Whenever the holidays roll around, I get anxious as excessive calories lurk behind every corner. Baked goodies, holiday parties and candy bowls garnish the days between November 25th and January 2nd making this season a particularly difficult time to avoid packing on the pounds. Did you know the average weight gain (for North Americans) between Thanksgiving and New Years is anywhere between one and seven pounds? Yikes! Needless to say, I’ve managed to survive many seasons of culinary indulgence by following the tips listed below in addition to an extra serving of self-control. And I haven’t popped a button on my skinny jeans yet! Here’s what you need to know to survive the holiday consumption marathon:
Schedule your workouts. I know it seems obvious, but many of us muddle our fitness schedules during the winter months. Cold air and an erratic social calendar filled with holiday festivities can really throw off your exercise regime. Nevertheless, this is probably the most important time of year tosweat it out! Make time to work out. Schedule it into your calendar. I cannot stress this enough: Make fitness a priority. Not only will working out help you de-stress, it will also keep your metabolism revved up and ready to handle all of your holiday feasting. To offset increased caloric intake, tack on an extra 10 minutes of cardio to your workout sessions. I also try to walk after big meals like Thanksgiving dinner—it’s amazing what a lap around the neighborhood can do for your digestion and legs!
Start counting. While I’d like to think holiday treats are magically sprinkled with non-fattening fairy dust, the calories are unfortunately still there. Darn it! Since it’s easy to forget of what you’ve eaten, keep track by adding calories on the calculator of your phone or with one of the many calorie-tracking apps. I’ve never been a fan of counting calories, but it really helps keep holiday binging in perspective. When appetizers are in the mix, keep the leftover toothpicks in your hand or on your plate so you have a better idea of how many you have eaten. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean the calories are smaller too! The bottom line: Be aware of how much you are putting in your mouth.
Don’t go hungry. Hunger leads us to do crazy things: Binge on chocolate-covered gummy bears, down a 700-calorie soft pretzel as a snack or absentmindedly eat three cookies instead of one. Don’t let yourself become ravenous, ladies! When you go gift shopping, pack a healthy snack such as trail mix or a granola bar to stave off mid-day hunger. We all know the food court isn’t going to do your waistline any favors. Additionally don’t show uphungry either. If you’re going to a holiday fete, have a healthy snack before heading out the door to avoid gorging on the cookie platter upon your arrival.
Drink wisely. The holidays bring out all the good stuff that’s not-so-good for your figure such as hot cocoa, whipped cream, specialty cocktails, Baileys Irish Cream coffee (yum) and open bars (dangerous). While wining and dining is fun, flex your self-control by either limiting yourself or making tradeoffs. If you’re going to have that delicious cup of hot chocolate, skip the peppermint bark—and voila, you have traded off. As for alcoholic libations, treat yourself to one specialty drink. Instead of refilling with a second, stick to low calorie drinks such as vodka-water with lime for the remainder of the night. In between drinks, have a glass of water. Drinking too much can lead to eating too much. Keep you inhibitions in check by pacing yourself. Finally, whether you’re sipping on the sweet side or treating yourself to a cocktail, it’s especially important to stay hydrated with water. People who drink more water, consume less food, which means less calories. Before you eat anything, have one tall glass of water. I promise, this is one of my favorite tricks.
Mind your PC. No, I don’t mean Paper Crown (although you should check out the holiday collection). I’m talking about portion control. When you pile your plate at the buffet, remember where all that food is going. It’s essential for energy, but what about the overflow? That goes straight to your hips and thighs. Be vigilant to only eat when you are actually hungry. If you’re unsure, have a glass of water and see how you feel after. Ideally, you should aim to fill 40% of your plate with complex carbs such as vegetables or fruits. The other 40% should be a lean protein (that’s turkey—without the skin). And the remaining 20% of your plate may be dedicated to fats like dessert, butter or oils. (Remember to eat slowly and chew.) Seconds are very tempting this time of year. Before heading back for round two, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. More often than not, you will realize you’re already full. Instead of another helping, save room for dessert! If you’re especially concerned about gaining weight, use a smaller plate to keep holiday gloat at bay.
