To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you need to make sustainable, healthy choices so frequently that they turn into habits. The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be — and the less overwhelming those New Year’s resolutions will feel.The key here is not meeting the goal weight loss during the holidays, but rather making small, specific changes that can have a big impact over time. Try replacing soda with water at mealtimes, planning two healthy meals for the week every Sunday, or scheduling strength training session for 30 minutes three days per week. Avoiding holiday weight gain isn’t easy, but it’s also not as hard as you may think. Put these strategies into practice and enjoy the holidays with friends and family. If, come January 1, you’re still hovering around your current weight, consider that a win!
1. Stick with your healthy habits during the week. Don’t get caught up in the holiday bustle and let your regular meal planning or workout routine fall to the wayside. Continue to incorporate nutritious meals and exercise into your usual workweek, when your schedule is more structured. This will give you a little more wiggle room for indulging or kicking back and relaxing a bit on the weekend. Drinking your daily Shakeology is an easy way to stick to your healthy routine, and it can help keep holiday cravings at bay. (Check out these tasty holiday Shakeology recipes!)
2. Eat a filling breakfast and lunch. Don’t starve yourself before the big meal! You may think you’re “saving up calories,” but the hungrier you are when you arrive, the more likely you are to make poor food choices and wind up eating more than you might have otherwise. Start the day with a healthy, satisfying breakfast and a reasonable lunch, so you won’t be ravenous by the time the holiday meal is served.
3. Get enough sleep. Sleep deprivation not only messes with your mind, but it also makes you feel hungrier, too. When deprived of sleep, the body produces more ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” that increases your desire to eat. It’s not always easy to do but, by getting enough sleep, your body will be better at regulating hunger and you’ll be less likely to overeat.
4. Avoid over-grazing before and after the meal. Whatever time your family typically sits down at the table to eat — hors d’oeuvres, snacks, cocktails, and even desserts are often passed around before and after the meal for guests to “graze” on. If you must "snack" a little before or after the meal, avoid grabbing directly from the table. Oversized bowls of chips, dips, and appetizer platters are an invitation to over-consume. Take a salad-sized plate and serve yourself a moderate-sized portion of a few of your favorite party foods instead.
To avoid overindulging, set the time when you plan to start eating, as well as the time when you will stop. Then, once you get up and leave the table, move on to other activities, such as reminiscing with grandma or playing with the kids.
5. Select a smaller plate. Research shows that the bigger the plate we take, the bigger the portion we put on it. Nine-inch plates (versus 12-inch dinner plates) make normal portions look more filling, but go too small and you’ll be more inclined to go back for seconds. Pass by those oversized dinner plates and undersized appetizer dishes and go for a more moderate-sized salad plate instead.
6. Eat only the foods you love. You've only got so much space on your plate, so don’t fill it with foods you feel lukewarm about. If you’re going to indulge in one serving of high-calorie finger foods at a party, go for the ones that will bring you the most enjoyment; just strive to keep the amount modest. Seasonal treats aren’t truly enjoyable if they just leave you feeling regretful afterwards.
7. Bring your own healthy dishes and incorporate healthy food swaps. To make sure you’ll have a healthier option you enjoy at holiday gatherings, bring your own dish to share. Wow fellow guests with cheesy, easy-to-eat cauliflower nachos or breadsticks, or bake up a dish of this eggplant parm for a simple, serve-yourself appetizer. Greek yogurt makes a creamy stand-in for mayo in dressings and pasta salads. Mashed cauliflower rather than potatoes for a healthy swap that still tastes delicious (for the skeptics, try half-and-half cauliflower and potatoes). “Noodles” made with veggies are another option. If you want to watch a professional chef remake holiday favorites, such as beef tenderloin, sweet potato casserole, and festive cocktails, into healthier dishes, check out FIXATE, a cooking show created by 21 Day Fix creator Autumn Calabrese and her brother, chef Bobby Calabrese.
8. How do you want to feel as you’re leaving? Before even arriving at the party (and perhaps once again before taking your first bite), imagine how you want to feel when it’s time to leave. Stuffed like a turkey? Or happy, satisfied, and proud of yourself for keeping your goals on track? You’ll be amazed at how powerful this mental exercise can be in allowing you to enjoy the gathering to the fullest without overindulging. So, if you’re going to torture yourself after you eat a treat, maybe reconsider it. But, if you’re going to allow yourself a cheat, savor it, accept it, and then move on.
9. Be active. Try building a healthy activity into your day, whether it’s a hike or a neighborhood game of touch football. If you’re giving gifts, think about toys and games that promote an active lifestyle. If you’re too old for toys, then get out there and play with your kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, or even your pet. Participate in a holiday race, coordinate a family hike, set up a ping-pong tournament in the garage, have a family dance-off, or press play on a Beachbody On Demand family workout before the party begins!
10. Go booze-free Sunday through Thursday. If a glass of wine, craft beer, or cocktail is part of your evening ritual, consider doing without your nightly drink during the holiday season. Like soda, alcohol is a source of empty calories and, over the course of a month or so, those nightcap calories really add up. If you want to avoid holiday weight gain, save your alcohol calories for festivities with friends or family on the weekend.
11. Put off pre-dinner drinks. Not only is alcohol a sneaky source of empty calories, but research also suggests it makes us more inclined to overeat. Alcohol appears to sensitize the brain’s response to food aromas, which can lead us to eat more. This study suggests that having just a couple of drinks before a meal will likely increase your food consumption, so, if you’ve got a party to go to, opt for one or two after-dinner drinks instead. By doing so, you’ll be less likely to overeat, and get the added benefit of having some food in your stomach to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
12. Most of all, be sure to stay positive! First, remember that there’s no better time of year to remind yourself of why you want to lose weight in the first place. Your friends and family care about you and want you to succeed. They want you to be happy, healthy, and on your way to becoming the person you want to be in 2018! Seeing your loved ones at these gatherings is a great reminder that the holidays are about so much more than the food. Those delicious dishes and desserts are just tokens of the love you share among the most important people in your life. If things don’t go exactly as planned, don’t beat yourself up. Just move on and stay focused on your goal.