5 Tips to Avoid Santa-Like Holiday Weight Gain
Enjoy all the merriment, minus a "belly that shakes when you laugh, like a bowl full of jelly."
The holidays are a wonderful time of year for food lovers. But while trying to stay healthy, there are tempting treats everywhere: office parties, holiday dinners and that sweet neighbor who brings cookies to your door.
It’s fine to indulge a little in this festive season. But the reality is casual noshing along the way could pack on the pounds. Here are 5 tips to keep the bulge off this holiday season:
1. Jot it down
The best way to see why you're gaining or losing weight is to track it, whether with an app or an old-fashioned pen and notebook. The key is to log everything you eat and drink and to do so immediately. It might sound burdensome, but it takes only a few minutes a day and can be illuminating. That handful of almonds post-workout? Jot it down. The cookie at the holiday party? It counts too. And be sure to track portion size and when you eat. If you wait too long between meals, you are much more likely to gnaw on that stale peppermint bark that's been living on the conference table. Tracking can help you identify postitive behavior as well, which is encouraging and tells you what works. Gaining one pound a week can come down to as little as 500 additional calories a day. That's one 16 oz. white chocolate peppermint mocha from Starbucks.
2. Use moderation with winter cocktails
While we're on the subject of beverages, you don't have to abstain from holiday cocktails completely. I mean, mistletoe punch and yule mules? Yum! But these tasty drinks can add a major calorie dent and padding to your waistline. If you're a wine or beer lover, stick to the basics and try to limit to 1-2 servings per outing. If you are a seasonal cocktail lover, indulge in your kryptonite, but cut back elsewhere and count that eggnog as dessert.
3. It’s okay to give away seasonal sweets
You don’t have to appreciate a sweet gift like chocolates by eating the whole box. During this time of year, chocolates, brownies and other sweet treats are a lovely way co-workers and friends show their admiration. Unfortunately, that gift contains calories too. Indulging in a nightly sweet treat is more likely when tempting items are in your home or office area. Add the stress and exhaustion of the holiday season and you have the perfect storm. Promote a "safe food house" by tempering the amount of sweets that are in the cupboard. And make smart substitutions. Keep healthy snacks within reach. One of my favorite protein-packed ways to avoid hunger pangs is ¼ cup of roasted nuts (or chestnuts, if you're feeling festive!) with an apple or berries, and low-fat Greek yogurt. If you love chocolate, have a small piece of dark chocolate, instead of that chocolate pie, which contains mostly regrets.
4. Stick to your rituals
For many of us, food is a way to celebrate and unwind with family and friends. But it shouldn't be the ONLY way. Find alternative festive activities that don’t involve calories. Your rituals can be as simple as a board game with family and friends, watching your favorite holiday movie, or a meditation or yoga class. Identify whatever works for you and don’t let it fall by the wayside this holiday season. If you veer off track, just start again the next day.
5. Bring your healthy habits into the New Year
Many folks think if they go all-out during December, they can restart in the New Year. Unfortunately, getting back to healthy habits may not be as easy as it sounds. If you stick to your usual routine, adding a few indulgences along the way shouldn’t derail your progress, especially if you incorporate excercise through the season. Bundle the family up for a walk on Christmas Day after opening presents. Put on your favorite holiday tunes and bust out in a family dance party. Fall on your butt ice skating. And if you need a little help keeping it all in balance, just think of me as the little dietician-angel-on-your-shoulder, gently reminding you that a second lap around the block is better than one around the dessert table.
Finally, this being the holidays, give yourself a break. This is a time for mindful enjoyment of food, friends and family. Not the time to beat yourself up over every edible transgression made in 2015. Remember, every time you take a walk, choose the healthy snack or practice portion control with those treats, you are giving yourself a present as good as any under the tree.