I hope you find these suggestions helpful! At the end of the day it is all about willpower. According to Psychology Today, “willpower is like a muscle.” Working it regularly can strengthen it. By flexing your willpower you will increase your ability to control yourself. But, like a muscle, willpower can also get fatigued! This is the perfect excuse to indulge from time to time. After all,it is the holiday season so enjoy yourself!
Fitness, health, and happiness— it’s a winning combination for a full, rich life. However, the direction we go comes at the expense of our daily choices— the ones that impact our behaviors, moods, and even our appearance over time. Before I was writing about this stuff and helping others reach their personal fitness goals, I was on my own journey. The journey was rough though, mainly because I had to do the research myself and seek out fitness professionals to get the information I wanted. I made many mistakes. For some, exercise seems cumbersome, boring, and even expensive. I was one of those people.
I finally broke through, and once I figured out that my health and fitness should complement my life as opposed to ruling it, everything fell into place. Once I shifted my focus to the long-term as opposed to the short, everything became easier. Neither our diets, nor our training schedules are ever perfect.
If you can relate, I want to share some tips from others below on making health and fitness complement your life as opposed to ruling it.
First we have Jen Sinkler, senior fitness editor of Experience Life magazine based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She is RKC and CrossFit L-1 Certified, and a former U.S. national women’s team rugby athlete.
With such a busy schedule, how do you continue training and healthy eating without experiencing burnout?
“Perspective, almost 100 percent. I used to try to separate ‘work’ from ‘life.’ That did not go particularly well for me, however. Although I spent plenty of time assigning, editing, reading and writing fitness stories, I spent too little time working out myself. So, a few years back, I overhauled myperspective of my job and made the decision that a major part of it was going to be firsthand fitness exploration of what’s going on out there. Burnout isn’t an issue, because I’m always trying something new.”
“As for dining on the go, as long as I stick to bun-less burgers and salads instead of fries at least most of the time, I don’t see much fallout. I tend to keep the rules pretty simple, and I find it easy to avoid grains and dairy and not feel deprived in the least.”
How do your healthy habits improve your life outside of fitness?
“Good health and fitness means I don’t get sick. It means I wake up feeling great, it means my energy is boundless and it means I’m aging backward. As long as I don’t trade on or abuse this too often, it remains true and gives me an immense amount of freedom.”
What are your tips for those who want to get similar results?
“I believe so much of the fitness factor is mindset. If you don’t enjoy the type of training you do, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to sustain it for the long term. Fitness and nutrition have a lot of ‘right’ answers; the trick is experimenting long enough to find what’s right for you.”
Next we have Leo Babauta, a simplicity blogger, best-selling author, and creator of the popular blog ZenHabits. Leo is a former journalist (almost 20 years), a husband, and father of six children.
With such a busy schedule, how does one continue their training and healthy eating without experiencing burnout?
“I start by simplifying my schedule— reducing commitments so I have time for things that are important to me, like creating, exercise, and family. I also see exercise and good diet as the things that keep me from burning out— they’re necessary for balance, and if I didn’t do them, I wouldn’t have the energy release and relaxation I need to keep doing the other things I love. So it’s one of the few things that mustbe scheduled.”
How have your healthy habits improved other areas of your life (relationships, productivity, etc.)?
“It’s really profound how much health and fitness can change everything. I feel better, more energized, and more motivated in everything I do. I work better and create better. I play with my kids and run around and climb with them. I’m happier, which makes every interaction and relationship better. I just love life more.”
What are your tips for those who want to fitness to complement their life?
“Start small. You might see the fittest people committing hours to exercise, but they’re like the black belts. All you need to do is start. Commit to doing five minutes of an activity you enjoy, every day, and commit to changing one thing about what you eat— replace a junk food with something healthy you enjoy. You can find time for five minutes. Slowly, you’ll see yourself improve, and you’ll want to make more room for fitness.”
And finally, we have Leigh Peele, a certified trainer, writer, and fitness consultant from North Carolina. She is a vegetarian for ethical reasons, lifts heavy, and prefers dancing over traditional cardio workouts.
