Eating for the Holidays – 3 Simple Tricks to Keep the Scale Balanced

‘Tis that wonderful season once again. And as always this time of year means visiting friends and family and eating to our heart’s content… and then some ;).

You know although I don’t celebrate Christmas, I have always enjoyed the holiday cheer that accompanies it and having additional days off to laze around with family and friends is always a welcome change. And of course, considering I am a self-proclaimed food addict – a lot of the cooler winter days off often revolve around food!

Now granted that in Dubai our winter is more like a very pleasant summer (think Florida)… it does actually get quite cold in the buildings around this time of year (considering nobody seems to remember to turn up the thermostats on the ACs). So I like to think that all that cold air (even here) warrants a few additional calories that are burned to keep body temperatures in line. And of course if you live in a cooler climate than you know that we are naturally inclined to want richer foods during this time of year to help us with this – maybe a bit too much of it, which tends to be at the root of the weight yo-yo we put ourselves on between Christmas time and our New Year’s Resolutions.

So I thought I would share 3 tips that I apply during this time of year to help me stay at status quo in the weight department even when I’m indulging on great big mugs of hot beverages and the delicious desserts that absolutely must accompany them…

1) I know it might not sound like it, but one the funnest things I do is to try and incorporate some form of activity in with my social eating –  When I was in Halifax, a bunch of us would bundle ourselves up and walk about 45 min to the “Perks” on the waterfront. It was a great way for us to catch up and that hot mug of Joe along with a slice of the best lemon cake in town tasted so much better when you’re also thawing out (and we DEFINITELY burned the calories in advance). In fact after the first time we did it, it instantly became a tradition :). Our Dubai tradition? Walking to the Saravanaa Bhojan Shala for stuffed parathas and dahi vadas on rainy days. Honestly, whether it’s a brisk walk to a favorite destination or a fun game of touch football with family/friends – I can guarantee that the food will taste that much more delicious when you finally get to it!

2) I also tend to pick my treats wisely (something I do throughout the year but definitely more so during holiday season) – You know, as a skinny food addict I like to think that I can eat what I want when I want to, but I don’t usually treat myself to lavish meals every day either. Considering this time of year is littered with temptations for the tummy, I tend to plan ahead of time about what and how much of a particular something I want to indulge in. This is especially true for me on the hectic weeks leading up to a busy celebration (this might not be Christmas for me – but I can tell you Eid tends to feel the same). For e.g. if you know you are invited to Aunty Fatima’s house for South African style Biryani which is something you absolutely LOVE – then it makes sense to go easy on the other stuff :) So think about what it is that really makes a gathering special – is it that great bottle of Bordeaux that you’ve been waiting to share or maybe it’s a slice of Nanna’s homemade mince meat pie that you’ve been dreaming of all year long… You get the idea right?

3) Last but not least, I also try to focus on enjoying the quality – what I mean by this is I take my time to savour every bite and take in the many elements that go along with good food and good friends/family. By doing this I avoid mindlessly scarfing down large quantities of my favorite dish without even having my taste buds register what it is that I am eating. This actually is one of the biggest challenges of social eating! The simple fact is that we more often than not get so lost in conversation that we don’t remember to really savour the food on our plate but end up over-eating. In order to prevent this from happening I tend to start with a smaller size plate whenever possible so I don’t get too greedy at the buffet; and then I take my time to enjoy the conversation before going for seconds. This works even better when I’m at my family’s/close friends’ place because I know I can always stop in for seconds the next day (yeah my family/friends are used to it;))…

I want to end by reminding everyone to remember to take some time in these hectic weeks to steal some time for yourselves – whether that’s by grabbing a catnap in the middle of the afternoon or stopping for a warming green tea and catching up on that page turner while your shopping for gifts at Barnes & Nobel or simply stepping out onto your deck to savour the moment and meditate – finding some time to de-stress will help keep holiday cravings at bay.

And with that I want to wish everyone Merry Holidays!