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Ask JJ: Holiday Healthy Eating

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Dear JJ: What do you tell a middle-aged woman who reads every article about how to eat healthy during the holidays yet struggles to not gain five, er, 10 pounds? And please don't just tell me to abstain from my favorite foods or meticulously count calories.

Telling folks to avoid their favorite holiday foods becomes a surefire strategy for failure, and the only counting I've done this season is at Barney's Black Friday sale.

Despite your noblest intentions, eating healthily during the holidays can become a gargantuan challenge that far too often ends in a plate of cherry-spice cake trifle. Let's pull out all the stops to make it easier, OK?

I've devised an arsenal of tactics to help you. Do your meals correctly and then if you must, enjoy three polite bites -- we're talking what you would eat on national TV, not an 11 p.m. fridge raid -- of your favorite concoction and step away from the dessert. Be aware even a few bites of gluten, dairy, or other food intolerances can create weight loss resistance and proceed accordingly.

Staying vigilant about sleep, stress, and journaling becomes crucial during the holidays. One study showed people who wrote everything down lost double the weight of those who didn't.

Think ahead. Have some pre-cooked chicken and chopped raw veggies in the fridge ready to go. Involve your kids. Make it fun and promise them something fun (and non-food related) as their reward.

Don't let your hard work go to waste on party days. Double up: Protein shakes for breakfast and lunch coupled with lifting weights in the morning and then burst training in the afternoon makes a powerful one-two punch to fight fat.

Attend the event wearing fitted clothing, keeping your hands full with a mineral water and clutch or iPhone, and sticking with lean-minded folks whose idea of a good time involves stimulating conversation, not going face down in the pumpkin-espresso tiramisu.

My favorite way to crush cravings and stay lean during the holidays are lateral shifts, or low-sugar impact alternatives to your favorite foods. Guaranteed hits when you incorporate these at your holiday dinner or event. Some of my favorites include:

1. Swap your high-sugar impact breakfast monstrosity for a protein shake.

2. Swap hot chocolate for chocolate protein powder blended with warm coconut milk.

3. Swap your favorite dessert for some dark chocolate and almond butter.

4. Swap your white potatoes and rice for quinoa, sweet potatoes, or wild rice.

5. Swap your high-sugar impact drink for red wine or tequila (if you drink).

Last but not least, gratitude often becomes overlooked this time of year. One study found people who kept a gratitude journal experienced more joy and optimism.

In the frenzy of food and festivities, we forget the holidays' true meaning. Remind your family and friends who've gathered how much you appreciate them. You'll feel great, with no lingering regrets like you'd have with that second piece of caramel pecan pie.

Let's work together with joy and gratitude rather than gorging this season. What strategy would you add to stay lean and healthy during the holidays? Share yours below. Happy Holidays, everyone! Keep those fab questions coming at AskJJ@jjvirgin.com.