With your busy schedule, how do you train and stick to a healthy diet without experiencing burnout?
“This might come across as a cop-out answer, but it just isn’t an option. It isn’t something I feel I have to do. I want to do it and it is crucial to who I am as a person.”
“I have a very healthy relationship with diet and exercise. I know how to manipulate body composition with my eyes closed. I don’t exercise or eat healthy out of fear. I do so because it is a part of who I am. I like being strong.”
How have your healthy habits improved your life outside of fitness?
“I believe deeply in cause and effect. I believe that one motion leads to another and another. The chain reaction of making your body and health a top priority trickles down to everything. It isn’t about being the hottest or the strongest. Someone is always more attractive than you, and being a 5′ 4 ½” female, I think it is safe to say someone is always going to be stronger. But, that doesn’t mean I can’t surpass the average with my intent. My intent is to be the strongest I can be, the smartest I can be, and as successful as I can be. It isn’t about other people; it is about me.”
“I don’t believe in being average or letting your life pass you by, and that shows in the gym. That shows on your plate. It shows in how you treat people. It all leads to the other.”
What are your tips for those who want to fitness to complement their life?
“Don’t cheat your life. If you go into a situation saying to yourself, ‘What is the least I can do to actually make a change in my life?’ you aren’t going to change. You might as well go back to the drawing board… This isn’t about becoming obsessive and overtaking your life with diet and training, but it is about becoming obsessive with making your life something worth living.’
“Care enough to do something, anything to start taking better care of yourself. Then, once you make that an important part of your life, you can find the method and philosophy that works for you.”
These diet tips are solid gold, learned from successful experience with thousands of clients. Some diet tips are new. Some you’ve heard before, but they’re repeated because they work as parts of healthy weight loss programs. This treasure could change your life-starting today.
I Can Only Handle One Diet Change Right Now. What Should I Do?
1. Add just one fruit or veggie serving daily. Get comfortable with that, then add an extra serving until you reach 8 to 10 a day.
2. Eat at least two servings of a fruit or veggie at every meal.
3. Resolve never to supersize your food portions—unless you want to supersize your clothes.
4. Make eating purposeful, not mindless. Whenever you put food in your mouth, peel it, unwrap it, plate it, and sit. Engage all of the senses in the pleasure of nourishing your body.
5. Start eating a big breakfast. It helps you eat fewer total calories throughout the day.
6. Make sure your plate is half veggies and/or fruit at both lunch and dinner.
Are there Any Easy Tricks to Help Me Cut Calories?
7. Eating out? Halve it, and bag the rest. A typical restaurant entree has 1,000 to 2,000 calories, not even counting the bread, appetizer, beverage, and dessert.
8. When dining out, make it automatic: Order one dessert to share.
9. Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate.
10. See what you eat. Plate your food instead of eating out of the jar or bag.
11. Eat the low-cal items on your plate first, then graduate. Start with salads, veggies, and broth soups, and eat meats and starches last. By the time you get to them, you’ll be full enough to be content with smaller portions of the high-calorie choices.
12. Instead of whole milk, switch to 1 percent. If you drink one 8-oz glass a day, you’ll lose 5 lb in a year.
13. Juice has as many calories, ounce for ounce, as soda. Set a limit of one 8-oz glass of fruit juice a day.
14. Get calories from foods you chew, not beverages. Have fresh fruit instead of fruit juice.
15. Keep a food journal. It really works wonders for healthy weight loss.
16. Follow the Chinese saying: “Eat until you are eight-tenths full.”
17. Use mustard instead of mayo.
18. Eat more soup. The noncreamy ones are filling but low-cal.
19. Cut back on or cut out caloric drinks such as soda, sweet tea, lemonade, etc. People have had weight loss by making just this one change. If you have a 20-oz bottle of Coca-Cola every day, switch to Diet Coke. You should lose 25 lb in a year.
