Even if you have superhuman willpower, the festive season is challenging for everyone.
Between the cakes, drinks, parties and extended family buffets, indulgence is around every corner – and sometimes it’s pretty damn hard to say no to.
Unfortunately, the extra pounds don’t disappear with the decorations. Pre-holiday and holiday weight gain (all the way from Halloween to the holidays) can take 5 months to lose, according to recent Cornell University research. And nobody wants to start the new year in the hole, body-wise.
Thankfully, there’s no need to. Here are some tips to indulge during the holidays without looking like Santa as a consequence.
Know what a high-calorie drink is.
Christmas time and getting sloshed is pretty much synonymous, but you may want to think twice before ordering that Long Island Iced Tea – it has more calories than a Big Mac, and so do Pina Coladas, Margaritas and Mai Tais.
For people who exercise regularly, drinking a White Russian over the weekend probably won’t do you much harm, but most nutritionists would agree drinking and dieting mix like whiskey and milk. Instead, stick to low-calorie spirits like vodka.
Severine Menem, Nutritional Therapist and Health Coach, told UNILAD:
You should pick extra dry and dry white wine, red wines, or spirits (e.g. vodka, gin, whiskey – all without soda or juice). The worst choices are beer, champagne and sparking wine, dessert wine, fortified wines (e.g. sherry or port).
On top of that, try alternating drinks with a glass of water. Dr Stephanie Fade says this will ‘help you stay hydrated and keep calories and alcohol units down’.
Choose tall and thin.
Craving some seasonal eggnog and rum? Reach for a tall, thin glass instead of a short, stubby one. Research shows people pour less liquid into tall glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts. With a taller glass, you’re less likely to down more in one sitting – which is especially helpful when casually drinking.
Eat before drinking.
Skipping breakfast or lunch in order to keep weight gain at bay probably isn’t the best tactic if you’re looking to maintain. Not eating until afternoon will more often than not lead to binging later on – especially once you’ve had a few drinks.
Dietitian Dr Stephanie Fade Phd RD from Eating Mindset told UNILAD: “We often go out hungry and start attacking the high calorie crisps and nuts as we drink. Much better to have a reasonably healthy meal first.”
Instead, stick to a substantial breakfast with plenty of protein to help keep you fuller longer. It will temper the urge to stuff your face later and keep you eating relatively healthy while the buffets, cakes, and treats are in full view.
Cave into cravings
In moderation, that is. Forbidding a specific food during the holiday season may only make it more attractive, so it’s smart to acknowledge a few cravings instead of pushing them away completely. So long as it’s in moderation, caving in can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store.
In fact, you may not have to avoid any type of food. Instead, just watch your portion sizes.
Christmas only happens once a year, and most foods are nutritionally beneficial, even if this is not always obvious. So this is the perfect opportunity to enjoy your food. Saying that I would still stay away as much as politely possible from deserts, sweets, chocolates (except extra dark chocolates) and alcohol. They are the foods that will add numbers on your bathroom scale without any nutritional value.
Remember: It’s not what you eat, it’s how much you eat of it
Severine says aiming to have all of your meals during a 8-10 hour period every day is a type of intermittent fasting that has proved to work. On top of that, portion size during those hours is key. Her advice? If the plates your food is served on are rather big, ‘look at the size of your hands as a reference’ and ‘never take second servings’.
Many of us stuff ourselves without realising we’re full until we start to feel ill.
Dr Fade says ‘give your body a chance to tell your brain when you’re full’:
If you have the will-power stop half way through out your knife and fork down and spend 5 minutes chatting. Then ask yourself if you are still hungry. If not ask the staff to take your plate away. It may feel wasteful but it’s just as much of a waste to eat it and damage your health.
Saying that, eat the food you fancy (it’s Christmas after all) – just limit how much you have of each.
If all else fails and you go off the rails, do 10 burpees for every treat you have. If nothing else, it will help you be mindful of what you’re putting into your body.