The holiday season brings about mixed feelings about gathering with family, driving long distances and overeating. Holiday weight gain seems inevitable, but it is avoidable.
What you often eat at holiday gatherings is comfort food, and it tastes delicious. It’s easy to overstuff yourself and live out the weight gain regret later. Avoid holiday weight gain with these tips:
- Eat Slowly
Remember how you were told to chew your food 32 times as a kid? The lore comes from a diet “expert” named Horace Fletcher in the 1800’s, who said that you should chew your food 32 times, one for every tooth. President Theodore Roosevelt and Franz Kafka were among the famous people who followed his advice.
Though Fletcher had no scientific background, there’s something to his method. Chewing your food more slowly makes you more conscious of your body and its processes. Digestion begins in the mouth with saliva breaking down the food. You’ll also be more conscious of all the flavors of the food and will be more likely to realize when you’ve reached your limit.
Take time to enjoy conversation with your family, even if that’s keeping it to small talk or discussing your favorite television show. Pace yourself.
- Drink Water
Ever notice when you eat a big meal and still feel hungry soon after? Why is that?
What did you drink with your meal? Was it tea, coffee or soda? Did you have water, and how much of that did you drink?
If you’re still feeling hungry after a meal, you may be confusing your cravings. When you feel hungry, you may really be thirsty, since both hunger and thirst are controlled by the same part of the brain. If you’re overstuffing yourself and experiencing a headache, you’re probably dehydrated.
So, have a tall glass of water, and if you still feel hungry 15 minutes later, then have a healthy snack.
- Plan Healthy Holiday Meal Choices
If cooking for the family, you will have some control over making healthy menu choices. Of course, everyone will expect their favorite main courses and sides, but they can deal with it — or bring their own as a potluck. Many family gatherings are typically potluck-style, anyway.
You’ll be hopping from home to home, and eating a lot of food in a short span of time. How is it possible to not overeat and eat healthy when you do? Survey the buffer first before choosing your foods, and graze, focusing on whole carbs, lean meat, greens and fruit. Make your plate colorful! Leave space between the food groups.
Choose one meal to go heavy on, and go lighter on the next meal. Take small portions of desserts instead of larger ones, or pick a favorite dessert you can’t do without to eat. One slice of pie isn’t going to add two pounds to your hips overnight. When cooking, there are a few hacks to cook leaner and healthier meals:
- Refrigerate gravy until it hardens and skim the fat off the top.
- Substitute skim milk or almond milk in recipes instead, such as for mashed potatoes.
- Top green bean casserole with crunchy almonds instead of fried onions.
- Add more celery and herbs to stuffing, and include whole wheat bread.
Is there a long drive to the next house? Bring healthy snacks, such as trail mix, and focus on thinking of the big day of holiday eating as several small meals, not three or four big ones. Don’t be afraid to shake up tradition, and introduce a new healthy side. People get tired of eating the same thing all day.
- Mind the Alcohol
Is alcohol part of a strategy to ease yourself into an awkward family gathering? Maybe hot toddies and eggnog are a well-loved family tradition you can’t miss out on.
It’s easy to forget how many calories a delicious mixed drink or beer contains. The real problem with alcohol consumption over the holidays is that it loosens your inhibitions, making you more likely to overeat. You’ll end up talking to your cousin by the snacks and nibbling on everything in sight.
Select lighter beers. Don’t drink different kinds of alcohol — stick to whiskey, over whiskey and vodka. Choose red wine over white for its heart-friendly benefits, such as antioxidants.
- Pay Attention to Your Body
Besides paying attention to your levels of hunger and thirst, you should be conscious of your other bodily needs, including sleep and exercise.
Get between seven to nine hours of sleep because sleep deprivation leads you to search for energy-boosting unhealthy foods, such as candy and soda. Poor quality of sleep will also encourage you to eat junk food. Your complex decision-making skills become impaired, and your rewards center of the brain experiences increased activity, making you want to over-engage in guilty pleasure eating.
So, park a little farther from your destination. You’ll get a chance to stretch your legs before diving in again. Why not talk a slow walk after the meal, and get some fresh air? Play family football.
Pace yourself this holiday season to enjoy time with family and sample all the delicious options. Don’t be afraid to introduce healthier sides and ingredients to switch up a traditional menu.
Chew slowly. Drink more water. Mind the alcohol. Most of all, pay attention to your body and what it’s saying to you. Does it really want that cheesecake for dessert? That’s okay, but don’t forget to get good sleep afterward and walk it off!