20. Take your lunch to work.
21. Sit when you eat.
22. Dilute juice with water.
23. Have mostly veggies for lunch.
24. Eat at home.
25. Limit alcohol to weekends.
How Can I Eat More Veggies?
26. Have a V8 or tomato juice instead of a Diet Coke at 3 pm.
27. Doctor your veggies to make them delicious: Dribble maple syrup over carrots, and sprinkle chopped nuts on green beans.
28. Mix three different cans of beans and some diet Italian dressing. Eat this three-bean salad all week.
29. Don’t forget that vegetable soup counts as a vegetable.
30. Rediscover the sweet potato.
31. Use prebagged baby spinach everywhere: as “lettuce” in sandwiches, heated in soups, wilted in hot pasta, and added to salads.
32. Spend the extra few dollars to buy vegetables that are already washed and cut up.
33. Really hate veggies? Relax. If you love fruits, eat plenty of them; they are just as healthy (especially colorful ones such as oranges, mangoes, and melons).
34. Keep seven bags of your favorite frozen vegetables on hand. Mix any combination, microwave, and top with your favorite low-fat dressing. Enjoy 3 to 4 cups a day. Makes a great quick dinner on all healthy weight loss programs.Can You Give Me a Mantra that will Help Me Stick to My Diet?35. “The best portion of high-calorie foods is the smallest one. The best portion of vegetables is the largest one. Period.”
36. “I’ll ride the wave. My cravings will disappear after 10 minutes if I turn my attention elsewhere.”
37. “I want to be around to see my grandchildren, so I can forgo a cookie now.”
38. “I am a work in progress.”
39. “It’s more stressful to continue being fat than to stop overeating.”
I Eat Healthy, but I’m Overweight. What Mistakes Could I Be Making without Realizing It?
40. Skipping meals. Many people on healthy weight loss programs “diet by day and binge by night.”
41. Don’t “graze” yourself fat. You can easily munch 600 calories of pretzels or cereal without realizing it.
42. Eating pasta like crazy. A serving of pasta is 1 cup, but some people routinely eat 4 cups.
43. Eating supersize bagels of 400 to 500 calories for snacks.
44. Ignoring “Serving Size” on the Nutrition Facts panel.
45. Snacking on bowls of nuts. Nuts are healthy but dense with calories. Put those bowls away, and use nuts as a garnish instead of a snack.
46. Thinking all energy bars and fruit smoothies are low-cal.
What Can I Eat for a Healthy Low-Cal Dinner if I Don’t Want to Cook?
47. A smoothie made with fat-free milk, frozen fruit, and wheat germ.
48. The smallest fast-food burger (with mustard and ketchup, not mayo) and a no-cal diet beverage. Then at home, have an apple or baby carrots.
49. A peanut butter sandwich on whole wheat bread with a glass of 1 percent milk and an apple.
50. Precooked chicken strips and microwaved frozen broccoli topped with Parmesan cheese.
51. A healthy frozen entree with a salad and a glass of 1 percent milk.
52. Scramble eggs in a nonstick skillet. Pop some asparagus in the microwave, and add whole wheat toast. If your cholesterol levels are normal, you can have seven eggs a week!
53. A bag of frozen vegetables heated in the microwave, topped with 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese and 2 tablespoons of chopped nuts.
54. Prebagged salad topped with canned tuna, grape tomatoes, shredded reduced-fat cheese, and low-cal Italian dressing.
55. Keep lean sandwich fixings on hand: whole wheat bread, sliced turkey, reduced-fat cheese, tomatoes, mustard with horseradish.
56. Heat up a can of good soup.
57. Cereal, fruit, and fat-free milk makes a good meal anytime.
58. Try a veggie sandwich from Subway.
59. Precut fruit for a salad and add yogurt.
What’s Your Best Advice for Avoiding those Extra Holiday Pounds?
60. Don’t tell yourself, “It’s okay, it’s the holidays.” That opens the door to 6 weeks of splurging.
61. Remember, EAT before you meet. Have this small meal before you go to any parties: a hardboiled Egg, Apple, and a Thirst quencher (water, seltzer, diet soda, tea).
