Follow these tips to escape unscathed from the bingeing season full of hard-to-resist cheats determined to expand your waistline.
Here’s a riddle. What holiday gift does nobody want, but too many receive? A clue: It’s something to wear, but it doesn’t look good. It goes with absolutely nothing in your closet. And worst of all, you can’t re-gift it.
Give up? For some it is the “Holiday 12,” and we aren’t talking the Days of Christmas. Others call it the “Deadly Seasonal Seven.” Whatever you call it, weight gain during the six-week holiday season, which starts with Thanksgiving, is a very real threat – right up there with extended visits from the in-laws.
Before you slash your wrists on the crimped buttery crust of a slice of pecan pie, there is good news. According to the National Institutes of Health, most people overestimate their holiday weight gain. Sure, you ate like a stuffed pig, but you don’t actually look like one.
Unfortunately the good news is tied up in some very nasty grinch-like bad news. Find a sleigh to sit on and brace yourself. What weight you do actually gain—typically a little over a pound each and every year—is your new stalker FOR LIFE.
That’s right. You only gain a pound or so, but you don’t lose it. Same thing next year, and the next. Some of you are already doing the math. Go ahead, carry the one, we’ll wait. If your addition is correct, you will resemble that stuffed pig long before baby Sue ever figures out there’s no Santa.
So it makes sense to be hyper-vigilant at this time of the year. Does this mean no gorging on slabs of fudge with crushed candy canes on top? No spiked eggnog sprinkled with cinnamon? No cute little appetizers impaled on toothpicks?
Yep. That’s pretty much what it means.
Duane Alexander, M.D., Director of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development said, “These findings suggest that developing ways to avoid holiday weight gain may be extremely important for preventing obesity and the diseases associated with it.”
So we need ways to stop extra holiday pounds without actually stopping the holidays. Sure, it’s a time of joy and good cheer, but it is also war. It is a battle for your good health. Armed with the following not-so-secret weapon, that extra pound lying in wait for you will become another casualty, just like the zero balance on your Visa bill.
The secret weapon is simple but deadly: PLANNING. With proper planning, those globs of future fat will have to settle for someone else’s thighs, preferably someone you don’t like. Yeah, that’s the holiday spirit!
The first prong of attack is planning your social events. If your problem is too many calories due to too many obligatory parties, it is OK to occasionally “Just Say No” and stay home with a salad, some nice grilled chicken, and a little quality time with your treadmill.
But eventually you will need to face the chocolate fountain. Plan for it.
There are several party tricks to help you stay slim. Alas, none of them involves dancing on the table with a lampshade on your head. Rather, all of them take the focus off the food.
The Nutrition Twins, Lyssie Lakatos and her sister Tammy Lakatos Shames offer some great tips to avoid holiday pounds. “Afraid of overdoing it at the holiday party? Be the life of the party and make a deal with yourself to meet six new people and only fill a small plate once.” The authors of Fire Up Your Metabolism: 9 Proven Principles for Burning Fat and Losing Weight Forever recommend filling up with a small bowl of oatmeal and a cup of warm tea before the party. “You should never arrive at a holiday party hungry.”
You can play little games to make the food more difficult to get to your mouth. Trade hands. Use your dominant hand to hold the plate and your less coordinated hand to hold the fork. Don’t try this if you are hoping for hook-ups, as sending meatballs careening across the floor with an awkward stab will dry up any romantic prospects. Or use chopsticks. Or choose food you don’t like or know how to eat. That will slow you down.
It’s also a good trick to make the smorgasbord less appetizing. One approach is to hold off eating for 30 minutes and watch the buffet tables get decimated. It won’t look quite so appetizing after it’s been picked over by that guy with sinus drip or the girl from the office who you know never washes her hands after her frequent bathroom visits. When the lovely presentation is nothing but gaping wounds of wilting canapés, your appetite is guaranteed to shrink.
But it may make you want to drink, if only for medicinal purposes. Remember, the open bar is just as big a trap as the hors d’oeuvre tray. Be wary. It’s a diet ambush for the unprepared.
The time to plan your alcoholic consumption is before you actually start drinking. Any plan concocted while imbibing is nothing but a Trojan Horse. And if your liquor-tight plan springs a leak at first sip, admit it, then plan for that, too.
Alcohol is loaded with calories. It’s enticing, it’s seductive, but it won’t look so hot the next morning. There are four ways to plan for holiday booze:
1. Accept that you will be a fat drunk and move on.
2. Stick religiously to non-alcoholic drinks – everyone loves a Designated Driver.
3. Limit yourself to two or switch off between wine and water.
4. Substitute lower calorie drinks like lite beer for calorie-dense margaritas.
Once you’ve mapped out the parties, the shopping, and the family get-togethers, you are completely stressed. How can you fit in any workouts when you are up until midnight wrapping Tickle-Me-Elmo or assembling a tricycle?
Now is when you need your fitness routine the most. Burn calories, reduce tension, build muscle, get away from the crowds; it’s a chance to escape the season for a while. After all, the holidays will soon be a distant memory, but those love handles? They could be forever.
So you know what to do for the critical six weeks of the holiday season. Plan, plan, plan. Plan what you will eat and when, plan never to get caught hungry, plan to keep your fitness routine in place, plan to keep tabs on the scale. Plan to maximize your enjoyment of the season while minimizing the influence of high-fat, calorie-laden holiday fare.
But for every “do” there is a corresponding “don’t” attached. It pays to keep those in mind too. Registered Dietician and Nutrition Coach Sheri Barke suggest you DON’T plan a fresh-start diet for January 1. “Anticipation of food restrictions sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays.” It’s better to continue to plan carefully for special occasions and to eat moderately every day. Then the New Year’s diet won’t be so necessary.
On the flip side, don’t plan to lose weight in December either. Holding steady is the gold standard during this hectic period. You should be happy with not gaining. What do you want, the moon? Be realistic and moderate.
Maintaining your healthy weight is the best holiday gift you can give yourself. And you don’t need to save the receipt.
Chomping on candy cane after candy cane? Warm up with a cup of 25-calorie sugar-free hot cocoa with a splash of Vitasoy’s seasonal, organic Chocolate Peppermint soy milk.
Overdoing the eggnog? Save more than 200 calories by using Vitasoy’s Holly Nog instead. Creamy and light with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg.
Bring your own healthy hors d’oeuvres to the party. Try bringing veggie crudités but instead of using high calorie dressings, use Gourmet Garden squeezable fresh spices. Try mixing the squeezable basil, chili pepper and cilantro together for a unique, delicious twist—it makes a great dip with Wasa crackers or Ry-Krisp light crackers.
Pumpkin pie lovers: Open a can of pumpkin, add a few packets of Splenda and cinnamon. A half-cup will give you just 40 calories, 300 percent vitamin A and 5 grams of fiber. Spread that on a graham cracker—you’ll never need the real pie again.
Craving holiday mashed potatoes? Boil cauliflower, mash it and add a little skim milk and butter buds and keep it for times of cravings. MS&F