Sausage filled stuffing, buttery mashed potatoes, pecan pie, oh my! The holidays are a time for family, celebration and comfort food, but sadly for many also a source of anxiety about overeating and, consequently, weight gain. While attending family gatherings, work parties and social events is fun, those extra glasses of wine interfere with our appetite control and suddenly every high calorie food around us starts to look extremely appetizing. After all, we don’t want to be rude to our hosts… But when a one day celebration (Thanksgiving is not a four day feast!) turns into a month long libation, it’s time to set some rules that will keep you slim and healthy without feeling deprived.
Here are some things that you can do to counteract the dreaded holiday weight gain:
1. Change your mindset.
Healthy living is a lifelong adventure rather than an inconvenient diet. There is nothing sinful about having a big Thanksgiving meal. So put on your finest and tightest outfit (overeating will be seriously unappealing in a skin tight dress or pants), leave your anxieties at the door and enjoy food and drink for this one day. The point is not to overindulge and use the holidays as an excuse to have cheesecake every day in December. If you do overeat, make Friday a detox day, complete with a green juice, lots of veggies and lean protein. This mini detox will rebalance your palate and stabilize your sugar cravings. Being able to self-regulate is the secret to a lifetime of steady weight.
2. Eat (lightly) before parties.
Don’t “save” your calories! Keep your appetite in check and blood sugar steady by eating light meals and protein-rich snacks to avoid arriving at a party starving and devouring everything in sight. I find that eating a healthy breakfast is key to making good choices later in the day. A protein shake or a veggie egg scramble in the morning is all you need to keep you energized before the festivities.
3. Eat mindfully.
Many of us eat in a rush, absentminded, distracted by our thoughts or conversation. Choose only the foods you actually like to eat. Don’t load your plate with aunt Mary’s stuffing only out of politeness. Next time you sit down to a meal, smell your food, chew it slowly and savor the texture and flavor. Put down your fork in between bites to ensure your brain has enough time to receive a signal of satiety (this takes about 20 minutes). If you have a sweet tooth, it helps to have a 3 bite rule when it comes to desserts. You will get to taste your favorite treat without the risk of overeating and regret later.
4. Keep up you fitness routine.
Just because your in laws are visiting doesn’t mean you should skip your yoga class. Sure, the holidays are a busy time, so planning your exercise a week in advance is essential. When traveling, pack your runners, take advantage of hotel gyms or just head outside for a run. Thirty minutes of moderate jogging will burn off those two glasses of wine that you had last night. Plan ahead and make your commitment to exercise non-negotiable.
5. Consider intermittent fasting.
If the holidays left you with a few extra pounds and raging sugar cravings, rebalance with a gentle cleanse (think no wheat, dairy, sugar or alcohol for 5 days) coupled with intermittent fasting. Intermittent fasting doesn’t mean severe calorie restriction; it’s simply eating within a specific time window of the day. For example, you may choose to eat between 10am and 7pm, essentially fasting for 15 hours. Alternatively, you may decide to restrict your calories to 500 per day for a couple of days a week and eat normally the rest of the week. This mimics the eating patterns of our ancestors, who did not have access to 24 hour grocery stores. The great news is that intermittent fasting can help you lose weight, eliminate sugar cravings and normalize ghrelin, your hunger hormone. This may be the easiest path to wellness you’ve been looking for.