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Managing Holiday Treats: Our Go-To Tool for a Shame-Free (and Sweet!) Holiday Season

I LOVE THE HOLIDAYS. (Yes, I'm yelling that.) Christmas Excitement Level: Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf in the movie "Elf." 

I love love love it. Decorating, wrapping gifts, baking, the whole 9 yards. Bring it on, Santa.

However, this wasn't always the case. I actually used to dread the holidays because I had no idea how to live around holiday food, let alone enjoy it. I gained at least 5-7 pounds every year from October to January and had to keep several different clothing sizes in my closet: one set of clothing for spring and summer, one set for fall and winter. My winter clothes had to be a size or two bigger because things tended to...well, expand.

You feel me on this? 

Christmas and New Years are, I think, the WORST for anyone with a weakness for baked goods or other indulgent treats. For a month straight, every where you turn, it's office parties and cookie exchanges and kids' parties and happy hours and dinners and buffets and THE FOOD. JUST. KEEPS. COMING.

If you don't set some boundaries and have your wits about you before the holiday food storm hits, you may find yourself in the same place I was: stuck in an annual cycle of over-eating, feeling guilty, trying in vain "exercise off" the extra calories, and gaining weight. 

I'm so glad to not be in that place any more. Since I started living a healthier, more sane and balanced lifestyle about 5-6 year ago (what we call the Fat Loss Foodie lifestyle around here!), that annual holiday weight gain is no more. I broke the cycle - and here's exactly how I did it. 

At Fat Loss Foodies, we use the "3 I's" as our go-to tool for managing holiday treats:

STEP 1. IDENTIFY

Early in the season, before the first holiday party invitation even arrives, identify some of your favorite treats. Be specific about the foods/drinks that are special to you that you sincerely enjoy and look forward to every year.

An example could be,

"My aunt's homemade blueberry pie that she brings to Christmas dinner" or "Homemade Greek cookies my friend Vicki makes at Christmas" or Eggnog.

It could also *totally* be something store-bought/-made like a Starbucks Peppermint Mocha. It's 100% up to you. Just get really specific and be clear on what you like - and don't like.


STEP 2. INVESTIGATE

Do some detective work. Where can you find the best possible version of this food? Is it homemade by a family member? Is it at a local restaurant or bakery? When are you going to have it (in other words: when is the event/party/visit to the place that has it?)

Take one more thing into consideration: availability. Is this food available year-round or is it a seasonal item? If you rock up to a party and the hostess got mini cupcakes from the bakery down the street, and cupcakes aren't *really* your thing and you can get them any time you want, choose something more unique and satisfying.

STEP 3. INDULGE

Girl, this is where you freakin' go for it. You planned ahead of time to have your special treat and now it's time to enjoy every bite. You've been mindful and you're 100% in your power here. You're not eating out of scarcity, boredom, anxiety, or any other emotion or reason. You're eating it because you love it and it's worth it to you. 

And if you're like me, you will probably also take a photo and Instagram that ish. #FoodieProblems #OwnIt #DoYouBoo

THE CONSEQUENCES

Will there be side effects to treating yourself? Oh yeah. No doubt! 

If you're not used to eating lots of sugar and you have a slice of German Chocolate Cake and a glass of champagne on New Year's Eve, you're gonna feel that in the morning - believe me!

But it's no biggie and you don't need to panic-Google a new juice detox on January 1 to rid your body of toxins and bloating. Just chill. Make an omelet with some veggies and drink some water. And then have some lean protein with green veggies and a clean carb like brown rice or sweet potatoes at lunch and dinner. Drink some more water. Have an apple and some almond butter if you get hungry between meals.

In another 24-48 hours, you won't even remember the cake and you'll be back to your balanced, energized, bad-ass self.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Here's the big takeaway: make your moments of indulgence special and savor them, then get right back to normal.

You don't need to eat less or work out more before or after you indulge in your treat, because hey - you planned for this, and your body is about more than calories in vs. calories out anyway.

When you use the 3 I's, you are never powerless around food. You don't have to eat that weird fruitcake your neighbor gave you just because it's there, it was a gift, blah blah blah. You don't have to eat the white sheet cake with white frosting and tacky colored icing at the office holiday party.

You know something everyone else doesn't: you already have a plan to eat what you REALLY want, mindfully, with total enjoyment later. You don't need to go crazy around sugar/alcohol/bread/cheese/whatever and "EAT ALL THE FOODS" because honestly, you can have those foods any time you want - you just choose not to because not all foods are worth the way they make you feel.

PICK MY POISON: CRACK BROWNIES

Here's my personal example, because yes I practice the 3 I's and no I don't eat a perfect Paleo, grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, refined-sugar-free diet 365 days a year. I'm going to keep it real with you here (now and always.)

Yesterday, I made 2 batches of my ultimate brownie recipe of choice for my work holiday parties. I only bake these at Christmas time and I call them my "Crack Brownies" - they are fudgy, intense, dark chocolate brownies with crushed up Trader Joe's Peppermint Joe Joe's cookies in them. They are basically the brownies of my dreams, okay? Just look at this:

Here's the link in case you're curious, and yes - for this one rare occasion - I used white flour, white sugar, and butter and went ALL IN because this is an annual thing and no substitutions will do. I've baked a lot of brownie recipes in my day and nothing beats these babies:

Baking Bites' Peppermint Cookies & Cream Brownies

Do not mess with the sacred Crack Brownies!!! Totally 100% worth it for me. You know those gross, dry, flavorless brownies and "cranberry bliss bars" in the case at Starbucks right now? No. Sorry. I'd rather skip those every day all year long for one of my Crack Brownies!

Fat Loss Foodies eat for pleasure not "just because"!

What are your must-have, can't-live-without holiday treats you're going to enjoy this year? Tell me in the comments below!