We’re officially in the middle of the holiday season. This time period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is consistently filled with more heavy family recipes, baked treats and sweets than people experience at any other part of the year. There is a way to manage your health and avoid the seasonal seven pound weight gain while still enjoying holiday foods and parties. Following the strategies listed below can help you keep the holiday weight off and more importantly, you can still have fun this season.
Choose your indulgences wisely.
Around the holidays, special foods are often available everywhere, school, the office, at parties, etc. Eating an extra few hundred calories from sugar, and processed carbohydrates per day for 5 weeks will result in at least a 5-7 pound weight gain.
Many people can find more success with simply enjoying their holiday get-togethers for 1-2 meals per week (not every day) and making some sacrifice during the rest of the week. If you have something to look forward to at the end of the week, you may find it easier to eat a leaner diet during the other days of the week. Skip the office “goodies” (they are not your mom’s famous recipe anyway!) and avoid buying “display” sweets for your office or home candy jars or displays. Eating a vegetable rich, higher-protein diet, five days per week and enjoying a couple of holiday parties or get-togethers each week can easily result in maintenance of body weight through the holidays. Depending on how well people eat and exercise during the week, they may even find they lose weight during the holiday season. Weight maintenance is more of a reasonable goal this holiday season.
Focus on a balanced meal that is not carbohydrate heavy.
Diets with sufficient protein help to regulate blood-sugar, which helps to maintain insulin levels. When insulin levels are constantly high from too many carbohydrates in the diet, the body can’t use fat for fuel efficiently. Your body focuses too much on the high insulin levels. Eating plenty of protein can help maintain steady insulin levels and this will reduce sugar and carbohydrate cravings, especially if you eat it at the start of a party. Drinking a protein shake on the way to the party or supplementing with a high quality chromium supplement can help to reduce your hunger and sugar cravings even more.
Hydrate with plenty of water
Drinking plenty of water helps fill your stomach, which can reduce the amount of food you can eat. As mentioned above, drinking a protein shake on the way to a party can help you feel fuller, partly from the protein content and also from the amount of water in it. If you don’t want to drink a shake, then at least have a couple of cups of water on the way to the party. Hunger is often mistaken for thirst initially. Try to drink another glass or two of water each hour during the party or in between alcoholic beverages.
Be choosey when it comes to cocktails.
Yes, a glass of red wine has been shown to provide some health benefits, but it has not been shown to help weight loss. However, it is a reality that many people will indulge in alcohol during the holidays. Drinking alcohol has been shown to do little for appetite suppressant, meaning when you drink alcohol, it won’t help you feel more full, no matter how many calories are in it. If you are going to drink, it’s best to avoid mixed drinks which can have a lot of sugar due to the juice or soda used to cut the alcohol.
Other festive drinks, like those at your favorite coffee shop or mall can be incredibly high in calories and even worse sugar. They can become addictive and will cause you to crave sugar more often. The worst part about these drinks is not the total calorie content, but the amount of sugar, pushing 30 or more grams!
Try to maintain your normal workout schedule, but don’t use a workout as an excuse to eat whatever you would like.
During the season of eating, it’s critical to remain active. Strength training and higher-intensity cardio can improve your overall metabolism, specifically the body’s ability to store the sugars you may be eating during the holidays. That said, workouts are not a permit to eat. When people have the mentality that they can eat because they exercised, they typically break even and do not lose any weight.
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