8 ways to avoid holiday weight gain
December is a dangerous month for those of us trying to eat well and maintain a healthy weight. Find out how to make it through the holiday season unscathed
Keep away those extra pounds
Whether it’s a glass of rum-splashed eggnog, a tray of special chocolates or a table laid out with tempting home baking, food is an important part of what makes the holidays so special. If you’re watching your weight, however, all the festive goodies can spell trouble. But rather than passing on the parties altogether, a few simple strategies will help you avoid gaining weight this holiday season.
1. Keep your regular fitness routine
When you’re juggling social obligations, shopping and cooking, it’s tempting to let your exercise sessions fall to the bottom of the list. Instead, make physical fitness a priority. (Need some inspiration? Try our quick and easy holiday workout routine). Besides burning off extra calories, working up a sweat will leave you glowing and feeling energized. You’ll not only look and feel fabulous, but the exercise will also help you manage holiday stress-and who doesn’t need that?
2. Don’t skip meals
Though it’s tempting to skip a meal if you know you’ll be noshing on great party snacks later in the evening, you’ll actually be setting yourself up to binge. “Not eating is the wrong approach because it makes you extra hungry,” says Pam Lynch, a Halifax-based dietitian. “You’re more likely to go overboard later.” Instead, she recommends having a snack or a small meal (ideally something with carbohydrates and protein) before you head to the party so you aren’t ravenous by the time you get there. That way you’ll have more control over what you choose to eat.
3. Eat breakfast
No matter how many parties you plan to attend over the holidays, make sure you start every morning with a healthy breakfast. “Breakfast stimulates your metabolism,” says Lynch. You’ll be better equipped to handle any diet pitfalls that come your way over the course of the day.
4. Weigh your options
Resisting tasty morsels at parties can be particularly difficult if they’re being passed around the room on trays. Rather than caving in every time the food stops in front of you, Lynch recommends being very fussy about what you choose. She suggests resisting the first tray of hors d’oeuvres that passes you by, giving you time to survey your options. Once you’ve decided what you really want to have, go for it-and enjoy! “Don’t have one every time the tray is passed,” says Lynch. “Make it special. That way, you’re less likely to go overboard.”
5. Remember that not all party food is created equal
If you can, stick to the lower-calorie offerings at the snack table. A plain shrimp, for example, is a better option than a deep-fried canapé. Raw veggies are a great choice too, but be mindful of the fat-heavy dip. “Make sure that you really are dipping your vegetables-don’t scoop!” says Lynch. When you’re counting calories, “it’s the silly little things that all add up.”
6. Watch what you drink
Though a little tipple may be nice at a holiday party, be mindful of how much you drink. Not only is alcohol high in calories, it can also stimulate your appetite. Lynch recommends starting out with a glass of sparking water or a diet soda before moving on to the booze, then alternating alcoholic beverages with water as the evening progresses. And watch what you’re drinking, too: a glass of eggnog, for example, has many more calories than a glass of wine.
7. Take your time
Not only will eating more slowly allow you to enjoy what you’re eating, you’ll actually eat less. “You really don’t start to feel full until about 20 minutes after you eat,” says Lynch. Eating quickly puts you at risk of packing in more calories than you actually need. Whether it’s a bountiful turkey dinner or a piece of Christmas cake, slow yourself down and savour every mouthful.
8. Take it one day at a time
If you do slip up with your eating, don’t be too hard on yourself. “I always tell people to take it one meal and one day at a time,” says Lynch. Ultimately, the holidays are about enjoyment. At a time of year when there is a lot more food around, staying on a tight weight-loss regime may not be realistic. Lynch suggests you may choose instead to focus on maintaining your current weight, rather than on shedding pounds. That way you can easily get back on track in the new year. “If you come out of the holidays without having gained,” says Lynch, “then you haven’t lost any ground.”