For many of us, the impending buzz of the holidays doesn’t just signal parties, shopping, and festive traditions, it also includes overindulgence and the fear of holiday weight gain. Studies show that the average American gains 1 to 2 permanent pounds during the holidays, and although we may not all gain weight over the holidays, there is no question that we tend to eat and drink more and exercise less. No one wants to be on a strict diet during the holidays, so with a little planning, it’s possible to enjoy those favorite holiday foods without gaining weight.
Maintain, Don’t Gain
For starters, if you’re currently trying to lose weight, it might make more sense to shift your focus to weight maintenance, and wait until the New Year to get back on your weight loss plan.
Make room for those extra calories by moving more. If you’re not currently exercising, start walking! Aim for 10,000 steps per day, which is equivalent to five miles. If you are working out, step it up! If you use the elliptical machine, increase the resistance or keep at it for 45 minutes instead of your usual 30.
Give yourself permission to relish the special foods you only have during the holidays—mom’s pecan pie, Grandma’s candied yams, or even Starbuck’s seasonal treats—in moderation. Plan in advance to substitute these holiday dishes for your year-long indulgences like chips, ice cream, or pizza.
Be a Party Master
Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a piece of fruit or low-fat yogurt to tide you over and ensure that you don’t arrive ravenous and more susceptible to pigging out on unhealthy treats all night. If it’s a potluck, bring a vegetable dish so that you’re guaranteed at least one healthy item on the table.
Once you arrive, reach for the small plate; a small portion of appetizers may help you from overeating at dinner.
Cocktails can go down quick and add up fast, especially at a party. Alcoholic drinks can add hundreds of extra calories to your diet; in fact, 12 ounces of eggnog has more calories than a slice of pecan pie! Instead of chasing each alcoholic drink with another, alternate each serving of alcohol with a glass of water. This will not only keep your calorie count down, but it will also keep you hydrated—and help stave off any looming hangover!
Remember, the holidays are about celebrating family and friends; think of the accompanying food and alcohol not as the “main course” of the holidays but rather as the “side dish” to a good time. Don’t just stand around the food table—focus on making conversation with others instead of focusing on the food. Plus, conversation is calorie-free.
But, if all else fails—one night gets the better of you—there’s always the Post-Pig Out Plan!
The Post Pig Out Plan
Had two giant slices of cake with a few too many glasses of wine? Sampled every dessert at the dessert bar or devoured everything in sight? Don’t panic. Instead of feeling guilty about one party feeding frenzy—which can lead to a vicious cycle of overeating—try this five-step fix:
- Do A Reality Check—As stuffed and full as you may feel, the numbers don’t lie. It takes 3500 calories to gain one pound. So unless you ate six slices of cake and drank eight glasses of wine, you’re in the clear.
- Get Enough Water—Alcohol is dehydrating, so make sure you drink enough water throughout the day to flush out excess sodium that could cause sodium retention. Extra bonus, consuming water helps you feel full.
- Eat Regular, Balanced Meals—Starving yourself to make up for something you already ate or “saving calories” in preparation for an event or large meal can significantly slow your metabolism and lead to overeating later. Instead, eat three meals and a healthy snack throughout the day.
- Fill up on Fiber—Consuming too much of the wrong foods can lead to short-term constipation and bloating. Keep your digestive system on track while reducing bloat by consuming fiber-rich foods like beans, whole-grains, fruits, and veggies.
- Work Up A Sweat—Instead of recovering on your couch, get moving! Even a 30-minute walk will help you feel better.