20 Tips to Stay Healthy Through the Holidays

By Sharon Hilburn –

It is estimated that people tend to gain approximately five pounds over the holidays from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day. For some people who have trouble controlling what they eat in general, the holidays can be particularly daunting with food everywhere from the office to parties to family events. For those of us who work consistently to keep our weight down, the holidays, with all of the festivities and delectable treats, can prove challenging, and we can end up starting the New Year with a bit more of us to love than we would like. Here are some helpful tips to enjoying the holidays without gaining those unwanted pounds:

1. Set a benchmark. I personally don’t like to weigh myself; I rely more on how my clothes fit to tell me how I am doing in the weight department. So, either weigh yourself twice per week so you see where you are, or try on your snug-fitting pants to compare how they fit. This will help you be aware of the subtle ups and downs so you can make smart choices.

2. Continue to exercise. It is tough to stick to your exact exercise regimen when parties and events are scheduled on your workout days.  But you can make sure you keep moving by taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Park further away from building entrances so you have to walk further as long as it is a safe area.  Prepare and plan in advance.  Look at your schedule at the beginning of each week and determine where you can get your workouts in on other days. If you travel, check in advance what is available in the area so you can continue to move even if it isn’t your same level or type of exercise.

3. Get a workout buddy. It is much easier to miss your workout if you don’t have someone keeping you accountable. Identify someone who regularly attends the same group classes or goes to the gym regularly.  This can also be your spouse or significant other. If you keep each other accountable and
encourage squeezing in the workouts, you are more likely to keep to your schedule.

4. Don’t be the first to the party.Unless the event has a required program start time, arrive fashionably late.  By doing so, there are people to talk to as soon as you enter instead of heading straight to the food to keep yourself company until you see someone you know.

5. Drink more water. Practice drinking eight ounce glasses of water throughout the day. Consume 10 or more. If you have a special glass or mug, make sure to keep it filled. This will keep you hydrated, as well as give you the sensation of feeling less hungry.

6. Count your bites. By counting your bites, you can enjoy them more rather than just filling your face mindlessly until you have overeaten. Food should be tasted and enjoyed slowly. This creates a better and more satiating experience, and you will consume less overall.

7. Use a small plate and never fill it up. Use a small plate, and leave space between each item. Make sure that you can see all of the edges of the plate rather than stacking your food. Eat slowly, and refrain from refills.

8. Just say “no” to your family desserts. It is not your respons-ibility to eat your aunt’s or grandmother’s pie.  If you really want it, have a small piece, but don’t feel obligated because they cook out of love. You will love your decision in the morning.

9. Avoid skipping meals. Don’t go to the party hungry. This is a formula for disaster. Instead, eat a light, healthy meal before you attend festivities.  If you are starving, you will be even more tempted by scrumptious, high calorie, high fat foods. You will also tend to eat more quickly, and that is how you end up overeating. Be sure to eat your regular meals and a couple of healthy snacks. Choose vegetables, fruits and lean protein options. Prepare a light, healthy meal, and eat it 30 minutes before you go to the party. This will help you curb what you eat. Plus, you don’t want to drink on an empty stomach. If you do, you will feel the buzz faster and have a tendency to munch more.

10. Work out in the morning.  Get up an hour earlier three or more mornings a week, and get in a workout.  You will find that you have more energy, perform better throughout the day and have fewer cravings. You can power walk to jump start your day even if you can’t get to the gym or to a group class. You can run, squat, do planks, pushups and crunches in your own home. Create a space that you dedicate to workouts when you can’t get to a facility.

11. Make wise alcohol choices. When consuming alcohol, do so in moderation, and choose a glass of red wine, for example, over the holiday drinks such as Bailey’s and other heavy sugar-based drinks. Sip slowly, and drink water throughout the event.  This will keep you hydrated and slow down alcohol consumption.

12. Be picky in your choices. Review all of the food and dessert options before putting anything on your plate. No need to have some of everything. Select the healthier options, and eat slowly so your brain can catch up and know you are satisfied without being full.  If you really, really want a particular item, just get a small amount rather than a full serving. Remember to have water handy so you can drink between bites.

13. Get plenty of potassium. Potassium counterbalances the  effects of sodium, so you retain less water. Some great options for potassium are bananas, papayas, cantaloupe, kiwi and strawberries.

14. Manage your dessert intake. If you are a dessert person, practice the three-bite rule. Eat slowly, and enjoy the amazing first taste, the satisfying second bite and the third lingering bite. And don’t make your bites bigger just so you can say you only had three bites. Practice small bites, and celebrate the flavor.

15. Cut back on bubbly drinks. Drinks with fizz including diet drinks can cause bloating as the carbon dioxide that makes the drink fizzy builds up in your system. These drinks can also make you crave food.

16. Don’t stand near the food table. If you are at a party, make sure that you stand far away from the food. If you do, you are less tempted to reach down and fill up your plate again. Try to walk around rather than stand in one place. If you can, take a tour of the premises, a home or event space and absorb the decorations and ambiance rather than more food.

17. Exercise some willpower.You’re at work and coworkers brought peppermint bark or truffles.  Resist and count from one to 60 while you walk away from the area. Send some emails, make some calls, and the temptation will likely pass.

18. Visualize pats of butter. Yes, it might sound strange, but if you look at a warm, succulent piece of pie and tell yourself to visualize a stack of cold butter squares, which is the equivalent fat, you may be able to resist the temptation.

19. Avoid or minimize sauces. If you have an option to leave off the sauce, take it, especially cream sauces. These high-calorie, high-fat sauces may add a lot of flavor to the dish, but if you can eat it without, you are better off.

20. Keep calm. Do you feel stressed just seeing all of the holiday spreads? Research shows that women who practice stress reduction techniques are able to reduce or eliminate weight gain.  Before you reach, take deep breaths and close your eyes for 30 seconds to resist filling your plate to the edges. Make sure you really want that additional bite before you reach for it.  Chances are you probably don’t want it that much, and you will be glad later that you resisted.