I have finally learned to avoid the stealthy pounds that creep up from Thanksgiving through mid-January and attach to my belly, butt and thighs.
Some of the answers are pretty simple, but I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that the simple actions aren’t always the easy ones.
Probably the most important thing I learned was just not to bake as much as I used to. Like every family, we have many traditions that swirl around the holidays like so much whipped cream on pie, which I got rid of. The whipped cream, not the pie. I mean, c’mon! Basically, I pared down the offerings to just a few can’t-live-withouts that I let everyone vote on. Turns out, nobody really liked the hoopla of baking and frosting 84 gazillion sugar cookies. We mindlessly ate them, though, well into January. So the sugar cookies got the heave-ho. (Bonus — You can imagine how much time that freed up, too, helping lower the ‘scheduling stress’ of it all.) But we kept our Christmas morning coffeecake, because some traditions you just don’t mess with. (We affectionately call it our Heart Attack in a Bundt Pan.)
I’m sure it’s no coincidence, but I also finally figured out portion control. Again, seems simple, right? But if you’re struggling with weight gain, you know how hard it is to eat proper amounts of food. It’s easy to lose perspective about proper portions, with all the supersizing of restaurant meals and ease of buying in bulk. But I’ve trained the voice in my head to swap the theme song to Gilligan’s Island for reminding me to “Eat half as much … you can always have more later if you’re truly hungry.” Of course, I’m, you know, lazy, so if I put away the leftovers first, then I won’t get them out again. And guess what? I never miss having seconds. I’ve realized that’s more of a habit than true hunger.
Everyone is tempted to eat only celery all day before going to a party … skipping breakfast and lunch so you can eat a huge Thanksgiving dinner … eating nothing sweet in October and then tearing into the kids’ trick-or-treat bag like a crazed hyena … saving all your calories for New Years Eve champagne … sticking your head in the spinach dip bread bowl at the Super Bowl party, you know, because it’s spinach and therefore good for you.
Instead, eat a high protein and fiber breakfast and lunch. It doesn’t have to be a big deal … scrambled eggs on whole grain toast, oatmeal with peanut butter, yogurt and berries.
When you’re at the buffet, try this — only put two things on your (small) plate at a time, one healthy and one not so much. The first time through, maybe carrot sticks and decadent dip. Second time, maybe shrimp and meatballs. Indulge a little, but don’t go crazy.
I’ve already posted some tips to remain in control at holiday parties (which I learned the hard way too) so take a look at those.
Whatever you do, DON’T turn down an invitation to a party because you’re scared of wrecking your diet. Life is too short to agonize over your weight. It’s much more important to connect with your friends and family … yes, even if it involves a million calories. Just don’t eat a million calories.
Skip the high-calorie frou-frou coffee drinks and the soda — even diet soda. The fake sugar in diet soda actually makes you crave even more sugar. You’re way better off at a party with a red wine spritzer. At least you’ll get in some resveratrol!
Sometimes I slip and eat more — much more — than I intended. When I finally figured out that I needed to get back on track right then instead of waiting until tomorrow, the weight came off easier too. It’s very tempting to say, “Oops, I screwed up … may as well have another brownie/serving of mashed potatoes/bottle of tequila.”
But don’t. I like the analogy of getting a traffic ticket. If you get stopped for speeding, you don’t say, “Oops, I screwed up … may as well keep speeding. I’ll slow down tomorrow. Or maybe next Monday.” No. You slow down right then.
During the holidays I’d rather enjoy all the parties and festivities, so I’m willing to work out harder and longer for the duration. I know I’ll probably consume more calories than normal from Thanksgiving through New Years, but I’ll also burn more too. Even if you just add ten or fifteen minutes to your workouts during the holidays, you’ll be ahead of the curve, no pun intended.
What about you … do you gain weight over the holidays? Do you have any favorite tips or tricks to avoid holiday weight gain? What will you do differently this year?