Holiday weight gain is almost inevitable as you are faced with numerous social occasions, limited time or access to a yoga studio and tasty snacks around every corner – hello gingerbread man! This year, the dreaded weight gain does not have to be a reality for you. You can keep your healthy eating on track, despite the festivities, fancy drinks and never-ending spreads of food.
Here are 14 tips to have a happy holiday without getting hefty:
1. Don’t Fast
If you know that you are going to be eating and drinking poorly later in a day, it might be your first instinct to fast before your event to save the calories for later. In reality, this is a bad idea, as you will be hungry and probably eat more than you would typically eat due to feelings of intense hunger. Instead, eat a sensible breakfast and lunch that includes protein and fiber to keep you feeling full and satisfied into your nighttime festivities.
When you go to a house party or attend a family get together, you may have limited healthy options. Show off your culinary skills and make a great contribution to the party by making your own side dish, entree or dessert. You will get brownie points from your host and you will have a healthy option for you and your fellow guests to enjoy, so it’s a win-win solution!
3. Catch Some Z’s
You are going to be busy and probably overbooked this time of the year. However, don’t let that prevent you from sleeping. Sleep is essential to keep your body and mind in tip-top shape, and lack of sleep is associated with an increase in appetite and even weight gain.
4. Take Your Time
The holidays are back-to-back parties and opportunities to eat poorly. Be mindful when you eat and pace yourself at every meal. When you eat slowly, you will give your stomach a chance to communicate with your brain when you are full, allowing you to eat less and enjoy every bite. Don’t go back for seconds until you have given your body a chance to digest and tell your brain if you are really experiencing hunger or just the desire for more food.
5. Size Matters
The size of your plate has a direct correlation with how much you will eat. If you choose to eat on a smaller plate, your mind will trick your body into feeling fuller. Instead of filling up a large dinner plate, grab an appetizer or dessert plate. When filled, these plates will have less empty space for your brain to associate with less food.
The holiday season is about gratitude and sharing time with people who are important to you. It is not about self-deprivation and punishing yourself. Instead of coming up with a long list of what you cannot eat this holiday, allow yourself to cave into your cravings in moderation. Do not eat a dozen cookies, but one cookie is not going to undo all of your healthy eating habits. When you allow yourself to have a little of something that you really want – you will enjoy it that much more, and you will be less likely to binge when given the opportunity.
7. Stay Hydrated
Throughout your holiday parties this season, make sure to stay hydrated and drink plenty of water. This will help you to feel fuller, resulting in you eating and drinking fewer calories overall. Many people do not know the difference between your body telling you it’s thirsty or hungry, so have a glass of water and see how you feel before grabbing another dinner roll.
Read this: 7 Signs of Dehydration and 5 Tips to Prevent It
8. Beware of the Booze
Holiday parties are a great opportunity to sit back, unwind and have a few drinks. However, don’t have too many alcoholic beverages as you will be ingesting unnecessary calories. Also, when you drink heavily, you are more likely to let go of your diet inhibitions, causing you to snack more and worse than you typically would if you were in your right state of mind. Stay within your limit and enjoy the benefit of continuing to fit into your skinny jeans on New Year’s Day.
9. Control Your Setting
If you are catching up with your aunt at dinner next to the buffet line, you might be more tempted to have a second helping of mashed potatoes or ham. Instead, turn your back on the food and face another part of the room or pick a section of the party away from the sweet and savory smells of your meal. Out of sight, out of mind!
10. Yoga and Meditation
This time of the year can be stressful, from holiday shopping and battling mall lines and parking lots to seeing distant relatives who can be busybodies and a little too curious about your professional or personal lives. To prepare yourself for this anticipated stress, make sure to squeeze in some yoga and meditation. This “me time” is important this time of the year more than ever to keep your head on straight and your stress and emotions – and emotional eating – in check.
11. Squeeze in Exercise
Even if you have just five minutes before running out the door, try to squeeze in some exercise where you can. Do some squats while waiting for the microwave to ding or some calf raises while in a long line at the mall. Make a conscious effort to move more, whether it’s walking a few extra rows down in the parking lot at the mall or a getting in few extra steps by taking the stairs instead of the escalator. Every little bit counts, and these extra bursts of exercise help justify you having that glass of eggnog.
12. Pump You Up
If you have the time, do a high-intensity workout before your next holiday party. You will get sweaty and burn a ton of calories during your workout. Later during your holiday meal, you will use the food to refuel and refill your body’s energy instead of packing on pounds in your midsection.
13. Be Healthy When You Can
Not every opportunity that you will be put in front of this holiday season will present you with healthy food options (or the ability to bring your own healthy options). In this case, make the healthiest choices possible and have just a little bit to eat, perhaps delaying your meal until you have access to foods that are more to your liking.
14. Love Yourself
If you do give in and indulge on a few occasions this month, don’t sweat it too much. A few missteps won’t ruin all of your hard work. Don’t punish yourself for letting loose and letting go of your strict diet and fitness routine. Instead, commit to getting back on track and be positive about yourself and all that you are capable of. Love yourself for all that you are, mistakes and flaws and all!
Now that you have your holiday game plan in full effect, relax. Make sure to enjoy yourself and be grateful for the experiences that you get to share with the people who matter most to you. Your health and weight is important, but do not let your focus on the scale be at the detriment of the time that you get to spend with your loved ones.