Top 10 Simple Holiday Dieting Tips
The average American gains one to two pounds every year during the holiday season. That may not sound like a lot, but it turns out that, despite our best intentions, those extra pounds tend to stay put in the new year.
Multiply a small annual holiday weight gain by a lifetime, and before long your midsection could start to shake when you laugh like a bowl full of jelly.
Not the physique you had in mind? Here are a few tips to help you emulate Santa's jolliness this holiday season — not his waistline.
1. Don't Skip Meals
It may be tempting to starve yourself all day so you can eat more at a holiday meal or party, but that move often backfires and you arrive so hungry that you pig out. If you have a holiday gathering in the evening, eat a light lunch packed with protein. Then, about an hour before the event, have a small 100-calorie healthy snack to help keep you from over-indulging at the party.
2. Control Portions With Small Plates
Use the smallest plate available. Research shows that people tend to eat everything on their plate — whether or not they're enjoying it. In fact, a Cornell University study showed that people ate 52 percent more cereal when given a large bowl instead of a small one.
3. Limit Alcohol
Not to be a holiday party pooper, but drinking a lot can quickly add on the pounds. In addition to the high calorie count in many alcoholic beverages, alcohol can lower your inhibitions and your blood sugar, both of which can cause you to eat more, said Lori Graff, a dietitian at the Hy-Vee supermarket in Waukee.
If you do indulge in a drink or two, consider wine, a lower-calorie option than many other beverages, at just 123 calories for a 5-ounce glass. And if you're having a glass of wine with dinner, try holding off until you sit down for your meal. A Colorado State University study shows that people may compensate for the extra calories in their drink by eating a little less of their meal.
4. If You Don't Love It, Don't Eat It
Sue Thill of Des Moines has maintained a 50-pound weight loss for many years. She tries not to deprive herself, but she also doesn't waste calories on anything she doesn't love. She skips the sugar cookies, most candy, and most bread, but she lets herself indulge in small portions of her holiday favorites – her family's traditional potato lefse, one or two peanut butter blossom cookies (instead of 10…), and a small slice of pumpkin pie.
5. Savor Your Food
Instead of hovering near the hors d'oeuvres table, fill a small plate, sit down, take small bites, and chew your food slowly. This will help you enjoy your food more, keep track of what you're actually eating, and give your brain time to get the message that your stomach is full.
6. Eat More, Not Less
This tip applies to vegetables only! Eating plenty of vegetables will help you fill up so you eat less of the higher-calorie options. Graff recommends setting a goal to eat one pound of vegetables per day. "Roasted root vegetables, spinach salad, and butternut squash soup are all delicious ways to increase your vegetable intake," Graff said.
7. Chew Gum
Chewing sugar-free gum is a favorite trick that keeps Thill from eating mindlessly. And research supports her approach — a Louisiana State University study showed that people who chewed gum in the afternoon were less likely to snack than those who didn't.
8. Make Time To Exercise
"Exercise relieves stress, boosts your mood, and puts you in the mind frame that you are a healthy person so eating healthier is easier," Graff said.
"It also burns extra calories, allowing you to eat a few of your favorite treats and maintain your weight."
Vic Morales of Johnston makes sure to stay active during the holiday season by keeping up with his long-distance running, shoveling snow instead of using a snow blower, and sledding with his kids. But despite his active lifestyle, diet is still key for Morales, who recently reached five years of sustaining a 40-pound weight loss. "You can't out-exercise a bad diet," he said.
Mark Sisson, who runs the popular primal nutrition blog www.marksdailyapple.com, backs up Morales' contention. As he says on his blog, "Eighty percent of your body composition will be determined by your diet. Yes, exercise is also important to health and to speed up fat-burning and muscle-building, but most of your results will come from how you eat. People who exercise a ton, but eat a ton, still tend to weigh a ton."
9. Focus On Non-Food Holiday Joy
Don't forget that there's more to the holidays than food! Throughout the season, Graff recommends scheduling events you look forward to that are not centered on food. This could include treating yourself to a massage, going through old photographs, ice skating with friends, or going to a holiday concert.
Jodi Steger of Des Moines recently lost more than 30 pounds and ran her first half marathon this year. To help her maintain her weight this holiday season, she intends to focus on the meaning of the holidays, not on the food. For her family this means sharing what they're thankful for before their modest Thanksgiving meal, getting their Christmas tree from a tree farm and going all out with decorations, and setting New Year's goals together for the year ahead.
10. Know Yourself, And Plan Ahead
Not every idea will work for every person. To help you successfully maintain your weight this holiday season, Graff advises being realistic about which ideas will work best for you and making a plan.