The holidays are my favorite time of year. They are a most wonderful time of year, as well as the most delicious. But that makes the holidays a minefield for dieters. It is easy to watch your diet go out the window when you walk in the door to a holiday party, or open the door to well-wishing neighbors. A research study in 2000 showed that the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is actually only about a pound. While this may not seem like much, it can add up. In addition, it can be difficult to lose weight, especially as you age, making every pound a big deal.
Taking steps to have a healthier holiday season can help you combat decreased metabolism, and decreased motivation for physical activity due to shorter, colder days. Here are 11 tips for getting through the holidays unscathed and minimizing holiday weight gain.
1. Be more active. The cold weather and shorter days mean most people decrease activity, but you should strive to do the opposite. You can head to the gym, or you can simply take a walk after dinner, park further away when out running errands, take the stairs, and cut back television and computer time. I have found that just taking my kids out to play in the snow for a half hour can help me work up a sweat (which I usually counteract with cream laden hot chocolate afterward).
2. Don’t skip breakfast. A lot of people try to “save calories” by skipping breakfast, but really, it might make you more hungry at dinner, throw off your metabolic cycle, and screw up your blood sugar leading to binge eating. Instead of skipping meals, aim for smaller, lighter meals with lean protein, and lots of fruits and veggies. I am the worst at this, but have committed to doing better. It helps that my kids love breakfast. How about you? Do you like breakfast?
3. Portion control. Go ahead, enjoy yourself, but think about portions. Prioritize what you want to eat, and eat that. Get a plate, fill it once, then stop. You do not have to graze your way through the party. Grazing is for cows, and you don’t want to look like one. In other words, don’t deprive yourself, but don’t be a glutton! Again, this is something I have to constantly remind myself of. My sister always says, “I’m not a garbage can, I don’t have to clear my plate into my mouth.”
4. Cook smarter. Try using less butter and oil. Swap out white flour for wheat. Increase the amounts of fruits and vegetables. If you are going to overindulge, make sure it is on salads, fruit trays, and foods that have plenty of nutritional value. I have recently discovered a few kale salad recipes that hit the spot for me that I can eat and eat. Find something you love that is healthy, and make it your go to food.
5. Taste each bite. Slow down. Studies show that most people only take the time to truly taste and savor the first bite. Don’t be part of that statistic. Instead, savor each bite you take. Slowing down will give you a chance to listen to your body better, as well as make the foods you do eat worth the calories.
6. Pay attention to your body signals. I know how hard it can be to stop eating something when it tastes good. But while pleasure is found in eating, the purpose is to fuel your body. If it has what it needs, stop adding food in. Again, remember, you are not a garbage can. You can leave food on your plate. If you are opposed to waste, try taking less to begin with.
7. Skip the booze. This is no problem for me, because I don’t drink, but if you do, remember that alcohol is empty calories, and lowers inhibitions, which will usually lead to overeating. If you are going to drink, avoid fruity drinks, as they almost always have extra sugary syrups. And, drink water between cocktails.
8. Make the holidays less food-centric. One of the reasons people gain during the holidays is that food tends to be the center of the activity, the party, and the fun. Change that and make life easier for you. Focus instead on friends, family, and socializing. And if there is a special food that reminds you of the holidays, look for a healthier way to make it, or make less of it!
9. Get out of the diet mindset. It will cause you to binge. Instead of dieting your ways through the holidays, which is a restrictive mindset, make it a healthy holidays season. You can still enjoy your favorite holiday foods, just do so in moderation.
10. Don’t go hungry. If you are heading to a party, eat something healthy before you go. That way you will not fill up on the high calorie, low nutrient foods so typical of party fare. I even employ this trick with my kids because I don’t want to monitor their eating too much while at a party, and if I don’t take them with food in their bellies, they might eat so many treats that they puke. Not fun for me or anyone else.
11. Drink water. Staying hydrated is one of the best ways to get through the holidays with minimal weight gain. Keep your favorite water bottle on hand. I have to ask myself how much I have had to drink that day, and refill if my amount is too low.