by Jari Love
‘Tis the season for merriment, celebrating, and complete overindulgence. All of a sudden, your typically healthy diet morphs into one based predominantly on candy, cheese, fatty meats, and pastries thanks to an abundance of holiday parties. Packing on the pounds seems inevitable.
Interestingly, the average amount of weight an American gains during the holiday season is far less than most would assume. According to a 2000 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, most folks only add about 1 pound to their frame during this time period. The bigger problem is most fail to lose this weight once the season ends. Repeat this pattern every year, and it’s all too easy to gain 10 pounds or more in a decade.
In order to avoid the creep of holiday pounds, you need some strategies. Nothing crazy like fasting or running an ultra-marathon, but practical suggestions that are doable. We’re here to help. These seven tips will help you keep your figure through the year’s end without losing your mind.
- Avoid skipping meals
Opting out of breakfast or lunch seems like a good way to reduce calories leading up to a holiday party complete with a buffet and tasty treats. The idea is you have more wiggle room since you reduced your consumption earlier in the day, yet this strategy rarely pays off. If you show up famished, you’ll wind up eating far more than you normally would.
Some researchers agree. A study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry fed one group of mice a restricted diet only once every 24 hours while the other group was allowed to graze on a normal amount of food throughout the day. The mice on the restricted, fasting diet initially lost weight, but once researchers restored their allotted calories to a normal amount, they gained all of it back and stored more fat around their bellies.
And keep in mind, most of the eats at these get togethers are very high in calories and low in nutrients that keep you full. A bowl of oatmeal earlier in the day will do a lot more to keep you satisfied than one measly cookie.
- Socialize with your friends at parties
Food plays such a huge role in celebrations, it can be easy to forget why you’re even celebrating. Chances are good a few friends, or at least colleagues you generally like, will be at every gathering you attend. Instead of spending all your time at the buffet table or next to the bar, mingle with your peers. Talk to them, engage, laugh, and enjoy their company. Many of us eat out of boredom, so you’re a lot less likely to overdo it if you’re actually having a good time.
- Start your day with a workout
December’s calendar probably looks as decorative as a Christmas tree thanks to so many parties and other events. Such a packed schedule often means regular workouts become infrequent workouts. Fight back with a morning sweat session, even if it means waking up a little bit earlier. It’s the easiest way to make sure you stay active without cutting into social events.
Some evidence even suggests morning workouts may be better for weight maintenance than sweating it up later in the day. A 2010 Belgian study fed participants a high calorie, high fat diet for six weeks and divided them into a group that didn’t exercise, one that exercised after eating, and one that exercised before eating anything in the morning. Both those who remained sedentary and those who worked out after eating gained weight while those who exercised in a fasted state were able to maintain their weight. Try going for a run, hitting the stationary bike, or a circuit.
- Don’t try to shed pounds during the holiday season
Even if you’re working toward a weight-loss goal, give yourself a little bit of a break during the season of all things butter and sugar. Keep your focus on maintaining rather than shedding pounds or you’ll make yourself crazy. Even the most organized guy will probably run into a situation or two where he doesn’t have the option to eat something nutritious. A busy day at the office might mean dinner ends up being some passed appetizers and a cookie at your office party. No worries, just get back on track the next day.
- Tank up on water
Staying hydrated keeps your body functioning properly and it could also keep you from overeating. Those who know they head to the food when they get bored should grab a glass of water instead. It gives you something to do the same way a pile of snacks does without the additional calories.
Feeling hungry? Drink some water first. SparkPeople explained the hunger and thirst cues are very similar and often difficult to tell apart. The desire to eat may evaporate after downing a tall glass of H2O.
Also, be wary of alcohol. Those liquid calories can be a real killer. For every cocktail, beer, or glass of wine you have, follow it with a full glass of water. It slows you down and helps to balance out the diuretic effect alcohol has on your body.
- Embrace the crudité platter
Cookies and salty snacks disappear from the buffet table at a rapid pace while the crudité tray remains untouched in the corner. Embrace the veggie platter. The veggie platter is your friend. It’s the one opportunity to load up on fiber and other important nutrients. Stock you plate with as many veggies as you’d like, keeping the fatty dip to a minimum. Filling your belly with produce will leave a lot less room for the unhealthy stuff. It’s the same idea of starting a meal with soup or salad, a strategy many nutrition experts recommend to avoid overeating.
- Choose your indulgences wisely
If your mom makes the best holiday cake in the world, you should absolutely have that cake. Skip the other treats you don’t care much about, and allow yourself to enjoy something you really love. Those with a serious sweet tooth might have trouble saying no to trying multiple goodies, but they can still be smart about it. Fill one plate with a selection of treats, then split it with a bunch of friends. You’ll end up with just a bite or two of each dessert, which is just right for a little bit of a splurge.
Jari Love – original creator of Get RIPPED! DVD series and group exercise classes. The hot-selling and critically acclaimed Get RIPPED! series enables individuals of any fitness level to burn up to three times more calories than the traditional weight-training program, and has received rave reviews from fitness critics throughout North America since the first title debuted in late 2005.