How Not To Gain Weight This Holiday Season

Turkey, stockings, that jolly guy in the red suit—these things are supposed to be stuffed during the holidays. You? Not so much. Yet from late October through December, you’re faced with heaps of Halloween candy, Thanksgiving treats, and holiday cakes and cookies. It may seem impossible to make it to the New Year without gobbling up every last delectable goodie. 

From the butter volcano in the mashed potatoes to the mishmash of sweet potato casserole and cornbread stuffing slathered in gravy, turkey,pies and cookies, you’re apt to consume between 4,000 – 5,000 calories and 225 grams of fat during a typical holiday gathering. Don’t make your waistline pay the price for merrymaking.

Expecting to put on some pounds more or less guarantees it, because you won’t bother watching what you eat. While this isn’t the best time to try to lose weight, it’s smart to focus on maintaining. If you can come out of the holidays staying at the same weight, that’s an amazing feat.

Some party-goers use the same unsuccessful dieting approaches in an attempt to avoid holiday weight gain every year, like fasting all day to compensate for excessive calorie intake later and more.

Here’s a guide to enjoying your favorite treats through the season so you don’t herald the new year with extra padding.

#1. Arrive Hungry, Not Ravenous To The Party

It’s a mistake to “save up” calories for the party and there’s a high probability that you’ll show up starving and head straight to the buffet table and start eating everything in sight.

Moreover, when you tell yourself you have been ‘good’ all day, you’ve given yourself the green light to eat everything you see once the celebration begins.

Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack with protein, carbs and healthy fats. 

This can be a serving of your favorite fruits, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. 

So, when you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres and You’ll be able to make smarter choices if your stomach isn’t growling with hunger pangs.

#2. Make A Plan & Stick To It

Before you start putting food on your plate, look at all of the offerings and decide which dishes you most want to eat. Pick your favorites and take small servings of those foods first and skip anything that isn’t a must-have.

Take a look at all the appetizers before you start sampling, and if you know the host well enough, ask what she’s serving for the main course. That way, you can choose a few foods you’d like to splurge on. If it’s buffet-style, divide your plate and fill half with veggies. The other half should be a carb (rice, potatoes, bread) and a protein.

Whether it’s a holiday party, Thanksgiving or Christmas, if dinner is going to be a feast or you’ll be grazing on hors d’oeuvres, save on calories throughout the day by choosing a breakfast and lunch that are heavy on lean protein (chicken, fish, turkey) and veggies, and light on fat, sugar and starch. Protein and fiber are the most filling nutrients around, so even though you’ll be eating fewer calories, you’ll still feel satisfied.

Making a plan for which foods to pick lets you indulge in your favorites and avoid extra calories from mindlessly choosing everything that’s available.

#3. Keep A Check On The Portions

When the holidays arrive, it can be easy to overload your plate.

Those who eat larger portions tend to gain weight more easily than those who don’t 

The best way to overcome this is to control portion sizes.

Research has shown that people consistently eat more food when offered larger portions. So portion control is important when you’re trying to keep the holiday weight gain at bay.

To determine an appropriate portion size, read food labels and the recommended serving sizes listed on recipes. If you can’t do either, use your best judgment to fill your plate with a reasonable amount of food.

#4. Use A Smaller Plate

You’ll eat 30% fewer calories if you scoop holiday favorites onto a smaller plate, since a smaller plate gives you the illusion that you’re eating more food.

Whenever possible, choose the smaller salad plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like one (12 inches or more). Using smaller plates can actually make us feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big white space on the plate with less food and smaller plates generally require smaller portions.

#5. Keep Taste-Testing To A Minimum

Many people spend a lot of time cooking and baking during the holiday season.

Unsurprisingly, this can lead to weight gain because it’s easy to taste-test your dishes. Even small bites of holiday dishes can add up in calories.

We highly recommend – not setting foot in the kitchen to whip up your famous pecan pie on an empty stomach. Have a balanced meal or snack—one that includes vegetables, lean protein, healthy fats and whole grains—before cooking, so you won’t be as tempted to nibble.

Tasting your dishes can be important, especially if you’re cooking for others — but a tiny bite is probably more than enough.

If you have to sample something, put it on a plate first. Eating right out of the pot or pan makes it easy to lose track of how much you’re consuming.

#6. Don't Reach For The Seconds

Holiday meals are sometimes served buffet-style, with several options to choose from in unlimited amounts.

This leads people to serve themselves seconds — and maybe even thirds.

As the calories from multiple helpings can quickly contribute to weight gain, limit yourself to just one plate.

Instead of over-indulging with second servings of your favorite food, try sticking with a single helping and saving the leftovers in calories—for a nice meal the following day.

#7. Imbibe With Or After Food Within A Limit

Not only does alcohol add unnecessary calories to your diet, but getting boozy has another effect on us, too. Drinking too much in the presence of champagne, eggnog, wine and an array of alcoholic beverages can make us lose our inhibitions around food and start eating irresponsibly. 

If you do decide to drink at a holiday party, opt for wine or a low-calorie mixed drink like vodka soda over sweetened festive cocktails. 

If you imbibe before you eat, you might end up eating the wrong foods at the soiree. To slow the rate that your body absorbs alcohol  have a pre-party snack or wait until you’ve had a bite at the event before reaching for a glass.

#8. Eat Multiple Courses

A multi-course meal can help you consume fewer calories. Soup and salad courses served before the main dishes can help you consume up to 11 percent fewer calories when the turkey and stuffing are served. Focus the first courses and fruits and vegetables, which will fill you up and have a significant impact on the number of calories you consume.

Try filling up on the foods with the most nutrients first and then enjoy smaller portions of those that might not be as good for you. Most of the time, the foods with lots of nutrients are those with the fewest calories, like vegetables and salad, or whole grains.

#9. Get Some Exercise

The holidays are not an excuse to ditch your exercise routine. The festivities should not keep you from a regular workout routine.

Make sure you exercise for 30 to 60 minutes five or more days per week. Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year.

Exercise goes hand-in-hand with calorie control. It’s also a terrific stress buster—which makes it even more crucial now, because holidays can be a trigger for people prone to stress eating.

Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year.

#10. Drink Lots Of Water

Rather than guzzling calorie- and sugar-laden sodas and juices (which are associated with increased body fat and blood pressure) treat yourself to a glass of wine with dinner and keep your allegiance to water for the rest of the time.

It’s best to reach for a glass of water before sitting down to dinner. You’ll inevitably eat less if you’re well-hydrated.

#11. Don't Destroy Yourself Just Because You Have Been 'Bad'

Bingeing at this time of year is very common. There is a possibility that you might indulge a little bit, get anxious about it and decide to ‘destroy’ yourself because you’ve already been ‘bad.’ 

The only unbreakable rule you must have is never to binge. You can have a cookie or a few bites of cake or a piece of pizza and it will never make you fat. 

Even if you do end up eating a bit more than you intended – Remember IT’S OK. Happy Holidays. The important thing is to not make it worse. If you harbor a ‘beat yourself up’ mentality, it might cause you to binge and that will eventually make you gain weight.

#12. Focus On The Festivities, Be Active With Friends & Family

Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. 

A good conversation is one of the best calorie-free indulgences.

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