We’re right smack in the middle of holiday-celebration season, and, if you’re like most of my patients, you want to indulge in all the food and merrymaking and not have to worry about weight gain. Well, the holidays are for fun and fantasy, but, we have to be a little realistic when it comes to keeping that scale needle from moving too far forward during the holidays.
Did you know that most people average 1-2 pound weight gain over the holidays? It’s true. That wouldn’t be so bad if they got rid of it in the first 2-3 weeks of New Years. Unfortunately, most holiday weight gain tends to not only stay on during the winter months but may even stay permanently getting added to every year! To prevent that from happening, I’d like to share with you some tips on how NOT to gain weight during the holidays, and still have fun and partake in the delicious feast of foods that characterize this time of year.
Control Your Food Intake
There’s no real reason why you shouldn’t be able to eat the foods you love during the holidays and not gain any additional weight. Sound impossible? Well, it’s a lot harder than it sounds. Here are some of my favorite holiday weight gain prevention tips:
- Water is your ally. A staple of all natural health diets is water, and you should be drinking adequate amounts of water every day anyway, but during the holiday party times, let it also be your ally in helping you control how much you eat. Drink a full, 12-16 ounce tumbler size of cold water with some lemon slices in it on the way to a party or upon first arriving, before you eat anything. When your stomach is full, it will really help you pare down food portions.
- Don’t go hungry. To avoid overeating at a party, don’t starve yourself during the day, thinking you’re saving up for party food. This always ends in overeating because psychologically you’ve already given yourself a free pass to eat too much. Instead, eat a smaller, yet nutritious, breakfast, and lunch if the party is not until evening, or just eat an apple and an ounce of cheese, if the party starts in the early afternoon. Make your small meals a little protein, like tuna fish, chicken, a hard boiled egg, cottage cheese, and a small amount of complex carbohydrate like a vegetable or fruit.
- Spoonfuls, not Platefuls: The best way to outsmart a holiday buffet filled with a number of things you want to eat is to take a little of everything you would like instead of a small plate with a few things that you keep going back for more. I recommend using the large plate and, instead, using the dish’s serving spoon, which is about twice the size of a regular tablespoon, take 1 spoonful of several things you would really enjoy. Just be sure your plate has more proteins like roast beef, turkey or ham, and more green and yellow vegetables, than white potatoes, corn, or breads, go very lightly with the gravies. Think drizzle rather than river on your plate, a pat of butter on vegetables, rather than a golf ball. If you have room for dessert after this amount of food, use a small plate with a small sample of whatever is served. Think grocery store food sample size for desserts. This allows you to try a few things and not feel deprived.
- Exercise. Many of us have a hard time keeping a regular exercise routine in non-holiday times, but during the holidays, it’s even more crucial to get some regular exercise at least 4-5 days a week if you can. This will help burn off those extra calories. Aim for 30-40 minutes a day of walking, bicycling if the weather allows, or using a stair stepper or elliptical at the gym.
- Focus on fun. Did you ever go to a holiday party and leave without knowing what really went on in some of the other rooms where people were dancing, or having a lively discussion about something, because you were sitting too close to the buffet table? Get up and mingle and join in a conversation, dance with someone, or get a group together to go for a walk to look at holiday lights. In other words, focus on doing something other than eating. Most of all have fun!
- Alcohol. Some of my patients like to have a glass of wine or two, or a mixed drink, at holiday parties, and this is fine. Just don’t over do it and be sure to eat soon after. Avoid the sugary mixed drinks, or liqueurs, as they really spike your appetite. Try to stick to clear red or white wines, a martini, etc.
- Calorie trading. The day after the holiday party, trade down your higher amount of party calories by eating less the next day or so. Focus on proteins and vegetables, very limited amounts of sugar (read labels), and drink plenty of water.
As I tell my patients, the holidays are for the 4 F’s – family, friends, fun and food. Enjoy all four of them by controlling your food and alcohol intake, and getting in some exercise. Most of all enjoy yourself and have a healthy, happy holiday season!