The season is upon us – turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, oh my! Say hello to the holidays and copious amounts of food. It can be hard to avoid weight gain during the holiday season and while there are no “quick” tricks, there are some things you can do to maintain and not gain.
Set yourself up for success for the big meal with these tips:
- Eat Breakfast. Don’t make Thanksgiving the first meal of your day. I so often hear – “I just won’t eat until dinner.” This is a horrible game plan. If you choose this option, you are starving by the time the big meal arrives and eat far more than you need to or should. Start the day off with a healthy breakfast that will keep you full. Choosing something with protein and fiber will keep you satisfied and will save most of your carbohydrates and fats for the meal that matters. It also will help you avoid those deliciously tempting appetizers and rolls that will be laying around. My game plan this year? Eggs, a protein shake, and a small bowl of oatmeal. Hello success, I see you.
- Be Active in the Morning. Get the day started with activity. There are a number of “Turkey Trots” taking place around the country. Find one and commit to starting the day off active. Starting the day off with activity sets the tone for eating right and investing in a healthy start to the day.
- Pre-Game Right: Avoid Carbs and Fats Before the Big Meal. What are the two main elements of any Thanksgiving or holiday meal? Fats and carbohydrates – hello stuffing and butter! Knowing that you are going to be consuming a lot more fats and carbohydrates in one meal than usual, avoid eating a lot of carbohydrates or fats before the main event. You should eat breakfast, but choose something high in protein that will fill you up with nutrition prior to the big meal (see tip #1).
- Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate. This trick works for me every time. How often have you thought you were hungry, but after a glass of water you felt fine? Sometimes our body plays tricks on us. Fueling up with water helps your stomach feel fuller, prevents water retention from the additional sodium in Thanksgiving foods, and prevents hangovers from the wine you inevitably plan to drink. Water really is the cure-all so be sure to start your day off hydrated and continue to drink plenty of water throughout the meal (see tip #9 for an idea on how to keep hydrated throughout the day).
- Choose a Smaller Plate (or at Least Don’t Pile it High). If you are hosting this year, think about using smaller plates. Now seriously, I am not talking about the bread plate size, but avoiding using your party platters as dinner plates. Using smaller plates can help trick the mind into thinking that you have eaten more than you really have. If it isn’t possible to pick your plate size, simply avoid piling on the food. Spreading your food out on the plate creates the illusion of a full plate and tricks yourself into feeling like you are eating a large amount of food worthy of a Thanksgiving feast.
- Be Picky. With a load of options on the table it can be tempting to try a bit of everything. Instead of being an equal opportunity eater, be picky. Choose only the foods that you know you love and fill your plate with them. Avoid wasting calories on things that you just “somewhat” like. For me, I know that I can skip the sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie. Enjoy and savor the dishes that you love the most and pass on the ones you can live without. By doing this simple thing, you can avoid stacking on calories for foods you don’t really love or get too much enjoyment from.
- Say No to Seconds (and Thirds, Fourths, and Fifths). Okay, I know that this is easier said than done, but trust me, if you load up your plate with the things you love and eat slowly, you should be able to avoid the second serving. Going back for another round is a surefire way to exceed your caloric need for the day and just feel overly full. Breathe and remember this is likely not your last meal – you will eat again, I promise. And you know what? There are probably going to be leftovers you can have for your next meal. Don’t stress, you will get to have another helping of stuffing again at some point. I promise, you can do it.
- Slow Your Roll: Savor Each Bite. Preparing the Thanksgiving meal takes a boat load of time – just ask the person who cooks this year. Take the same amount of time to savor each bite! Put down your fork between bites and take a moment to enjoy the deliciousness on your taste buds. According to food experts, savoring each bite is a key way to ensure you don’t overeat and feel full with the right amount of food. Choosing foods with fiber can also help you feel fuller quicker.
- Go Easy on the Alcohol: One-for-One. During the holiday season we are all guilty of drinking more than usual. In my family we have a tradition called drunken Christmas Eve where we stay up late to drink wine and play board games (yes, my family is ah-mazing and yes, you are invited next year). This year instead of keeping the wine flowing sans water, try a one-for-one plan. For each alcoholic beverage you drink, follow it with a glass of water (it can be carbonated with a lime for you fancy folk). By incorporating water, you ensure that you’ll stay hydrated, which not only helps avoid bloating caused by sodium, but also helps prevent hangovers (bonus!). Another added bonus – drinking water helps prevent the late night ‘slightly tipsy’ reach for leftovers that always seems like a good idea at the time.
- Focus on Family and Friendship. Want to know a secret? Thanksgiving and the holiday season is not about the food – cue gasps. But seriously friends, what is the essence of the holiday season about? It is a time to come together with those we love and enjoy one another’s company. Spend the day visiting with your family and friends, focusing less on the meal and more on the connection time. Enjoy people (they are the best distraction from excess eating).
- Be Realistic About Expectations. With all that said, the holiday season is not the time to try and start a new weight loss plan – there is just too much temptation. Instead of trying to lose weight during this time, focus on maintaining. Be realistic and know that you are going to eat some things that you normally do not – it is okay! You should enjoy yourself (in moderation) and savor each bite. After the New Year is a good (and far more realistic) time to set goals regarding weight loss. If you can maintain your weight through the holiday season, you’ll be well on the road to success come January 1.
What’s your game plan to maintain over the next few months?