When I think about the holidays, I have realized that food does seem like food. Food takes on a different characteristic filled with temptation amongst the traditions. However, if you are not observant and careful, those pounds can pour on. In the five weeks between Thanksgiving and New years, the average American can add up to 8 additional pounds during that time period. Even if you don’t pack on quite that amount a study by the National Institutes of Health suggests that Americans probably gain about a pound during the winter holiday season-but this extra weight accumulates through the years and may be a major contributor to obesity later in life.
This finding runs contrary to the popular belief that most people gain from five to ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
This conclusion was reached by researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). The results of their study appear in the March 23 New England Journal of Medicine. “These findings suggest that developing ways to avoid holiday weight gain may be extremely important for preventing obesity and the diseases associated with it,” said NICHD Director Duane Alexander, M.D.
That might not seem like a lot of weight until you consider that those extra holiday pounds do not typically melt away before the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. Instead it is a catalyst. Studies show that holiday weight gain can be a major contributor to additional weight gain throughout the year.
Either way, the holidays do not need to be such a big issue. To survive this season and beyond, while keeping your waistline intact, try to party healthy, not hearty. Develop strategies before the holidays that begin to help you have a plan in place with various strategies that help you to keep your hunger and appetite in control.
Follow some of these tips:
Have a game plan: For several days prior to your holiday feast, consider reducing the amount of fat and dairy in your daily meal plan. This way, you can eat a bit more during that holiday meal without worrying so much about it. The trick is to make sure that you have a great meal or snack prior to arriving at your party, and bring a healthy appetizer along with you. Never arrive starving.
Cook in Your Skinny Jeans: This is one of my favorite personal tips. While working in the kitchen, if you are a tad uncomfortable it might just be enough from you taste testing too much. I always wear an apron when I cook and I make sure to tie it snugly.
Exercise Daily: Through out the month of November and December, I already have my exercise classes scheduled into my day. I am booking classes a bit earlier so that I still have time to cook and prepare. Do not give in to the excuse that you have too much to do and can’t get the exercise in. Remember…you are worth it.
Prevent a Test Fest: Taste testing can really pack on those extra pounds. If you are preparing a dish that you have made time and time again, there really is not much of a need to taste beforehand. If you want to check things out, have a teaspoon and drink lots of water along the way. In other words, you don’t have to scoop out and eat the left over batter from your cookie dough.
Have a Delay tactic strategy set in place: I always say, enjoy the people and limit the food. Have a club soda and put some cut up fruit in it. Try to mingle with people before grabbing at the hors d’oeuvres and alcoholic beverages. Research shows that eating high-fat appetizers and mixing alcohol can cause you to eat more during the main course. If people press you to eat more than you are really wanting to just say “No Thank You”, or “I will have some soon” and walk away. Remember you are in control of what you choose to ingest.
Limit Your Choices: Limit how many different foods you choose to put on your plate at one time. Fill most of your plate with ½ vegetables, ¼ protein, ¼ starch or what ever else it is you may want to have. Then my rule is…Enjoy every bite.
Watch Out For Seconds: Another helping of mashed potatoes, stuffing, a slice of turkey and a sliver of pumpkin pie may not seem like much. But if you do the math, a little bit more can add up to hundreds of additional calories. It takes your body 20 minutes to realize it is full so wait a bit. Put your fork down in-between bites. Chew your food!
Leftovers: Be specific about what it is you choose to keep. Offer to send some food home with your guests. Be strategic about where you place foods in your refrigerator. Remember that when you open those doors, what is it that you will be seeing. Keep away the temptation as much as possible.
Thanksgiving is only one day. So if you get a bit out of control, just get back on track the next day. In the scheme of things, you may be surprised as to how much one day of over indulgence will not sabotage all of your hard work. Keep focused, enjoy your company and allow yourself to enjoy without stress.