"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Do you concentrate to what you eat? Here's tips on how to navigate mealtimes this holiday season

November 20, 2023 – Being with family and friends throughout the holidays could be joyful, unpleasant, or sometimes each. It's largely expected to overindulge around Thanksgiving and throughout the holidays. It's almost an American pastime to overeat this time of 12 months.

But what should you've lost extra weight and don't want to provide up your hard-earned progress? What should you were the just one with diabetes at a giant holiday dinner?

WebMD asked nutrition and diabetes experts for recommendations on overcoming these and other challenges. Not only do they explain best practices for avoiding overeating, but in addition tips on how to pass the serving dish without offending a guest or host or having to elucidate to everyone why you're skipping dessert.

“Many people find themselves in situations where they are surrounded by food, and it can be overwhelming when trying to stick to a weight management plan that includes portion control,” said Dr. Beverly Tchang, a medical weight management expert on the Comprehensive Weight Control Center at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City.

Stick to your strengths. “Many people do better with the flexibility to indulge occasionally, while others find it's best to stay on track regardless of special events. “People should do what is best for them,” continued Tchang, who can also be a spokesman for the Obesity Society.

An ideal storm?

“Indulgent meals, large portions, holiday parties… it's no surprise that the holidays present even greater challenges to maintaining a healthy lifestyle than the rest of the year,” said Dr. Florencia Ziemke, obesity expert and nutrition, health and wellness advocate and founder and medical director of Evexia Medical in Jupiter, FL.

It's not only the oversupply of food. Less sleep and fewer exercise as a consequence of a busy schedule and the added stress of vacation planning and commitments can add to the challenge of staying healthy this time of 12 months.

“When combined, these factors appear to be an inevitable recipe for weight gain,” said Ziemke, who can also be a spokesman for the Obesity Society. The average adult in Western societies gains about 1 to 2 kilos per 12 months, and most of it's weight reduction over the vacation season.

Reaction to “Food Pushers”

A superb place to begin is to enter holiday gatherings with a game plan, Ziemke said. Avoid appearing hungry, order first and lead by example, eat slowly and take a break between each bite, for instance.

Another tip is to bring your individual healthy dish to share. “This way, you can make sure you're eating something that's consistent with your weight goals.” It doesn't should be steamed broccoli or a fattening dessert that isn't available at home. “Bring something you would enjoy,” Tchang suggested.

Holiday gatherings are social occasions, so there could also be social pressure to devour stimulants and sweets. How can someone who is targeted on their weight and/or a guest who simply desires to eat healthier politely refuse cookies, cakes, or pastries without offending the host?

We often discuss with them as “food pushers,” Ziemke said. She recommends politely declining or eating a small portion of a food you desire to avoid. Another tip is to begin a conversation and discuss your health with friends or family. This way you possibly can gain support and allies for healthy eating.

No obligation to weigh

What happens when the host or one other guest says, “Come on, it's the holidays.” It's okay to treat yourself.” It could even be someone who doesn't deal with living with overweight or who can identify obesity problems or who is trying to get their weight under control.

Tchang said it is up to each individual how much they want to disclose or share. “Obesity is a medical disease. It should be treated as a private matter like any other health issue,” she said.

It can also be seen as an opportunity to educate others.

“My patients have a powerful voice, and by sharing their stories, I believe more people will understand the biological challenge we face in treating obesity,” she said.

For some, a sweeter time of year

People with diabetes may face unique challenges during the holidays.

“Stick to a routine as much as possible,” said Amy Kimberlain, a registered dietitian and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Following a meal plan when possible can help manage blood sugar levels, she said.

“Don’t skip meals or go without them for too long. “Try to eat balanced meals throughout the day — without skimping and eating more carbs later,” she said.

“The most vital point is planning.” For example, if you know that a holiday meal will be later than your normally scheduled meal time, that might be the time to add a snack into the mix.

Just like with people without diabetes, managing stress around the holidays remains crucial.

“Make sure you have outlets for stress… because stress can have devastating effects on blood sugar levels. Meditating, journaling, walking, exercising are all ways to manage stress, but may also help manage your blood sugar levels,” Kimberlain said.

Before attending a holiday gathering, “be sure that you possibly can see what's on the menu so you understand all the choices,” she said.

After you arrive, “try to not loaf around the food table — it's human nature to maintain grazing when the food is so close. Better serve yourself and eat elsewhere,” she said. Also, stay hydrated throughout the day.

Although it's good for people with diabetes to keep these general tips in mind, Kimberlain says it's “best to talk over with your doctor for individual recommendations.”