The holiday season is finally here. Over these seven weeks, from Thanksgiving to New Year’s, we’re faced with every food and drink temptation imaginable. And that makes it difficult to maintain peak health and fitness. For example, if you’ve been overweight in the past or are obese currently, your average holiday weight gain, according to studies, will be around five to seven pounds! Here are 14 strategies that will help you maintain your weight during the holiday season:
1. Plan a workout before a holiday party or big meal:
All the carbohydrates and sugars found in starchy holiday dishes (like mashed potatoes, breads, cranberry sauce, pumpkin pie and so forth), are excellent for glycogen replenishment after a workout. In fact, up to 4 hours after intense exercise, our body is desperate to find a way to rebuild the muscle and regain all the energy lost. By doing an intense workout before a big holiday meal very little, if any, of the excess food you eat will be stored as fat.
2. Eat 3-6 smaller meals a day:
Rather than “saving” yourself for that special holiday meal eat smaller, more frequent meals. This will enhance your metabolic activity (meaning you will burn more calories during the day) and curb your appetite so you will be less likely to binge on holiday treats or meals.
3. Start your meal with a soup or salad:
Studies have shown that you eat less during a single sitting if you start the meal off with a water-based soup or a green salad. If you don’t think your hosts will serve soup or salad at their holiday event, eat some before heading out the door but use caution when adding toppings.
4. Wait before grabbing seconds and slow down eating:
Did you know that it takes at least 20 minutes for our brain to signal that you are actually full? This means a slow eater will consume less food before feeling full than someone who races through their meal. So go for a walk or chat with friends before dishing up seconds.
5. Pick protein:
Protein can help maintain a healthy weight. Besides, high-protein diets are associated with greater satiety and are fundamental for healthy muscle growth. Make sure to serve up some turkey, roasted chicken, or prepare animal-free alternatives like quinoa, lentils, or beans.
6. Fill up on fiber:
Snacking on vegetables and other high-fiber foods can help you stay fuller longer. So give the vegetable platter a second chance.
Remember this: When looking at brain chemicals signaling “pleasure,” scientists have found that we receive less pleasure the more we eat of a food. So rather than feeling like you must eat a full serving of every dessert at a holiday meal, take a bite or two and receive 90 percent of the pleasure at 10 percent of the calories.
7. Beware of liquid calories, especially alcohol:
Alcohol contains almost as many calories per gram as fat (seven calories vs. nine calories per gram) and one glass of soda will give you as much sugar you need in a day. Combine the alcohol with sodas or creamy / sweet mixtures, and you can see how the disaster happens. Alcohol also tends to lower our inhibitions, which means you’ll be less careful about what and how much you indulge at the party. So instead of reaching for soda, try a non-caloric drink like spritzer or water as a mixer.
8. Offer to bring a healthy dish to holiday parties:
If you’re concerned about the unhealthy array of foods that are bound to be served at an upcoming function, call the host ahead of time to see if you can bring a healthy dish, perhaps even a red and green salad recipe. Chances are, the host will be happy to have some help with the overwhelming task of pleasing a hungry crowd!
9. Try recipe modification:
Often times these new ingredients enhance both the nutritional value and the flavor of the dish. So don’t be afraid to experiment with new healthy substitutes!
10. Don‘t “hang out” at the appetizer table when socializing at a party:
It’s hard to believe how much those small handfuls of munchies add up at a party, but they add up quickly! Make a conscious effort to position yourself away from the hors d’oeuvres at a holiday function, fill one small plate of food and then call it quits.
11. Cave into cravings:
Forbidding a specific food or food group during the holiday season may only make it more attractive. Caving to a craving—as long as it’s in moderation—can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store. Before getting into it like a kid in a candy store tho, try to drink a glass of water and wait 10 minutes. Cravings usually last 10 minutes so if you are still
12. Drink plenty of water throughout the day:
Drinking a glass of water before meals can help you feel fuller faster. Besides, drinking a minimum of eight glasses of clean, NOT ICED water every day is one of the best things you can do to detox and purify your body in a natural way. Add a slice of lemon for extra flavor and to boost your metabolism.
13. Dress Your Best:
Wearing form-fitting clothes can actually make you pay more attention to what you eat and whether your body changes from week to week. If the pants you put on last week feel a little tight this week, wear them anyway. It will help you pay more attention to your healthy habits.
14. The morning after:
When you first wake up the morning after a big meal, drink on an empty stomach a glass of room temperature water with a cap of apple cider vinegar and half of a small lemon squeezed in. This will help your body flush away the toxins and boost your metabolism. Also, take a high-quality vitamin C and B supplement, both of which are depleted by alcohol consumption and stress. Vitamin C also helps your body produce glutathione, a liver compound that flushes away toxins.
Most weight loss programs lead to temporary success, so prevent the weight gain before it ever occurs with these few tips. This holiday season is going to be a positive, guilt-free experience, so let go of the fear that one “not so healthy” meal will reverse your progress. By doing so you will free yourself from releasing all the toxins that could actually have worse effects on your health than the choice itself.