62. As obvious as it sounds, don’t stand near the food at parties. Make the weight loss effort, and you’ll find you eat less.
63. At a buffet? Eating a little of everything guarantees high calories. Decide on three or four things, only one of which is high in calories. Save that for last so there’s less chance of overeating.
64. For the duration of the holidays, wear your snuggest clothes that don’t allow much room for expansion. Wearing sweats is out until January.
65. Give it away! After company leaves, give away leftover food to neighbors, doormen, or delivery people, or take it to work the next day.
66. Walk around the mall three times before you start shopping.
67. Make exercise a nonnegotiable priority.
68. Dance to music with your family in your home. One dietitian reported that when she asks her patients to do this, initially they just smile, but once they’ve done it, they say it is one of the easiest ways to involve the whole family in exercise.
How Can I Control a Raging Sweet Tooth?
69. Once in a while, have a lean, mean salad for lunch or dinner, and save the meal’s calories for a full dessert.
70. Are you the kind of person who does better if you make up your mind to do without sweets and just not have them around? Or are you going to do better if you have a limited amount of sweets every day? One dietician reported that most of her clients pick the latter and find they can avoid bingeing after a few days.
71. If your family thinks they need a very sweet treat every night, try to strike a balance between offering healthy choices but allowing them some “free will.” Compromise with low-fat ice cream and fruit, or sometimes just fruit with a dollop of whipped cream.
72. Try 2 weeks without sweets. It’s amazing how your cravings vanish.
73. Eat more fruit. A person who gets enough fruit in his diet doesn’t have a raging sweet tooth.
74. Eat your sweets, just eat them smart! Carve out about 150 calories per day for your favorite sweet. That amounts to about an ounce of chocolate, half a modest slice of cake, or 1/2 cup of regular ice cream.
75. Try these smart little sweets: sugar-free hot cocoa, frozen red grapes, fudgsicles, sugar-free gum, Nutri-Grain chocolate fudge twists, Tootsie Rolls, and hard candy.
How Can I Conquer My Downfall: Bingeing at Night?
76. Eat breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The large majority of people who struggle with night eating are those who skip meals or don’t eat balanced meals during the day. This is a major setup for overeating at night.
77. Eat your evening meal in the kitchen or dining room, sitting down at the table.
78. Drink cold unsweetened raspberry tea. It tastes great and keeps your mouth busy.
79. Change your nighttime schedule. It will take effort, but it will pay off. You need something that will occupy your mind and hands.
80. If you’re eating at night due to emotions, you need to focus on getting in touch with what’s going on and taking care of yourself in a way that really works. Find a nonfood method of coping with your stress.
81. Put a sign on the kitchen and refrigerator doors: “Closed after Dinner.”
82. Brush your teeth right after dinner to remind you of your weight loss goals: No more food.
83. Eat without engaging in any other simultaneous activity. No reading, watching TV, or sitting at the computer.
84. Eating late at night won’t itself cause weight gain on healthy weight loss programs. It’s how many calories—not when you eat them—that counts.
How Can I Reap Added Health Benefits from My Dieting?
85. Dietor fat-free isn’t always your best bet. Research has found that none of the lycopene or alpha- or beta-carotene that fight cancer and heart disease is absorbed from salads with fat-free dressing. Only slightly more is absorbed with reduced-fat dressing; the most is absorbed with full-fat dressing. But remember, use your dressing in moderate amounts.
86. Skipping breakfast will leave you tired and craving naughty foods by midmorning. To fill up healthfully and tastefully, try this sweet, fruity breakfast full of antioxidants. In a blender, process 1 c nonfat plain or vanilla yogurt, 1 1/3 c frozen strawberries (no added sugar), 1 peeled kiwi, and 1 peeled banana. Pulse until mixture is milkshake consistency. Makes one 2-cup serving; 348 calories and 1.5 fat grams.
87. If you’re famished by 4 p.m. and have no alternative but an office vending machine, reach for the nuts—. The same goes if your only choices are what’s available in the hotel minibar.
