December has finally thrust itself upon us. Prepare for a month of festivities, holiday lights, friends, mirth, and, let’s not forget, delicious foods. Enjoying holiday treats is a great thing — good food is one of life’s many great pleasures. However, we can easily go overboard and overindulge. The average American steadily gains weight due to the 1-2 pounds he/she gains over the holiday season. Over time, if not managed, that can really add up, making it harder and harder to shed the excess weight. To help keep yourself grounded, follow these 10 tips to keep the reigns on your holiday indulgences while still enjoying yourself and the season.
Eat only what you really want. Just because it’s the holidays doesn’t mean you have to drink eggnog when what you’d really love is some mint ice cream. Stop wasting your time indulging in foods because it’s traditional. If you aren’t crazy about green bean casserole, don’t feel as though you have to eat it. Take sensible portions of the foods you really look forward to and love, and leave everything else. In this way you’ll avoid piling on unnecessary calories and you won’t waste your tastebuds on lesser flavors, meaning your meal will taste even better.
Alternate the booze with sparkling water. No one’s saying you have to ditch holiday alcohol altogether. But, with a high amount of calories and little nutrients, drinks alone can be at the forefront of holiday weight gain. Instead, try alternating your favorite drink with sparkling water throughout a party. It’ll limit the amount of alcohol you can consume, thereby cutting your calories by around half, and will keep you significantly more hydrated than booze alone — but you won’t feel deprived.
Indulge in lower calorie foods first. Go for a big plate of veggies before diving into the hearty pies and casseroles. By filling your ravenous stomach with low calorie, nutritious veggies, you’ll be able to enjoy smaller portions of your favorite heavier foods without feeling tempted to ravage the entire platter — especially if you’re really hungry.
Remember to drink plenty of water. Mild dehydration can masquerade as hunger, so keeping a full canteen on you at all times can help avoid unnecessary snacking throughout the season. If you aim for imbibing half of your body weight in ounces every day, you should be covered. Also, it helps to drink lemon water every morning. This will help to detoxify and balance the acidity that builds up in your body after consuming copious amounts of sugar, alcohol, and meats.
Ditch the guilt. Feeling guilty about a small, or even big indulgence can be more harmful than the indulgence itself. It’s the holidays, so accept the fact that, at one point or another, you are likely to overindulge a bit. There, that’s over. Now, when you do go a little too far, don’t stress! Make sure you clean up your act tomorrow and you’ll be none the worse. Focus on accepting it and enjoying yourself. Guilt will only encourage feelings of stress, which creates cortisol in the body. Cortisol and weight gain tend to go hand in hand, so accepting that you’re flawed could actually help you from gaining weight.
Savor your food. In other words, practice mindful munching. Savor your food in your mouth and drop your fork in between bites. By eating more slowly and deliberately, you’ll be able to gauge how full you are more easily by giving your stomach time to transmit the message to headquarters. That may mean you’re only able to get in one serving of chestnut stuffing, but there’s always room for leftovers tomorrow.
Pair sugar with protein. If dessert is your jam, but you want to avoid a huge, fat-packing spike in blood sugar, pair it with a little protein. Protein slows the absorption of sugar into your bloodstream, meaning your body will have plenty of time to prepare for the incoming sugar and won’t become overwhelmed. Instead of whipped cream, greek yogurt alongside a slice of pie is always a winner.
Politely shut down peer pressure. For some reason, people love to shove more food into other’s faces at parties. “Oh, here, take more of this lasagna. I made it myself!” “You must try these chocolates that I brought back from Belgium!” Even if you are stuffed, it may seem less offensive to just shove more food in than reject a kind — and tantalizing — offer. A better idea, however, would be to say something along the lines of, “Oh, I’m stuffed, but I’d love some to take home with me!” Everyone’s happy, and you won’t feel the bloated urge to punch another notch into your belt.
Keep working out! Many of us get so busy around the holidays that we lose track of our exercise regimens. Don’t fall into holiday complacency! Even quick daily workouts can keep you from over-snacking as well as keep your metabolism pumping throughout the day. Moving also keeps your lymph system flowing, which will help with your immunity during the incoming throes of cold season.
Reset your palate. The best thing you can do is a pre- and post-holiday mini detox. It can be easy to overwhelm your palate with very sweet, salty, and fatty flavors during the festive season. When this happens, your tastebuds begin to crave higher-octane flavors — meaning that light kale salad for lunch won’t seem as desirable as that whopping slice of pie. To avoid this, commit to a 3-7 day detox both before and after the tumultuous holiday season. Cut out processed foods, all added sugar (yes, even honey), and even dairy and gluten if you’re willing. A detox resets your palate and will help you resume your normal eating habits more easily… which is especially useful when you need to kill an incessant sweet tooth.
The holidays are a time for fun and cheer, but you shouldn’t have to pay the price come January. By practicing some mindfulness and a little self-control, you can enjoy your favorite tasty foods of the holidays without relying on elastic waistbands.