6 Tips for Beating the Holiday Bulge
1. Don’t listen to your friends
People aren’t intentionally out to sabotage their friend’s goals, but they often-times aren’t overly supportive of others trying to maintain a clean diet, especially during the holiday season. If you intend to be around other people who may be eating sweets, treats and other unhealthy foods, be prepared. If you walk up to them with a plate full of vegetables and other healthy options as they’re eating fried and sweetened appetizers, you may make them feel a little guilty. Don’t expect your plate of healthy food to motivate them. Instead, they’ll likely try to convince you it’s okay to eat like they are. If you do choose to eat some of the less healthy options, do it because you decided to, not because someone else talked you into it. You’re less likely to feel guilty afterwards if you make the decision.
2. Workout before your party
A high-intensity workout prior to a dinner party of other event can help your body better metabolize the food you’re going to eat. You likely won’t burn more calories in your workout than you’ll take in at your party, but your body will be more prepared to handle the food. Exercise increases insulin sensitivity and prepares your body to store more glycogen, meaning more of those carbohydrates will likely be stored in your muscle instead of being converted to fat. Of course, a good workout isn’t a license to eat to excess, but it can lessen the negative effects of over-indulging. A sixty-minute resistance training and metabolic conditioning workout can have the most beneficial effects, rather than just running on the treadmill for an hour before your party. The workout will likely enhance your mood so you won’t use food and drink to do that, and because you did something healthy prior to the party, you may be less likely to make choices that undo the benefits of the workout.
3. Hang onto a water bottle
Constantly sipping on water is a great way to help yourself stay “filled up.” Drinking too much water can negatively affect digestion, but a couple of glasses prior to eating a meal or starting on appetizers is a great way to help yourself feel more satisfied. In fact, Brenda Davy, recently presenting at an American Chemical Society meeting , explained drinking two glasses of water prior to a meal has been shown to produce greater weight loss than just eating a meal. Her research team compared dieters who drank two glasses of water prior to meals with another group who didn’t. At the end of twelve weeks, the group drinking the water before meals lost 40% more weight. They also averaged 75 to 90 calories less per meal. Hanging onto a water bottle will keep you from hanging onto a glass of punch, alcohol or other higher-calorie drink. If you don’t want to carry a water bottle, just ask for a glass of water with lemon while everyone else sips on their other beverages.
4. Go for the vegetables whenever and where ever
Besides being loaded with nutrients, the large amount of fiber and water found in vegetables is another way to help you feel filled up. If you’re dining out, start the meal with a side salad. If you’re at a party, look for the vegetable tray. For those who like something crunchy like chips and crackers, raw vegetables are a great way to reduce the cravings for less healthy crunchy foods. The fuller you are from vegetables, the less room you’ll have for the less healthy foods.
5. Search for the leanest protein you can find and fill up
Some fat in the diet is important, and the fat found in pasture-raised or grass-fed animal protein even has many health-promoting effects. However, when you’re at a party or going out for dinner, it’s likely the meat wasn’t raised that way, which means the fat in the meats may not be as healthy. That’s why lean meats are a better choice when you’re out. Along with eating plenty of vegetables, look for a lean source of protein such as grilled chicken, fish, turkey, even lean cuts of beef. If you’ll be getting added fat from other sources during your meal, you might as well try to keep your protein source fairly lean.
6. Save the sweets and carbs until after you’ve eaten your vegetables and protein
If you followed the ideas above, you’d likely feel pretty satisfied. Whatever your favorite starchy, high-carb foods are, hold back on eating them until you’ve had your vegetables and lean protein. When you do go for the starchy carbohydrates, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes and rice are better options for starchy carbohydrates and they’re gluten-free. If you think you’ll still have a cookie, piece of pie or some other high-carbohydrate treat, you’ll likely have much better self control if you eat the vegetables and protein first.
There’s no reason to be carrying extra guilt from an uncontrolled diet during such an enjoyable time of the year. Without making holiday treats the center of your diet, you can have a limited amount of them and still maintain your weight through the season. Just be sure the core of your diet stays the same every day – vegetables and lean proteins – and fit in the other foods on occasion. Dismiss the idea that all foods are okay in moderation. They’re not. If treating yourself on occasion can lead to out of control eating, don’t give into it. If, on the other hand, you can have a few treats once a week, and it doesn’t get things out of control, go for it. If the scale starts creeping up, get your nutrition under control right away.
One final suggestion – don’t let the coming “New Year” be a reason to skip your workouts. Exercising regularly through the holiday season can help keep weight gain at bay and give you a head start on everyone else who starts their exercise program after January 1. You won’t be able to undo bad choices with exercise, but hopefully exercising will help you make better choices and keep you feeling great through the holiday season.