There's something about the holiday season that makes even the most die-hard health and fitness fanatics temporarily abandon their low-carb, six-workouts-a-week lifestyles. That probably has something to do with the fact that there are (by our scientific calculations) approximately 5,000 times the temptations during this time of year. After all, who can resist grandma's pecan pie when she only makes it once a year?
But in the two months before the new year (a.k.a. before we hop back on the treadmill and vow to shun carbs and refined sugars), it can be easy to over-indulge, resulting in setbacks to your health and fitness goals. Here, seven diet mistakes to avoid, and tips that will help you avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain.
Scroll through to see how to indulge this holiday season—without completely messing up your diet.
Not eating before heading off to your holiday fete may seem like a good idea if you plan to indulge—less calories, right? Wrong. The hungrier you are, the faster your self-control goes out the window and the more likely you are to binge eat. Eat healthy throughout the day (including plenty of protein and fiber), and you'll be able to mindfully indulge at the party without double-fisting the holiday cookies.
The likelihood of you eating another roll is basically proportionate to how close it is to your seat. Meaning, you're more likely to indulge in an extra roll or two if they're right in front of your face. By keeping the serving trays in the kitchen, it makes it much less convenient to pile extra food onto your plate, so you'll be forced to think twice about whether you really want that second helping.
Only treat yourself to the food you really love and are craving. If you can't imagine a holiday season without your grandmother's Christmas cookies, it's okay to indulge. Just say no to the other bland, not-as-good cookies, because they're not what you really want. And, if something doesn't taste good enough to be worth the calories, you don't need to finish it.
When you do splurge, don't feel guilty about it. Guilt over food can make it more difficult to stick to your healthy eating habits, because it can drive you to eat emotionally. Read more on how to splurge while remaining healthy here.
It takes 20 whole minutes for you to feel full. So if you inhale your plate of mashed potatoes, ham, and cranberry sauce like you haven't had a bite of food in months, you'll be inclined to head for another helping because your body hasn't had time to register that you're full.
Take your time with your meal, savor every bite, and enjoy the conversation for a while before heading into the kitchen (see previous tip) to pile your plate again. Chances are, you'll realize you're no longer hungry.
This is advice that often gets disregarded (who wants water when there's cocktails to be had?), but it's important, especially during the holidays when you're surrounded by all those tempting desserts and cheesy appetizers.
Alternating wine/cocktails/champagne with water will make you less likely to fall victim to the alcohol-induced "one more cookie won't hurt" mentality. Plus, you'll stay hydrated, thus helping prevent a hangover (and the greasy, hangover food you’ll want the next morning).
You'll also consume fewer alcohol-related calories overall; despite what we tell ourselves, a glass of champagne does contain calories (90 of them, to be exact).
Find out exactly how many calories are in your other favorite libations here.
Not catching enough zzzs can mess with your metabolism, making it easier to put on weight. That's because it skews the balance of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Ghrelin is the hormone that tells you when you're hungry, and it increases when you don't get enough sleep; leptin, the hormone that suppresses your appetite, decreases.
Log around seven and a half hours of quality sleep to make it easier to make healthy choices when it comes to food. If you need more convincing to go to bed early tonight, researchers at Columbia University found that people who clock less than seven hours of sleep per night not only gain more weight, but have a harder time losing it as well.
Let's face it: Between travelling, family commitments, and holiday parties, there's around a seven percent chance that we're actually going to make it to the gym. But that's not an excuse to throw in the towel on all exercise and become a couch potato. After all, you're probably going to be consuming more calories than you would be non-holiday season, despite your best intentions (thanks, eggnog). Being sedentary amplifies the effects of this.
Find little ways to move more, whether that's taking the stairs instead of the elevator or using a fitness tracker to count your steps (find the right one for you here).
Are the holidays stressing you out? Try these tricks for instant relaxation.