When I was in the process of losing more than 100 pounds five years ago, meals at Christmas and New Year’s terrified me.
Like many others, I love the cookies, eggnog and meat-centric meals that are standard holiday fare. Of course, I worried I’d regain the weight I’d worked so hard to lose. Spoiler alert: I didn’t gain any weight that season. The tricks were so successful that I now use them for every holiday season and other splurge times.
Check out these tips to make sure you ring in the new year as your slimmest self:
1. Set realistic goals
Although I actually lost weight that holiday season — a terrific bonus! — I didn’t set out to do so. Instead I promised myself that I would maintain my weight.
If you think that sounds like the easy way out, consider that one study found adults generally gain between 1 and 5 pounds during the holidays. Such pounds are usually difficult to lose and may account for that creeping annual weight gain.
2. Don’t starve
It’s easy to believe that if you skip breakfast and other meals to save up for a holiday treat, you won’t gain weight. I did that, too, and it didn’t work. Once treat time rolled around, I was ravenous. The experts at the University of California, Davis, suggest you eat healthy regular meals — think wheat toast and fruit for breakfast — so you eat reasonable portions later.
3. Stand by the vegetable tray
One holiday, I was tempted to eat the buttery cookies, milk chocolate candy and bacon-wrapped pretzel sticks the host had out for guests. As basic as it sounds, I stood right next to the tray of raw vegetables and ate broccoli, cherry tomatoes and other healthy veggies as I talked with people.
To grab cookies or other high-calorie foods, I would have had to leave my friends and make my way across a crowded room. Every time I was tempted, I ate more veggies.
4. Don’t go all out
Enjoy holiday foods, but keep moderation in mind. Choose turkey instead of ham, go easy on the butter, and choose low-fat eggnog. Also, don’t skip the salad (though you may want to skip the dressing), vegetables and fruits. They really do fill you up.
5. Be a food snob
We often fill our plates with food out of habit, and that shows on the scale. When I started to lose weight, I became incredibly picky about the foods I ate. When you carefully choose the foods you really enjoy and then eat them slowly and mindfully, you’ll be satisfied and slim. By the way, if you don’t like something on your plate, don’t eat it. Period.
6. Beware the fill-your-glass host
I recently went to a party and didn’t fully realize the host kept refilling my glass, adding extra calories to my evening meal. One way to avoid this dilemma is to start your evening with a glass of seltzer — make sure it’s not high calorie tonic — that contains a slice of lemon, recommends Readers’ Digest.
The water fills you up, and the lemon adds a burst of what they call a “fat releasing nutrient” — and flavor. This holiday season, I’ll have a glass of seltzer with lemon between each glass of wine.
7. Choose to be last in line
You know how fresh and yummy untouched food looks? Food doesn’t look quite as appealing after a few people have taken helpings, say experts at the Cleveland Clinic. Try to serve yourself last, and you might find food is a bit less appealing.
8. Keep exercise in perspective
The experts at UC Davis and elsewhere remind everyone to stay active and exercise regularly. That’s great advice. The problem I found is that I’d work out vigorously — even when I was very tired — and then reward myself with food. That meant I ate back all the calories I burned off during exercise. Moderation is key for workouts and food.
9. Wear your fancy clothes
When you are dressed elegantly, you feel great and are less likely to chow down on high-calorie foods.
10. Concentrate on your food
When you eat holiday goodies and delicacies, be fully conscious of each bite. What’s the point of having the food if you don’t fully enjoy it? Of course, you’ll likely be chatting during the meal, so set your food down then, says Real Simple. When there’s a pause in conversation, eat your food. Mindfulness makes all the difference.
11. Trim the trimmings
Dips, spreads and sauces add a lot of extra calories, and we often automatically add them to our foods. When I hit weight plateaus, I became acutely aware of such extras and began to cut them out. That helped jump-start my continued weight loss. Go easy on the extras, and you’ll be rewarded when you step on the scale.