The holiday season is here, bringing family feasts, office parties, and countless other celebrations. Every gooey, high-calorie treat and rich indulgence threatens to turn into extra pounds. Instead of bracing yourself for the penance and expense of trendy diets and exercise routines in the new year, remember that weight loss and maintenance ultimately come down to portion control and self-restraint. Use these 10 practices and mental tricks to get you through the holiday season without overdoing it.
10 Ways to Avoid Holiday Overeating
Look around any restaurant, and there will be at least one person staring at a smartphone screen. Instead of being constantly connected (and thus distracted) during meals, try having one bite at a time without any stimuli -- no TV, phones, music, or even conversation. The concept of mindful eating, as explained by The New York Times and practiced by Buddhist monks, entails enjoying food slowly and consciously. It's less about which foods to eat and more about being in tune with the mind and body during a meal. This awareness may help those with a tendency to overeat recognize the feeling of fullness sooner.
Eggnog, hot chocolate, pumpkin spice lattes -- all are delicious but high in calories. A cozy, indulgent drink is fine every once in a while, but for most holiday outings, stick with low-calorie alcohol (wine, scotch, vodka, or gin), tonic, and seltzer water. Add one small splash of juice for sweetness.
Don't wait until the holidays are in full swing to start practicing portion control. Try eating smaller portions every day. Soon, you'll need less food to feel full, which is key in coping with above-average portion sizes in restaurants and buffets at home gatherings. Inexpensive portion-control tools can serve as physical guides, and a Mayo Clinic slide show depicts accurate, healthy serving sizes.
There's a reason why fitness gurus lug liters of water around every day. Staying hydrated is essential to well-being, but a glass of water before a meal can also curb hunger. Drinking water before a meal has proven to help with weight loss and provide a sense of fullness, leading people to consume fewer calories during a meal. Before you head over to the buffet or sit down at the table, have a glass of water or two as an "appetizer."
Some people need more than mental tricks to stop eating, and putting cold, hard cash on the line might be the perfect motivation. Start a bet with friends or family, or join one with motivated people trying to maintain or lose weight all over the country on a site such as DietBet or Healthy Wage. Each bettor adds a certain amount of money to the pool, but only the people who lose a specified amount of weight (by a chosen deadline) get to split the total kitty in the end.
At a large holiday meal, there probably will be a variety of food -- and a heaping plate is the result. At the beginning of the meal, set a three-bite limit (especially for high-calorie, carbohydrate-heavy foods) and slowly enjoy each mouthful. Three bites of gravy-laden potatoes or stuffed turkey may not sound like enough, but after three bites of each item on the plate, finish a glass of water and check in. If you're no longer hungry, it's time to put down the fork.
For upcoming holiday occasions, leave the stretchy pants in a drawer and dress in slim-fitting clothing -- the outfit that looks great before a big meal. It may sound uncomfortable, but eating in belted pants, a curve-hugging black dress, or skinny jeans will raise awareness of each bite, and may make it easier to pass on the pumpkin pie, knowing someone will likely be taking photos during and after the meal.
Whether it's with a partner, best friend, or co-worker, make a pact to eat less before heading out to a party. Be specific about the commitment, locking down the number of plates to be eaten, glasses of water to consume, or even helpings of salad to have before the main course. Having an extra pair of eyes on you throughout the meal will help with accountability.
For those who wait all year for the holidays and understandably refuse to hold back at dinner, light meals during the rest of the day can keep calorie counts in check. Try a healthy kale shake for breakfast and a salad with steamed chicken for lunch. Healthy eating during the rest of the day can make one-time indulgences guilt-free.
Choose holiday foods carefully. Fitness gurus stress the importance of protein, vegetables, and fruit. At the buffet line, pick foods that carry the most nutrients and fiber. Limit portions of carbohydrates and sweets, and soon feeling stuffed and guilty from overeating unhealthy food will be a distant memory of holiday celebrations past.