Even if you have superhuman willpower, the holiday season is challenging for everyone. Staying on track can seem so daunting, you feel like swan-diving into the eggnog and sending your sensible routine into hibernation until the New Year. But, as we all know, excess pounds don’t disappear along with the decorations. And nobody wants to start the New Year in the hole, body-wise.
1. Eat before drinking and celebrating
Skipping breakfast or lunch in order to “save your appetite” probably isn’t the best weight-maintenance tactic. While the jury’s still out on how important breakfast truly is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (read: four slices of pumpkin pie). Our advice? Stick to a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein, which will keep you fuller longer and temper the urge to stuff your face later.
2. Be picky
Peruse the buffet before you load your plate to avoid foods you don’t really want, suggests obesity expert Tim Church, MD, a professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University. If, for instance, you could take or leave sushi but adore sliders, don’t start with the tuna rolls hoping to be able to resist the two-bite burger.
“If you pick the stuff you really want and have it in moderation,” Dr. Church notes, “you’ll stave off those cravings that can get you in trouble later on.”
3. Just say “no”
Willpower is like a muscle: Work it and you get stronger. What’s key is to practice keeping yourself in check in non-food situations, too. “Whether you’re driving in rush hour traffic or dealing with a temperamental kid, there are challenges that require self-control,” Dr. Dansinger says.
Succeed in not honking at that rude driver, he explains, and you’ll be better able to resist dessert at the party.
4. Pick protein.
Like we just mentioned, protein can help maintain a healthy weight because high-protein diets are associated with greater satiety (bonus benefit: It’s important for healthy muscle growth). Make sure to serve up some turkey, roasted chicken, or prepare animal-free alternatives like quinoa, lentils, or beans.
5. Exercise in the morning
Exercising in the morning can help ensure better behavior all day long, according to a study published in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
Using brain scans, researchers found that when women worked out in the a.m., they not only moved more the rest of the day, but they also responded less to pictures of tempting food compared with the days they didn’t do a morning workout. The upshot: fewer cravings for high-fat fare.
6. Bring your own
Rather than try to figure out what’s in every dish at a friend’s party (or avoid eating altogether), bring a healthy side dish or dessert. Taste only what you want, but know you have a healthy alternative to fall back on.
7. Eat and chew slowly
Eating slowly may not be easy when appetizer options are endless, but it pays off to pace yourself. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness. So slow down and take a second to savor each bite of baked brie or scoop of spiced nuts.
8. Cut down on sodas
In fact, any bubbly beverage can lead to belly bloat. The carbon dioxide trapped in the bubbles of fizzy drinks causes a buildup of air, which can lead to gas.
9. Fill up on fiber
Snacking on vegetables and other high-fiber items like legumes can help keep us fuller, longer (though there’s always space for dessert). Give the vegetable platter a second chance with a healthy, tasty dip.
10. Get Plenty of Sleep
Sleep deprivation is quite common during the holidays, and it may cause weight gain. This is because those who do not sleep enough tend to be hungrier, consume more calories and get less physical activity. The reason behind this is that sleep restriction may increase your hunger hormone levels, ultimately leading to higher calorie intake. Additionally, inadequate sleep has been linked to lower metabolism. This is believed to be due to alterations in your circadian rhythm, which is known as the biological clock that regulates many bodily functions.
Cut back on taste testing
Limit liquid calories
Use a smaller plate
Control your stress levels
Get plenty of potassium
Brew up a pot of peppermint tea
Concentrate your workouts
Make room for (healthy) fats
Weigh yourself twice a week
Ditch added sugar
Sneak in the veggies
Turn off the TV
Turn your back on temptation
Beware of booze
Drink more water