Fa la la la la. ‘Tis the season for holiday parties which means homemade holiday cookies, cakes and candies – and in mass quantities, please. No wait. I’m going to avoid temptation this year and I’m going to savor my sweets thoughtfully and conscientiously. And I’m going to avoid holiday weight gain this year.
It’s a fact that many of us think we’ve gained five to 10 pounds over the holidays. The good news, according to The National Institutes of Health, is that we don’t. The average holiday weight gain in a study of 200 adults was less than a pound. But I, for one, don’t need an extra pound floating around my middle. So, what are some strategies for eating sensibly while still enjoying the sweets of the season?
Keep Tabs on What You Eat by Writing it Down – Forcing yourself to account for every spoonful of pudding or slice of cake will make you exquisitely aware of exactly what and how much you consume. And no cheating. You must include every cookie, swig of eggnog and piece of chocolate. Need a little extra help? There are some great apps and websites available that will help you keep track of your calories and exercise including The CalorieCounter by Fat Secret, LoseIt! and Fitbie.
Fill Up Before the Party – Anyone remember the scene in Gone With the Wind when Scarlett O’Hara, preparing for the Tarleton twins’ barbecue, was advised by Mammy to eat something before the barbecue so she wouldn’t be hungry and pig out at the feast? That advice was valid. Eat something healthy at home so you’ll be less tempted to overindulge during the party. Besides eating healthfully at home (lots of veggies, lean protein and whole grains,) keep yourself hydrated. It’s a fact that many people mistake thirst for hunger. Both are controlled by the hypothalmus area of the brain which sends the same signal to your nervous system whether you’re hungry or thirsty. If you recently ate and are still feeling hungry, drink a glass of water and see if the feeling persists. It may take about 15 to 20 minutes for the hypothalmus to send the signal to your nervous system that you were actually thirsty all along.
Get Moving – Regular, sustained cardiovascular exercise is key to burning calories and fat. Aim for 30 minutes a day, three times a week. Already working out that often? Up it to 45 minutes, five times a week. You can break this up into segments if you don’t have time for a half hour or longer workout. Studies have shown that the benefits are the same whether you exercise for 10 minutes three times a day or thirty minutes once a day. (And, of course, see your doctor before you begin any exercise routine or change up your routine to be sure an exercise program is appropriate for you.) Already got a good cardio workout going? Switch up your routine by adding weights and improving your muscle tone. Maintaining muscle burns calories as any body builder will tell you. Besides strengthening muscle, weight training strengthens bones and connective tissue, improves coordination and balance and has the potential to change your body composition.
Go Easy on the Eggnog and other Holiday Drinks – A cup of eggnog packs a whopping 343 calories, according to http://www.caloriecount.com. Add a jigger of rum and you can count on an extra 100 calories. A cup of mulled wine contains about 208 calories and a 16 ounce serving of your favorite holiday coffee drink from your favorite coffee house is packed with between 310 and 510 calories. Yowza! There are plenty of ways to ring in the holidays with low-calorie (and tasty) alcoholic beverages. You’ve heard of Skinnygirl ™ Cocktails by Bethenny Frankel, right? No? Well then, let me introduce you. Starting with the Skinnygirl Margarita, Bethenny revolutionized the liquor industry to provide a variety of low calorie beverages that now includes an entire line of Skinnygirl Cocktails. If Skinnygirl’s not available at your party or holiday venue, limit yourself to one glass of wine which has about 25 calories per ounce. If you choose to imbibe, ring in the New Year with champagne which has about 90 calories per glass. (It probably goes without saying, but don’t overindulge. Drinking not only adds calories, it lowers inhibitions making it more difficult to say no to tempting foods. And always drink responsibly.)
Be a Grazer – One of the secrets of people who’ve successfully lost weight and kept it off is not to deprive yourself of entire categories of food (unless it’s for health reasons.) So take a forkful or two of pumpkin pie, but don’t eat the entire slice. Nibble a homemade Christmas cookie, but stop at one. Portion control is key to weight loss and maintenance. Studies show that when people do gain weight during the holidays, they often don’t take it all off. If they do, it usually takes twice as long or longer to take it off than it took to put it on. Totally unacceptable … So indulge – but do it wisely.