By Amy Medling, founder of PCOS Diva
Fudge, stuffing, hot chocolate, Christmas cookies – these are just a few of the sugar and carb-laden holiday temptations that can be hard to resist without a carefully planned strategy to keep you on track.
If you are tired of having to choose between deprivation and decadence during this time of year, I invite you to learn how to indulge without the bulge.
These simple strategies will help you to thrive during the holidays when most people around you are floundering. Imagine how it will feel to maintain your weight and health throughout the holidays and to start the New Year feeling in control, strong and vibrant. You will feel like a Diva!
#1 New Year’s Day Reflection
Sit down with an index card and write down (in very descriptive language) how you’d like to feel on New Year’s Day. Write your reflection as if New Year’s Day is here. Here is mine:
“I’m proud of myself for taking such good care of me during the holidays. I’ve been able to take time out to relax and exercise, and I don’t feel burnt out as I have in years past. I have the energy to start off the New Year healthy and vibrant. I feel in control of sugar cravings because I mindfully indulged and crowded out sweets with lots of festive whole food. I’m thrilled to have the energy to do all the fun and rewarding activities I love to do. I look healthy and vibrant. I feel fantastic.”
Read your reflection out loud. Close your eyes and visualize yourself in this positive place of empowerment. Notice how you feel.
Carry the card with you wherever you go during the holidays. Whenever you struggle with a food or activity choice, take out the card and read it. Feel it. Then ask which choice will bring you closer to this New Year’s Day vision of yourself.
When you are out at an event and are tempted to indulge in another cocktail, pastry, or whatever your weakness is – take a bathroom break. Pull your index card out of your purse and have a little talk with yourself in front of the mirror. Talk your way through the temptation using your reflection.
#2 Take Inventory
Take a little time to reflect upon and identify all the situations that make it difficult for you to eat healthily during the holiday season.
Is it family get-togethers, office parties, food courts at the shopping mall, or eating out because you are too busy to cook? Perhaps it is the fudge, cookies, or other baking you do during the holidays for food gifts and desserts.
When you can anticipate a roadblock, you can plan ahead for a healthy alternative.
Take a PCOS-friendly food with you to the family get-together. Make sure to eat something healthy before the office party, bring snacks and water with you to the mall, and find an alternative to food gifts this year.
In years past I have gifted homemade vinaigrette, sugar scrub, vanilla extract, bath salts, lavender linen spray, elderberry syrup, and this year I will be giving holiday potpourri. The recipient will be happy to receive a no-guilt indulgence, and you won’t be tempted to give in to sugar cravings. Everyone wins! If you do choose to give food, at least find a place to store holiday goodies where you won’t be tempted.
#3 Identify Your Holiday Memory Food
Sit and take some time to reflect and identify your holiday memory foods.
Ask yourself, “What taste brings my memories and emotions to life?”
My family has a special milk cracker turkey dressing recipe that has been passed down through the generations. Whenever I take a bite, my grandmother who passed 12 years ago is right there with me at the table. Although not PCOS friendly, it would be unhealthy to deprive me of that experience.
When these “memory” foods are absent from our lives, it is not so much the food we are missing, but the person or the feelings we associate with it. Special holiday foods that remind us of home and family are central to special occasions and rituals. Through food, we are able to maintain a sense of generation and extension. Find one food that really matters and keep it on the menu!
I often find that 3 bites are the magic number.
#4 Savor the Experience
“He who distinguishes the true savor of his food can never be a glutton; he who does not cannot be otherwise.”- Henry David Thoreau
Part of creating health is truly experiencing pleasure.
When we deprive ourselves of our favorite foods or feel we cannot (or should not) enjoy a special meal with our friends and family, it affects our health in negative ways.
Stressing about eating is really counterproductive to our health. Give yourself permission to mindfully savor and enjoy holiday meals. Just the act of giving yourself permission and not banning foods will put you in a place of empowerment – you no longer need to binge on what you think you shouldn’t be eating!
During the holidays, if the food is so special – don’t eat it on autopilot. Here are some ways to savor:
- Before you begin to enjoy a meal, take a deep breath and appreciate the appearance and aroma of your food. Appreciate all those that helped produce and prepare the amazing feast in front of you.
- Eat with your non-dominant hand to slow down your eating.
- Be mindful of each bite. Savor one small bite at a time, and chew each bite thoroughly.
- Put your fork down between bites.
- Give yourself permission to stop before your plate is empty and before you are stuffed.
#5 Be a Food Snob
“A Diva has Discriminating Tastes.” This is a mantra I use with my clients.
Only eat special holiday food if it is truly delicious. If the food doesn’t taste as good as you expected, stop eating it and choose something else.
Skip store-bought and processed sweets. Think of how much less you’d eat if you only ate things that tasted fabulous!
Food actually tastes better when you are hungry. So, if you are full after eating dinner, ask the hostess if you can take your dessert home. Have a few bites when you are hungry again and can really enjoy it.
