The Small Steps strategy that will take us to 2017 with our fitness goals intact is well underway. But, I sense the doubt out there. Is it really possible to make it through the holiday season – a full two-months of lingering Halloween candy, family feasts and parties brimming with food and alcohol – without expanding our waistlines? The answer is a resounding, “Yes!” And, the proof is in the numbers. Let’s illustrate this with a practical example of a woman taking on this month’s Small Steps challenge.
Our Fit & Happier lady, let’s call her Karen, has her office holiday party coming up this Saturday night. When Saturday arrives, she’ll use the budgeting strategy and “save” the bulk of her calories for the party so she can enjoy herself without feeling regretful come Sunday morning.
- Consume a few small meals or snacks throughout the day. She’s going to make the most of the small portions by choosing foods that are relatively low in calories compared to the nutrients they pack. Specifically, she wants to maximize protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber even as she minimizes calories in the process. Karen knows these nutrients will keep her feeling satiated for several hours at a time, allowing her to comfortably stick to her plan even though she won’t be consuming a lot of calories throughout the day.
- Schedule exercise. A walk outside at a brisk pace will help her meet her budget goals in a few ways. First, it will increase her allotment of calories for the day. Exercising outdoors also promotes feelings of well-being and boosts confidence. This will reduce any stress she may be feeling. This is important because stress often contributes to poor food choices and eating without actual hunger. Her choice of a brisk walk is also good. If she chose something more vigorous, it may be difficult for her to make it through the day with such a modest calorie intake.
- Stay hydrated. Drinking water throughout the day will keep her energy from dropping and help her bridge between meals and snacks without getting hungry.
Karen’s Pre-Party Saturday*
Let’s assume a 2,000 calorie per day diet for the average healthy adult female for Karen.
Calories Remaining: 2000
- 8am: Breakfast: 3/4 cup Kashi Go-Lean Crunch Cereal (143 calories) + 3/4 cup 1% milk (83 calories) + 1/4 cup fresh blueberries (21 calories) + 8oz coffee with 1Tblsp half & half and 1/2 tsp sugar (57 calories) = –304 calories
- 9am: Water: 8oz
- 10am: Exercise: walk at a brisk pace for 1 hour = +220 calories burned
Calories Remaining: 1916
- 11am: Water: 8oz
- Noon: Lunch: 1 slice 100% whole wheat bread, toasted (110 calories) + 2 T natural peanut butter (190 calories) + 1 banana (90 calories) + 8oz water = –390 calories
Calories Remaining: 1526
- 2pm: Water: 8oz
- 4pm: Snack: 1 cup 2% Greek plain yogurt (170 calories) + 1/2 cup fresh strawberries (24 calories) + 1/2 cup fresh raspberries (32 calories) = –226 calories
- 6pm: Water: 8oz
Calories Remaining: 1300
Even though Karen has been stingy with her food choices, she’s consumed nineteen grams of fiber, ample amounts of complete proteins and complex carbohydrates and forty ounces of water. What this means is she’ll arrive at the party without feeling famished. On the contrary, because she’s fully hydrated, got in a refreshing bout of exercise and consumed a wealth of good-for-you-nutrients, she’ll be feeling great by the time the festivities begin.
Thirteen hundred calories is a generous allotment for Karen’s party. She can have two glasses of red wine throughout the evening and still have about 1100 calories left to “spend” on food items. If she’s choosey about her entrée, such as a portion-conscious serving of fish with a side of tossed salad dressed with vinaigrette, she can nibble on appetizers and top it off with a mini cupcake and still not break the bank. To keep from over-indulging in the adult beverage department, she can order calorie-free, cocktail-mimicking seltzer waters garnished with a citrus wedge between glasses of wine.
You don’t need to keep a running total of calories. In fact, I recommend that you don’t. The less stressful and punishing you make the process, the better. I’ve put the calorie and portion size information here to prove how manageable and realistic the strategy is and to provide a basic blueprint. However, if you aren’t keeping track of specific calories, the key is to be mindful of what and how much you’re consuming throughout the day and into the evening. Over-indulgence happens when we’re not paying attention.
Tweak this plan to include the foods you enjoy eating and make the strategy all your own – the more ownership you take, the more likely you’ll stick to it. All this to say, you can be like Karen at every holiday party and restaurant dinner, even on Thanksgiving day this year. I know you can do it and make this the fittest, happiest holiday season yet.
(*The calorie counts in this example are approximations provided by MyFitnessPal.)