We all tend to indulge a bit more than usual during holiday time, so I’ve come up with some tips to help you stay on track til the new year (when everyone hits the gym!). Before you groan and think I’m going to say, “Just eat less and avoid sweets,” take heed! My tips aren’t what you’re thinking. I also included some pointers to help you navigate holiday parties without going overboard.
My Tips to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain
- The first and most important tip is: stay on your regular eating plan! Don’t starve yourself in repentance for indulging at a party; don’t starve yourself in anticipation of a party where you might overindulge; and don’t start on any crazy restrictive diet to “save up” so you can indulge over the next few weeks. This restrictive behavior leads to bingeing and obsessing about food rather than enjoying the season.
- Enjoy a protein rich breakfast within an hour of waking to get good energy and stable blood sugar for the day. This means exclude cereals, oatmeal, pastries, and bread products, all of which break down into sugar and are low in protein, leading to a crash and sugar cravings later. Try an egg-veggie scramble or chicken apple sausage with spinach and avocado (both ready in 10 minutes). Click here for my breakfast suggestions.
- Simple: DON’T EAT IF YOU’RE NOT HUNGRY. This is the biggest issue that leads to weight gain. Chew your food slowly and eat mindfully! It’s easy to pop handfuls of treats during the day when the candy dish overfloweth, but ask yourself if you really want that third truffle, and slowly enjoy the treats you do indulge in. Don’t mindlessly walk past the candy dish and pop treats–they really add up! Mindful eating is one of the most powerful ways to enjoy and absorb nutrients from food.
- If you do have the urge to overeat or indulge in unhealthy snacking when you’re not truly hungry, make yourself a cup of green or herbal tea or drink a glass of water. We often mistaken thirst for hunger. Take a walk or remove yourself from the situation. This is called “urge surfing.” Give yourself 10 minutes into your new activity, and the craving will likely be gone.
- Get plenty of probiotic foods. My faves are raw kraut and coconut water kefir. Plus it’s fizzy and curbs appetite. Or take a probiotic supplement to keep your internal terrain balanced and your digestion on track. Probiotics feed the good bacteria in your digestive tract, enhance digestion, combat bad yeast that contribute to sugar cravings, and boost immunity. Here is my favorite probiotic.
- Glutamine can really help stave off sugar cravings. Try breaking one or two capsules into a little water (it’s flavorless) and dissolve it, then drink. It really helps!
- While alcoholic beverages add to the celebratory nature of the holidays, they pack a lot of calories without nutrients and cause cellular damage and inflammation. Too much booze also leads to overeating. Cut down on alcohol consumption by drinking a glass of water after each alcoholic drink you imbibe. Good choices are champagne, red wine, or vodka/club soda. Try not to exceed two drinks.
- If you have several parties back to back (popular you!), don’t think you have to drink alcohol every night. Try a mocktail: sparkling water with lime. It looks like a vodka drink, so you’ll blend right in!
- Sugary indulgences and too much booze make a body acidic, and an acidic body is more prone to inflammation, pain, and degenerative conditions. To restore alkalinity, drink an 8 ounce glass of hot water with the juice from a 1/2 a lemon first thing in the morning (especially if you’re overindulged the night before. In that case, add some grated ginger root for additional detox and to combat bloat). You can also add a teaspoon of cayenne pepper to help rev up your metabolism and strengthen immunity. This is especially good if you stayed out too late and are hungover, as this drink is cleansing for the liver. Don’t hit the coffee too hard–it’s very acidic. Stick to green tea or coconut water (both good for hangovers!). I love this turmeric tea for detox and as an anti-inflammatory after too much booze.
- Keep up with your exercise program during the holidays! Move more. You can get by with just 15 minutes a day. I have an entire pinterest board dedicated to quick workouts.
- Finally, if you’re making goals for the new year, START NOW. That means don’t go overboard and suddenly start your new lifestyle on January 1. That plan makes achieving your goals much harder. If you want to lose weight, start exercising or watching your portions now, for example.
How to Prevent Party Pig-out
Want to know what I eat at holiday parties? Whatever I want! That’s right. You heard me. I don’t make the party about the food, and setting myself up with all kinds of restrictions beforehand makes me obsess about what I’m going to eat and not eat. I don’t go crazy, but I try a bit of anything that looks good. The only caveat here is if you are on a strict healing plan, such as the autoimmune protocol, or if you are sensitive to foods such as dairy and gluten that make you ill.
The biggest piece of advice you’ll see on this is, “Don’t arrive at the party hungry.” I say, if it’s a party where there’s lots of good food, go in anticipation of such! Don’t starve yourself beforehand–eat regularly that day, and treat the party fare as another meal. Don’t overload your plate. Pick a few good options and STOP EATING WHEN YOU’RE FULL. I cannot stress this enough: don’t eat if you aren’t hungry, or are no longer hungry!
- Survey the entire food spread first, then choose a few things that you really want. Stick to the protein-based apps like shrimp, deviled eggs, salmon, or meatballs.
- Don’t hover around buffet tables at parties. Avoid auto-grazing by staying as far from the buffet as possible once you’ve filled your plate.
- Watch your portion sizes. Do not go back for seconds. Enjoy the food and be satisfied with one plate.
- Be aware that eating sugar makes you want more.
- Include healthy, non-starchy carbohydrates such as veggies. They are a better choice than crackers and cheese, chicken wings, roasted nuts, and cookies, and the fiber will provide satiety.
- Choose one or 2 indulgences, and be satisfied with them. Try one bite of several different desserts you want, or share with a friend so you can get a good variety.
Have fun out there!
Mary Vance is a Certified Nutrition Consultant and author specializing in digestive health. She combines a science-based approach with natural therapies to rebalance the body. In addition to her 1:1 coaching, she offers courses to help you heal your gut and improve your health. Mary lives in San Francisco and Lake Tahoe in Northern California. Read more about her coaching practice here and her background here.
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