Many experts recommend eating before you go to a party so that you are not hungry. While I do think it is important to keep your blood sugar balanced, I don’t think you need a mini-meal. That said, don’t starve yourself before a big holiday gathering either. You will increase your cortisol or stress hormones. Skipping meals creates blood sugar swings as well. Before you go out, have a couple of hard-boiled eggs, some turkey and a slice of avocado, or some apple and nut butter to take the edge off. You’ll make better food decisions when your blood sugar is stable.
Learn how to say no to food-pushers at holiday parties without apology. Practice a simple, polite but firm “no thank you.” A confident no response will convince them to back off.
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#6 You are always one choice away
Overate at your first-holiday party?
That’s no reason to give up on the season and wait until New Year’s to recommit to your goals. Remind yourself that it’s not too late to make healthier decisions going forward. Remember, you are always one workout, meal, or snack away from getting back on track and feeling good again.
Take the word “cheat” out of your vocabulary.
Being a Diva isn’t about Diet, Deprivation, or Denial. When you talk about “cheating” your mind thinks that it is somehow winning or getting something it can’t have by overindulging, and you set yourself up for disaster.
#7 Find a non-food indulgence
Don’t put yourself on the Naughty List this year.
Take care of yourself. Stress can make your holiday less merry. Biologically, stress causes us to crave sweets and fat because it floods our body with cortisol which alters our insulin levels.
Stress weakens our ability to make good choices. Learn how to manage it well. Instead of reaching for food for comfort, reach for ways to soothe yourself without food.
Create a “Sweet Stuff” list. The list is different for everyone; perhaps for you, it is a soothing tea, a massage, and manicure, time with a book, or a walk in the woods.
”Indulgence isn’t a sign of failure; it’s an opportunity to experience pure pleasure.” ~ Terri Trespicio
#8 Bring a dish
I always bring a dish or two that I know I will be able to enjoy to a party. Pictured below is my all-time favorite roasted veggie platter. It’s always a hit! You can usually count on some type of protein as the main dish. It is the drinks, side dishes, dessert, and even appetizers that will throw us off track.
Related article: The 9 best foods for PCOS
#9 Raise a glass of wine
If you are going to imbibe, I suggest that you stick to a glass (or two at the most) of red wine. Research has shown that resveratrol, which is found in red wine, may be beneficial for PCOS.
Beer and many hard alcohols contain gluten, which is not good for PCOS.
Stay away from sugary martinis and chocolate-based drinks.
Also, after a few drinks, you might not be as likely to stick to your plan. Your head and your body will thank you the next day if you keep it to a glass of wine with your meal (or even wait for dessert).
When you do drink alcohol, be sure to drink 2 glasses of water for every glass of wine.
Another great way to get the benefits of Resveratrol is with my PCOS Diva Resveratrol Plus.
Related: Is red wine good for PCOS?
#10 Pack and stash when traveling
It is essential to plan ahead while traveling.
Take fresh fruit, trail mix, protein powder, and protein bars with you when traveling so you always have a PCOS-friendly snack on hand. Don’t leave yourself at the mercy of drive-thrus and food courts.
Related: 10 PCOS Travel Tips
#11 What to wear
Wear fitted clothing to holiday events; ditch the elastic waistlines.
When I wear a slimming black cocktail dress (with slimming undergarments), or a pair of skinny jeans and a body-conscious top, I am much more aware of what I am eating than when I have on a pair of chiffon palazzo pants and tunic top.
Don’t forget that cute clutch bag. This is a holiday party essential. When you have a clutch bag in one hand and mineral water with a dash of cranberry and lime in the other, it prevents you from grabbing those tempting hors d’oeuvres from the silver trays being passed or overdoing it at the buffet.
#12 Eat lots of fiber
It is easy to avoid holiday temptations when you are eating plenty of fiber-rich foods like grains, veggies, and fruit.
Foods high in fiber digest more slowly, so you feel fuller for longer.
Refined carbohydrates such as candy, baked goods, and sodas may give you a short-term energy boost, but you’ll quickly feel hungry, sluggish, and end up craving more sugar.
High-fiber foods like flax, chia and hemp seeds, legumes, berries, avocados, and nuts are all good. Add these to your diet over time since too much fiber too quickly can cause gas and bloating.
Related: Another great way to get the benefits of fiber is with my PCOS Diva Power Fiber
Next Steps: Private coaching
If PCOS has you overwhelmed and frustrated, I can help. I have coached thousands of women over the years to get their lives back on track. Together we will find your unique path to healing – without adding more stress to your life. Contact me today if you are ready to commit to a healthier you.
Amy Medling, the best-selling author of Healing PCOS and certified health coach, specializes in working with women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), who are frustrated and have lost all hope when the only solution their doctors offer is to lose weight, take a pill, and live with their symptoms. In response, Amy founded PCOS Diva and developed a proven protocol of supplements, diet, and lifestyle programs that offer women tools to help them gain control of their PCOS and regain their fertility, femininity, health, and happiness.