercise, and being relaxed will prevent overeating later.
3 Have a satisfying breakfast. Starving yourself in anticipation of a holiday meal will make you feel deprived and likely will lead to overeating later. A good breakfast also gets your metabolism going early in the day, resulting in more calories burned by bedtime.
4 Leave ample time for food preparation. Ideally, you will have prepared most dishes the day before. Not feeling rushed the day of the holiday meal lessens the stress that can lead to overeating.
5 Drink plenty of water. Dehydration can make you feel fatigued and can lead to mistaking hunger for thirst, resulting in overeating. In addition, water is filling.
6 Avoid rushing by allowing plenty of time to clean up and get dressed. If you perceive yourself rushing, take some deep breaths and slow down. It's not the end of the world if you're not exactly on time or if things aren't perfect. It's more important to have a nice, enjoyable day.
7 When you get to the actual meal, survey the food choices to see what you really want to eat before putting anything on your plate. Serve yourself a small amount of each item you selected. Then, sit and calmly savor your food. This is not the time for negative self-talk about what you should or shouldn't eat. Enjoy small servings of the things you want.
8 Remember that you'll feel so much more comfortable if you stop eating when you're pleasantly full rather than uncomfortably full. Be mindful of this throughout the meal, and respond to your body's signals that it has had enough. Try using a rating scale of fullness from 0 to 5. (A 0 means your stomach feels empty, and a 5 means your stomach feels painfully uncomfortable.) At a 3, your stomach feels comfortably full and satisfied. Avoid getting to a 4.
9 Do something that involves body movement after your meal. This can be as simple as helping with cleanup, taking a casual walk or playing a game rather than just sitting.
10 Finally, at the end of the day, think back and enjoy the comfort of having provided your body and mind with everything they needed to thoroughly savor a holiday meal without the old concerns about weight gain and overeating.
The goal here is to help your body be in a state where it can give you the enjoyment and satisfaction that a festive meal should provide. This doesn't happen simply by planting your body in front of a beautiful meal and a gathering of people. It requires tender loving care and thoughtfulness.
By following a few simple tips, there's no reason not to thoroughly enjoy holiday meals that, unfortunately, often are met with conflicting feelings by so many people. These meals can again be seen with joy as you also take care of your health and weight goals. In addition, you'll prevent any previously troublesome compulsive eating issues.
Ideally, every day should be a day when you do the right things for your mind and body. Continue to use the same concepts after the holidays by savoring each meal, relaxing, thinking about health rather than weight and celebrating life. After all, there are few things in life that you will do as often as eating.
Dr. Lavinia Rodriguez is a Tampa psychologist and expert in weight management. She is the author of "Mind Over Fat Matters: Conquering Psychological Barriers to Weight Management." Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.