The holiday season is a happy time to spend with family and loved ones.
But often, it’s also a major set-up for major disappointment. On the one hand, you’re making life-altering resolutions to finally pinch that pouch and kick those extra curves to the curb for good. On the other hand, the amount of food being set in front of you at night-after-night holiday dinners and parties is enough to feed a small country.
Holiday weight gain isn’t just in our heads, says a new study from Cornell University. The weight trend of average Americans tends to gradually rise from October on through November, and peaks 10 days after Christmas. What’s more, the study showed that the extra pounds you put on during the holiday season often takes more than five months to lose again.
So how do you avoid facing that ever intimidating New Year’s resolution to get rid of all that holiday weight, January after January?
Start earlier, and make a pre-holiday resolution not to gain the weight in the first place.
You can definitely have a fantastic time during the holidays and party your petticoat off. All you need is the right mental game and a set of prepared, proven strategies under your tightly laced belt that ensure that all the festive fun won’t become something you regret afterwards.
Gulp Before You Go
Before you leave for your holiday party, sit down to a big hot bowl of home-made soup, stock full of vegetables and protein (like these slimming soups).
Aside from being very nutritious and warming you up for your wintery holiday evening, healthy soups fill your tummy with water, fiber and protein. This magic combo fills you up for longer on less calories, and also triggers the “I’m full” hormones in your brain, helping you eat less when you get to the dinner party.
Then, follow up your bowl of soup with a cup of green tea or peppermint tea. Research shows that drinking a hot liquid before you start a meal helps you eat less calories. Green tea has been shown to melt pounds and waist inches, while peppermint tea has appetite suppressing affects.
Plan Out Your Plate
Once you arrive at the party, it’s difficult to resist a beautifully laden buffet table. Go ahead and grab a plate, because it turns out that holiday turkey could actually help taper that tummy. Studies have shown that when 20% of your daily calories come from lean protein, you could lose more weight, feel more satisfied and less hungry. So reserve one fourth of your plate for turkey (minus the gravy). Pile up the rest of your plate with vegetable appetizers like salads and crudités, skipping the ones that are swimming in butter, batter, cream, sauce or sugar.
Location, Location, Location
Once you’ve filled up your plate, here’s the very best favor you can do for yourself:
Walk. Away. From the Buffet.
If it’s a sit-down affair, than finish off your entrée plate and ask the person you’re chit-chatting with to carry on the conversation over by the sofa, where it’s more comfortable. Even when you’re feeling full and satisfied, you’ll find yourself mindlessly noshing while you socialize if the food is still within easy arm’s reach and in your line of sight. So scan the party premises for a comfy seat facing away from the food platters, and set up shop there by removing any snack bowls on nearby side tables. Curling up to face the people you’re speaking with instead of the sweet table will not only help prevent overeating, but will also help you focus on quality pow-wow time with old friends, family and colleagues. Keep your hands occupied around a warm mug of comforting tea, sipping as you enjoy the festive evening.
Pick Your Poison
A holiday bash without holiday booze? Hardly.
But it’s important to sip strategically in order to avoid the appetite stimulating affects of sweet cocktails, as well as all those unaccounted-for drink carbs and frothy fats from breaking the calorie bank. So don’t head to the bar until you’ve finished your dinner, to help avoid a blood sugar spike from triggering your appetite again. Limit yourself to one sweet cocktail or creamy concoction if they’re really calling your name, and opt instead for wine or hard liquor in smaller tumblers to nurse slowly throughout the evening, with elegance and class.
And just remember: a brain that gets too soggy is more prone to having less will-power and falling into poor eating decisions.
Go for a Walk in a Winter Wonderland
After all that eating, make sure that the stockings that get stuffed aren’t the ones you’re wearing by staying active.
If the party has a dance floor, get on it! Or bundle up and take a special someone outside with you for some fresh night air and a beautiful walk around the block. And even though gyms are often closed during the holidays, this is the perfect time to suite up in breathable thermals the morning after the party and to get yourself outside for a good, refreshing run or speed walk. Research shows that exercising outdoors – especially in the cold – burns more net calories than indoor exercise. This is because, in addition to the calories you burn through active exercise, your body has to work even harder (and burn extra calories) to maintain a conducive internal temperature inside your body. Plus nothing gets rid of a morning holiday hangover quite like a blast of cold air in your lungs!
Stay safe, have fun, and eat, drink and exercise responsibly this holiday season!