Simple tips to prevent overindulging this holiday season
Eating well means living well – especially during the holiday season. But with so many temptations available this time of year, it’s easy to get off track with your regular diet and exercise routine.
According to a 2016 New England Journal of Medicine study of nearly 3,000 people in the U.S., Germany and Japan, holiday weight gain typically begins in October of each year with people’s weight increasing, on average, 1.3 pounds during the Christmas-New Year’s season. Then it takes about five months for people to lose the weight they gain over the holidays.
That certainly seems like a not-so-fun cycle of weight gain and weight loss. Why not flip the script this year? Here are a few tips to help you eat well and exercise regularly during the holidays so that there are no unhappy surprises come January 1.
Keep healthy snacks on hand
Shopping and holiday parties mean packed schedules and hours away from home. Avoid high-calorie snacks, like chips and cookies, when you’re hungry and on the go. Instead, pack a bag filled with nutrient-dense foods like nuts, an apple or a cup of high-protein Greek yogurt. This will help you avoid excess sugar highs and energy lows that make you tired.
Eat slowly, take small bites and keep talking
Enjoy your favorite treats of the season but at a slower pace. Research shows that people who eat slowly tend to eat less. This way you can enjoy your favorites without overindulging.
When you go to parties, focus on socializing, not eating. That’s an activity that will actually burn some calories!
Drink lots of water — even at parties
Remember that water is your friend, even at holiday get-togethers. A good rule of thumb is to start with a nonalcoholic, unsweetened drink. Then you can alternate to your “treat” beverage, like a cocktail or soda. For example:
- Drink 1: Water with a lemon wedge
- Drink 2: Your “treat” beverage
- Drink 3: Another glass of water
- Drink 4: Your “treat” beverage
Switch permanently to unsweetened, nonalcoholic drinks at least an hour before you plan to leave. Alternating your drinks will help reduce your sugar and alcohol intake. Remember, too, that many alcoholic drinks are filled with empty calories. Eggnog coffee drinks with whipped cream, hot toddies and spiced rum consist of hundreds of calories.
Portion out desserts
Before you serve dessert, take a moment to cut cakes, pies and other treats into smaller pieces. The smaller portions will help you and your loved ones keep calorie counts lower and help make sure there’s enough for everyone to enjoy.
Also remember to set your limits. Many times, we eat food or have seconds just to please the hostess. It’s ok to politely say, “No thank you. I am full!”
Never go to a party hungry
This may be one of the most important tips in this article. Don’t try to save up your calories by starving yourself all day before a party. The hungrier you are, the less likely you are to remain in control. Pick up a plate and fill it up once.
Recover from food hangovers
Don’t beat yourself up if you overindulge one day. Treat your body right the next day by eating clean. Avoid refined carbohydrates (like bread and sweets), drink lots of water and eat plenty of vegetables with lean protein. Try to keep your holiday eating to the holiday itself, not the entire holiday season.
Calories in, calories out. Deliberately schedule time to work out in the morning before your day is filled up with holiday events. When shopping, park farther away and take the stairs with your packages. Lift up your packages as you walk like you would lift weights.
Invite your family and friends to get active with you. Enjoy the season outdoors – on the slopes, on the hills in sleds or snowshoes or on the ice. If it’s not too chilly, power walk one evening to see the neighborhood lights.
– Patricia Dietzgen, D.O., is a family medicine physician practicing at the Kaiser Permanente Frisco medical offices