Pumpkin pie! Honey-glazed ham! Sugar Cookies!
Oh My! Holiday food can inspire anxiety or ecstasy—or both—depending on your mind-set. Here’s the good news: The average weight gain for the holiday season is just one pound. Now for the bad: While that might not sound like much, research shows we don’t lose it, and that one pound adds up year after year. And the news is worse for people who are already overweight, who add about five extra holiday pounds each year.
Sweet treats and rich meals can be landmines for health-conscious people, yet no one wants to feel deprived during the hap- hap-iest season of all. No need to fear—there are sensible ways to navigate this territory.
Tip #1: Three bites and good night.
Stick to the three-bite rule for desserts: The first bite is the best, the last the grand finale, and every bite in between is the same. In three bites, you get the full dessert experience, so really focus on savoring those three and you’re less likely to overindulge.
Tip #2: Don’t “save up” calories.
Fasting before a big meal can backfire people! Low blood sugar from hunger increases cortisol levels, which leads to cravings for fatty, salty, and sugary foods. Instead of saving up for the big meal, nibble on healthy snacks like raw veggies, nuts, and fruit throughout the day to avoid a full-blown gorge-fest where no crumb is left behind.
Tip #3: Bring out the skinny jeans.
Elastic waistbands, “relaxed fit” sweaters, and other loose clothing are practically an engraved invitation to overeat. Leave those roomy pants in the back of the closet. Instead, bring out the bandage dresses, skinny jeans, slim-fit suit, or nipped-in blazer—whatever ensemble makes you feel sleek and slim. Not only will you look hot, your outfit will offer subtle reinforcement to keep you from getting seconds (or thirds) on those peppermint bark cookies.
Tip #4: Make holiday treats year-round.
Prevent some of that “last-chance eating” by promising to make your mom’s pumpkin pie in February or your favorite green bean casserole in July. Knowing it will be available again means you won’t feel the urge to “go for broke” and overeat it now.
Tip #5: Don’t eat something just because it’s holiday food.
Listen to your body; most people eat particular foods like pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving or down cups of eggnog at a Christmas party because “that’s what we do during the holidays.” Noshing without thinking about what you’re putting into your body and why makes you ignore your internal cues of hunger and satiety. Do you really even like pumpkin pie or eggnog? Or if you could have any treat, would you choose your favorite ice cream or hot cocoa instead? Just because it’s limited doesn’t mean you have to eat it.
Tip #6: Nix the guilt.
Feeling guilty after eating foods you don’t usually allow yourself to eat can breed more unhealthy behaviors. So abandon those negative voices in your head, give yourself permission to enjoy the indulgence guilt-free, and then remember to get back on track with your normal eating routine the very next day.
Tip #7: Keep your treats to one day a week.
The biggest mistake people make at the holidays is making Thanksgiving a four-day feast instead of a one-day indulgence. Then the holiday parties come, and all of a sudden you’re giving yourself an excuse to have treats nearly every day. Rather than letting your holiday feast roll into pie for breakfast, limit your splurges to one event per week.
In my health coaching practice, I help clients navigate busy social lives and work schedules so that they learn how to incorporate tips like these until they become a habit!