With Thanksgiving and then the holidays right around the corner, you might already be stressed about blowing your diet and needing to ask for new clothes for Christmas or Hannukah!
But you don’t have to accept piling on the pounds as inevitable.
If you use these nine simple tricks throughout the holiday season, you can go into the new year still fitting into your favourite pants and avoid holiday weight gain altogether!
How To Prevent Holiday Weight Gain
1. Stay active
Holiday parties tend to involve a lot of sitting or standing in one place. You don’t have to start running laps around the Thanksgiving table, but make the effort to get some exercise on the days in between parties (and on the day of if you can manage it!).
Regularly getting your blood pumping will keep your metabolism running high – burning extra calories and keeping your energy levels up for the hustle and bustle of the season.
2. Drink lots of water before meals
Sometimes we overeat because our bodies are actually craving water. Staying well hydrated throughout the day can keep you from mistaking thirst for hunger. If you make a habit of drinking a full glass of water right before mealtime, it will help to send the “I’m full” signal to your belly sooner than when you eat on a completely empty stomach.
3. Eat healthy snacks before going to parties
Not eating before to a party to “save up your calories” for later can sometimes backfire. If you arrive at an event and you’re ravenous, you’ll be less selective. Everything will look delicious, and your willpower will be strained.
If you fill up on healthy snacks before you even arrive, smaller portions will be satisfying and it will be much easier to take “just a taste” or even skip the decadent desserts entirely. Foods with protein and fiber are good bets for staying satiated before the party food is served.
4. Mentally prepare and plan what you will have
Especially if you are already on a diet, thinking ahead to what you will and won’t eat at the party can prevent bad in-the-moment choices. Mentally prepare by deciding ahead of time which foods are can’t-miss treats and which ones aren’t worth the extra calories. For example, foods you can have any old time (like chips and dip) might be worth skipping for that pumpkin pie your sister makes only once a year.
You can even go as far as creating a mental picture of the portion sizes you plan to take in each category (protein, starch, vegetable, dessert). If you’re worried about being pressured to eat more than you should by family members, rehearse a polite way to decline and keep coming back to that phrase if you need it.
5. Store leftovers in individual portions
If you store all of the leftover turkey and potatoes in one big container, it can be difficult to gauge an appropriate serving size when you’re helping yourself to some the next day. If you take the extra few moments to package any leftover food into individual portions, it’s so much easier to make sure you’re getting a normal meal-sized amount. The same goes for desserts. Slice up cakes and pies and store them individually. And separate cookies out into sandwich bags (one or two per bag).
6. Chew flavoured sugar-free gum or mints to curb appetite
Chewing gum or popping a mint can trick your mind into thinking you are eating something. You’ll get a little taste of sweetness, which might be enough to help you skip the dessert table. Opting for sugar-free options will keep you from trading those dessert calories for gum and mint calories (that means candy canes are not a good option here!). As an added bonus, the refreshing taste of mint may make some of the unhealthy party options sound less appealing. Mint simply doesn’t pair well with eggnog, wine, or apple pie!
7. Beware of liquid calories
Soda, juice, wine, fancy coffee drinks, hot chocolate, and eggnog can hide an alarming number of calories! Consider in advance which one you might want to indulge in, and treat yourself to only one small glass. Take your time and savour it if you do indulge. It’s so easy to mindlessly down liquid calories. Opt for unsweetened tea, water, or sparkling water for the rest of the party.
Even when you’re not at a party, don’t get sucked in by the festive posters advertising holiday drinks at your favourite coffee shop. Those drinks tend to deliver a huge amount of sugar calories.
8. Learn to substitute
If you can look at the party spread with a goal to choose the healthiest option in any category, it can help prevent becoming so overwhelmed with options that you end up scooping yourself a bit of everything.
Look for dips like hummus or guacamole instead of ranch or cheese dip. Choose to hit the veggie tray instead of the chips or crackers if you want something crunchy. Opt for plain baked potatoes over candied sweet potatoes and plain turkey over honey ham. If fresh fruit or fruit salad is an option, enjoy that instead of a sugary dessert. If you do decide to indulge in dessert, pick the lowest-impact treat you can – one cookie instead of a whole slice of pie, for example. When it comes to drinks, unsweetened tea, sparkling water, or plain water are refreshing substitutes for soda, wine, or hot chocolate.
If you’re concerned about limited options to choose from, consider bringing your own! Most hosts are delighted at the gesture (if it’s a particularly fancy gathering, you may want to check with them first), and you might make the party a little easier for other guests who are also watching their weight.
9. Watch mindless eating
Location matters here! Don’t park yourself by the tray of pigs-in-a-blanket or bowl of chips. It’s so easy to keep reaching for “just one more” when they’re within easy reach! And just because someone offers to refill your wine glass or scoop you the last of the mashed potatoes doesn’t mean you have to say yes!
If your gathering includes watching the big football game or a holiday movie together, make a rule for yourself that you will only eat in the dining area – not in front of the television. When you’re distracted by TV, it’s so easy to lose track of how much you’ve actually eaten or to pay close attention to your body’s “full” signal. If you’re the one preparing the party food, be mindful not to keep sneaking little samples. It may feel insignificant, but those little bites do have calories and they do add up!
Even after the holidays have passed, these 9 tips are good to keep in mind for any party situation. With a little planning, you can stick to your diet through the holiday season – and feel good about it, too!