It’s Christmas! The happy holidays that are all about being with family, friends and food, lots of food. You are probably familiar with that feeling where you crash into the couch with a belly so full of food it hurts and not being able to get up anymore or move your limbs for even a few inches. Above that you feel bad about the weight gain that certainly comes with a few days of indulging in all foods you can get your hands on. Not this year! Here’s my tips for not eating too much (crap) and to avoid gaining weight during the Holidays.
1) Don’t save your appetite
Plan well and don’t arrive hungry to a Christmas dinner or party. Make sure to have a healthy breakfast and lunch before the big dinner party starts. This can help you to maintain your discipline when temptation is lurking around the corner. Have a nutritious snack beforehand and drink lots of water.
2) Divert your attention
Christmas is not just about food! Don’t look at it as just a food event. It should be about enjoying spending time with family and friends. Divert your attention by focusing on a good conversation or playing a fun game.
3) Eat slowly
Try to eat slowly. Chew a lot. Pace yourself and really enjoy the moment of having a beautiful dinner with your loved ones. Don’t stuff yourself in the first half hour of a dinner or party. It will pay off in the end!
4) Limit your alcohol intake
Avoid drinking too much at Christmas parties and dinners. It’s not just about the calories of the alcohol, but also about controlling yourself. If you drink a lot, you’ll have less control over what you eat.
5) Keep hydrated
Drinking water and keeping hydrated helps you feel full and therefore helps you control your calorie intake. Choose water instead of sugar-laden soda and fruit juice and alternate your alcohol intake with water to prevent losing control of your food intake too much. Last but not least, keeping hydrated will prevent hangovers from setting in after a considerable alcohol intake.
6) Be selective about sweets & snacks
When it comes to sweet treats and desserts, try to be very picky. Limit your indulgences to very small portions and only the ones that you really want. Choose healthy snacks instead of high-fat or fried ones. Veggies with a low-fat, healthy and tasty dip such as hummus makes up for a great snack.
7) Walk it off
Have a (family) walk in the daytime during the holidays and don’t ditch on your regular exercise. Besides burning calories, it will take your mind off of food for a while. Get off the couch and move! Activity will really help you to take control.
8) Choose protein
Protein can help you maintain weight and help you avoid eating too much because high-protein diets are associated with greater satiety. Make sure to fill your plate with chicken, beef or turkey or a vegetarian alternative such as quinoa, beans or lentils.
9) Fill up on fibre
Choose snacks that are high on fibre such as vegetables or legumes, combined with a some healthy, tasty dips. High fibre foods will help you feel full and slow down the digestive process to prevent spikes in your blood sugar.
10) Use smaller plates
Plate size has significantly increased over the last decades. Make sure to choose smaller plates, as this can actually make you feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a lot of white empty space on a plate with less food (see foodpsychology.cornell.edu/outreach/large-plates.html).
11) Be careful with added sugars
All the holiday cookies, cakes, pies and drinks come with a lot of added sugars – and calories. Try to stick to natural sugars, for example those that come from fruits. Take a small bite from a sugary dessert if you are really craving for it.
12) Wait before filling up again
It takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that you have been eating. So the quicker we eat, the less time we give our brain to register that we’re full. Best is to go for a walk or have a break to chat with a friend before serving up a second time.
Christmas is a happy holiday, but it can also be a little stressful to deal with all the family get-togethers and expectations. For many, stress can be a trigger for overeating and cravings for sugary foods. If you’re overwhelmed during the holidays, try to relieve stress before sitting down for dinner. Light yoga, meditation or breathing exercises are good options.
14) Keep a positive mind-set
Don’t punish yourself too much for your indulgences. Positive messages can reframe your relationship with food. Praise yourself for eating responsible and keeping in control. Research shows that positive expectations can help you lose weight (greatist.com/health/ways-to-avoid-holiday-weight-gain). Try to tell yourself at least one positive affirmation each day.
15) Dare to say no!
Always keep in mind that it’s okay to say NO, even if your family members or friends are encouraging you to keep eating or to take a bite from that cake. Just tell them that you’re full or you’re taking a break.