88. Next time you’re feeling wiped out in late afternoon, forgo that cup of coffee and reach for a cup of yogurt instead. The combination of protein, carbohydrate, and fat in an 8-ounce serving of low-fat yogurt will give you a sense of fullness and well-being that coffee can’t match, as well as some vital nutrients. If you haven’t eaten in 3 to 4 hours, your blood glucose levels are probably dropping, so eating a small amount of nutrient-rich food will give your brain and your body a boost.
89. Making just a few diet changes to your pantry shelves can get you a lot closer to your weight loss goals. Here’s what to do: If you use corn and peanut oil, replace it with olive oil. Same goes for breads—go for whole wheat. Trade in those fatty cold cuts like salami and bologna and replace them canned tuna, sliced turkey breast, and lean roast beef. Change from drinking whole milk to fat-free milk or low-fat soy milk. This is hard for a lot of people so try transitioning down to 2 percent and then 1 percent before you go fat-free.
90. Nothing’s less appetizing than a crisper drawer full of mushy vegetables. Frozen vegetables store much better, plus they may have greater nutritional value than fresh. Food suppliers typically freeze veggies just a few hours after harvest, locking in the nutrients. Fresh veggies, on the other hand, often spend days in the back of a truck before they reach your supermarket.
91. Worried about the trans-fat content in your peanut butter? Good news: In a test done on Skippy, JIF, Peter Pan, and a supermarket brand, the levels of trans fats per 2-tablespoon serving were far lower than 0.5 gram—low enough that under proposed laws, the brands can legally claim zero trans fats on the label. They also contained only 1 gram more sugar than natural brands—not a significant difference.
Eating Less Isn’t Enough—What Exercising Tips Will Help Me Shed Pounds?
92. Overeating is not the result of exercise. Vigorous exercise won’t stimulate you to overeat. It’s just the opposite. Exercise at any level helps curb your appetite immediately following the workout.
93. When you’re exercising, you shouldn’t wait for thirst to strike before you take a drink. By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Try this: Drink at least 16 ounces of water, sports drinks, or juices two hours before you exercise. Then drink 8 ounces an hour before and another 4 to 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Finish with at least 16 ounces after you’re done exercising.
94. Tune in to an audio book while you walk. It’ll keep you going longer and looking forward to the next walk—and the next chapter! Check your local library for a great selection. Look for a whodunit; you might walk so far you’ll need to take a cab home!
95. Think yoga’s too serene to burn calories? Think again. You can burn 250 to 350 calories during an hour-long class (that’s as much as you’d burn from an hour of walking)! Plus, you’ll improve muscle strength, flexibility, and endurance.
96. Drinking too few can hamper your healthy weight loss programs’ efforts. That’s because dehydration can slow your metabolism by 3 percent, or about 45 fewer calories burned a day, which in a year could mean weighing 5 pounds more. The key to water isn’t how much you drink, it’s how frequently you drink it. Small amounts sipped often work better than 8 ounces gulped down at once.
How Can I Manage My Emotional Eating and Get the Support I Need?
97. A registered dietitian (RD) can help you find healthy ways to manage your weight loss with food. To find one in your area who consults with private clients call (800) 366-1655.
98. The best place to drop pounds may be your own house of worship. Researchers set up exercise and healthy weight loss programs in 16 Baltimore churches. More than 500 women participated and after a year the most successful lost an average of 20 lb. Weight loss programs based on faith are so successful because there’s a built-in community component that people can feel comfortable with.
99. Here’s another reason to keep level-headed all the time: Pennsylvania State University research has found that women less able to cope with stress—shown by blood pressure and heart rate elevations—ate twice as many fatty snacks as stress-resistant women did, even after the stress stopped (in this case, 25 minutes of periodic jackhammer-level noise and an unsolvable maze).
100. Sitting at a computer may help you slim down. When researchers at Brown University School of Medicine put 92 people on online healthy weight loss programs for a year, those who received weekly e-mail counseling shed 5 1/2 more pounds than those who got none. Counselors provided weekly feedback on diet and exercise logs, answered questions, and cheered them on. Most major online diet programs offer many of these features.