The holiday season brings with it a lot of joy and festivity. However, if you’re trying to get to or maintain a healthy weight, it can also be a minefield of unhealthy food choices. Many people put on weight during the winter, and the holidays are a big part of the problem. So many celebrations include a focus on food and indulging. If you are on a weight loss plan, that can complicate things. But don’t stress too much, you can keep on track with these 10 tips to avoid holiday weight gain.
1. Eat Before the Event
When you’re trying to stay on track with your nutrition and weight loss goals, one of the worst things you can do is show up to a party hungry. Have a healthy meal before you go so you won’t be as tempted to fill up on high-calorie foods. If you wait to eat at a party or event, you might not know what options you will have, and if there aren’t any healthy options, you’ll be more likely to fill up on high-fat, high-sugar, high-calorie foods because you are hungry.
2. Focus on Something Other than the Food
So many gatherings with family, friends, and coworkers are centered around food and drinks. Your social calendar during the holiday season may include a lot of buffets, dinner parties, potlucks, and happy hours. Plus there are the traditional big meals on Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. While it’s hard to get around the focus on food at those meals, when you’re at a party, find other ways to enjoy the event. It’s not all about the food, you’re also there to socialize and spend time with people. So instead of lingering by the snack table, make an effort to make the rounds to talk with people and participate in party games or other activities.
3. Bring a Healthy Dish to Share
If you are going to a potluck, family dinner, or other party focused around a meal, bring something healthy that you can eat and make enough to share. That way, you know you will have a healthy option so you won’t be “forced” to eat something that’s not part of your meal plan. Also, by having enough to share with others, you might feel less singled out by eating different food than the rest of the party.
4. Be Careful of Liquid Calories
Holiday parties often mean festive libations. But don’t forget that a lot of alcoholic drinks can be high in calories, especially mixed drinks that use simple syrup, sugar, or juice. Egg-nog is another festive, high-calorie offender even if it isn’t alcoholic. The same goes for hot cocoa. So when you’re figuring out how much you can indulge, take drinks into account.
5. Stay Active
Studies have shown that starting your day with exercise can lead to better decisions about health and diet during the rest of the day. Food may be less tempting and you may have fewer cravings. To avoid holiday weight gain, try increasing the length or frequency of your workouts.
6. Limit Indulgences
While it is important to cut out most foods that are high in sugar, starch, or unhealthy fats, a highly restrictive mindset may backfire. If you have a lot of holiday parties on your schedule, let yourself have one small serving of the treat at each party. Or try the three-bite rule: take three bites of the food even if the portion is larger. The first bite will give you that taste you’re craving, the middle bite lets you enjoy it, and the last bite is for savoring. You may want to compensate with more exercise and fewer calories during the day. On days you do not have parties, just skip any indulging altogether.
7. Use a Small Plate
Ask for a small plate when eating at parties and celebrations that way when you fill your plate, there is less room to load it up with not-great foods. There are also theories that when you use a smaller plate, it looks like you are having a full portion rather than a partial one, which can make you feel satisfied with less. And don’t go back for seconds.
8. Be Picky
When choosing appetizers or buffet items, half the plate should be vegetables, one-quarter meat, and one-quarter starch. If there is a veggie platter, don’t fall into the trap of dipping them in creamy dressings. Limit crackers, cheese, and meat if charcuterie is offered. Also, try and get as many servings of fruits and vegetables as possible, seven is recommended for avoiding weight gain.
9. Don’t “Save Up” Calories
Some people think that if they eat very little during the day, they can have a bank of calories to use on a meal or treat later on. While modifying your food choices during the day in anticipation of a treat is a good idea, not eating enough or at all so you can “splurge” on something later is not. You need to eat frequent small meals throughout the day to help with metabolism. On days when you need to limit calories, try and fill up with nutrient-dense vegetables or foods with high water content.
10. Politely Decline
Nobody wants to be impolite to the host of a party, and sometimes refusing food can be taken that way. However, there are ways to be firm without upsetting anyone or putting down their food choices. If someone pushes you to try or have more of something, respond with a definitive “no, thank you.” You can also prevent hard feelings by saying, “No, thank you. Everything was delicious but I just couldn’t eat another bite.” And stick to your guns.
Make an Appointment
At Total Healthcare MD, we know that losing weight is not always a simple process. We come up with a personalized weight loss program for each of our patients because there is no single plan that works for everyone. If you have questions about weight loss, including how to avoid holiday weight gain, we can help. To get started, call us at (919) 436-3777 to make an appointment.