Holiday Survival Guide
Avoid the Dreaded
Holiday Weight Gain
Now’s the time to enjoy yourself and splurge. Just make smart choices.
The holidays are upon us. And that means cold dark days, a fair amount of stress and even more goodies on offer—from drinks and treats to big meals and plates of sweets brought into the office or delivered to your place. Which is why for most people, this time of year also means softening up and putting on a little weight. Sure, it might sound a little premature to be thinking about this now, but according to Cornell University researchers, the average American starts putting on weight in October, and the pounds you gain between Halloween and Christmas can take five months to lose.
But it doesn't have to be like that. There are real ways to avoid packing on those dreaded seasonal pounds, derailing the work you did all summer and fall. As we all know, the pudge doesn't disappear with the decorations. And nobody wants to start the new year in the hole, body-wise, right?
We're not saying you shouldn't indulge. Far from it. The holiday season is all about celebrating. Have fun with friends, go wild at the office party, get together with your loved ones and enjoy yourself. Everything in moderation, right? Here's how to have your fun while tackling all the food spreads and hectic schedules without throwing away your healthy habits.
A Holiday Weight
“Building new healthy habits is hard enough when the sun is shining and the weather is beautiful,” says Steve Kamb of Nerd Fitness. “And when you factor in crappy weather, shorter days and a busy holiday schedule ... It's easy to get sidetracked and overwhelmed.” That's when the excuses start. Instead of rationalizing bad behavior, commit to the 80/20 rule. “If you are going to attend your office and family parties and plan on eating and drinking whatever the hell you want, you need to be incredibly diligent in your normal days.” Eat clean during the week (bring your lunch and cook healthy dinners), then enjoy whatever you want at the party.
Start Your DayWith a Sweat
Exercising in the morning can actually ensure you make better food choices all day long, according to researchers at Bringham Young University. The study found that those who worked out first thing in the morning not only moved more the rest of the day, but they they also responded less to pictures of tempting food compared with the days they didn't do a morning workout. So pre-game your Thanksgiving feast with a killer workout and you'll not only feel good about yourself, you'll actually make better meal choices.
You Can’tBank Calories
Schedule your indulgence in advance, so you can be sure to put in plenty of work before letting loose. But don't drastically cut back on your calories so you indulge at the big meal. You'll be starving. And you've just set yourself up to get out of control. Be sure to eat your usual three squares and even a snack or two before your big meal or event. Want to make sure you don't go hog wild? Start with veggies and let the fiber help fill you up.
Flex YourWillpower Muscle
Your willpower works like a muscle. Exercises it and you'll notice it gets stronger. And here's the interesting part: you want to practice keeping yourself in check in non-food situations to get the full benefit. “Whether you're driving in rush hour traffic or dealing with a temperamental kid, there are challenges that require self-control,” says says Michael Dansinger, MD, an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine. Succeed in not honking at that rude driver, he explains, and you'll be better able to resist dessert at the party.
Whether you're at the dinner table for a holiday meal, or biting on the cookie that just landed at your desk from your colleague, eat slowly. According to science, it pays off to pace yourself. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to actually register fullness. So make sure to chew your food slowly and with intention. You'll not only eat less, but you'll find that you're savoring each bite.
'Tis the season for casual drinking, but make sure you're not drinking a bunch of extra calories. Spiked eggnog and other cocktails can have a lot of added sugar. Plus, alcohol consumption is often linked to increased appetite and is a risk factor for weight gain. It's certainly easier to let your guard down and indulge when you're buzzed, right? Drinking can also disrupt your sleep (which messes with your cortisol hormone), or leave you hungover the next day. And have you ever made smart nutrition choices while hungover?
Consider Yourself Warned
Don’t try to bring a “healthy” dish or dessert to the holiday feast. History has shown that they just sit there untouched.