The upcoming holiday season may be a time for well-deserved breaks and festivities - but for many people it’s also a great excuse for consuming way too many sweets and carb-heavy comfort foods, downing cocktails and skipping the gym.
No wonder the average American gains close to one pound during the six-week period from Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day!
What’s worse, those Americans who are already overweight or obese (which two-thirds of Americans are) tend to gain nearly 5 pounds every year.
In other words, the holiday season is the time of year when you’re most likely to put on the most extra weight. If you’d like to take preventative action this time around, here are five practical tips for holiday weight management:
- Keep a food diary - most people who keep a food diary note what is eaten after the meal, when it is too late. Instead, keep a proactive food diary. Start your day by writing down exactly what you plan to eat, and then stick with it. It’s ok to allow yourself a treat here and there, but make sure it’s one you planned for. Remember the old adage - if you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.
- Eat when you’re hungry - most people prepare for a holiday meal by eating nothing leading up to the big event - and then they are so famished that they end up devouring everything in sight. A far better bet is to eat reasonable meals beforehand so that you feel satiated and are less likely to overindulge yourself. In fact, eating a bowl of broth-based soup before a meal is likely to result in your consuming 20 percent fewer calories!
- Eat your fat first - healthy fat helps you feel full while also stimulating your metabolism. Snacking on healthy foods like olives and nuts first will help you keep your cravings and total food intake in check.
- Go for a walk - a brisk walk after meals will get you away from the food, making it less likely that you’ll help yourself to seconds or overindulge in dessert. Second, any form of physical activity helps to lower blood sugar levels and insulin, which stores excess carbs as fat.
- Recondition your brain - highly processed foods such as cookies, cinnamon rolls, bread, crackers, boxed stuffing etc. that are so common at holiday feasts are engineered to appeal to your primal drive for calories, fat, sugar and salt. They are literally designed to keep you buying more. As you consume more and more of these highly processed products, you lose touch with healthy eating and your brain becomes conditioned to crave them. For example, when you eat sugar, it triggers production of your brain's natural opioids, a key ingredient in the addiction process.
So what’s the solution? Disruptions to your body’s energy system make you more likely to experience distractions related to food and make you more likely to engage in emotional eating.
Exploring and practicing ways to balance your life - such as meditation, regular exercise and yoga - can help you free your mind of food cravings and hunger pangs.