Here’s an unpleasant reality check: The traditional American Thanksgiving meal packs an average of 3000 calories – more than about double the recommended dailyconsumption for women and a thousand calories over the standard 2000 calories men should consume in a day. And that’s just one meal; most of us at least eat breakfast on Thanksgiving, not to mention that time-honored late-night turkey sandwich.
Then there are those scary statistics about the average weight gain over the holidays, which is often put at between 7 and 10 pounds, though one study found that that’s largely a myth.
According to the Calorie Control Council, the true average weight gain is 1 to 3 pounds, which doesn’t sound like that much until you realizet we’re talking about a four-week period, which means many people are packing on almost a pound a week. Also, research shows people who are already overweight gain considerably more, on average 5 pounds. The other problem, the CCC says, is that most people fail to get those pounds off after the holidays.
1. Plan in Advance or Set the Stage
Spontaneity is not your friend when it comes to weight loss. When we get hungry, we reach for whatever’s available. And around the holidays, the choices put in front of you are even more tempting than usual. Maybe your contribution to a holiday dinner could be a veggie dish or salad – which you could then eat a goodly portion of. Or if wine is your weakness, perhaps bring an alternative beverage, such as flavored fizzy water, so you have something else you like to drink available as well.
2. Eat to Savor, Not Gorge
Changing the way you eat, in addition to what you eat, is one of the best ways to make sure you don’t become another holiday weight gain statistic. One of the best ways to do this, experts say, is with conscious or mindful eating, which research shows aids weight loss. Mindful eating gives you permission to eat the foods you love, eating them slowly while tasting and enjoying every bite.
3. Put Yourself in the Driver’s Seat
One of the stories we tell ourselves during the holidays is that we’re not in charge, therefore we’re not responsible. “I can’t help it if my family cooks a rich meal and expects everyone to stuff themselves” is an example of this kind of thinking. Of course, this is simply not true. No one has any say in what you put in your mouth but you. And if family expectations are an issue, there are lots of tricky ways around that. (And no, you don’t have to feed your leftovers to the dog under the table like you did as a kid.) Some people take a small portion and eat it slowly, so it looks like they have a full plate throughout the meal. Some people say they’ve “developed a food allergy” to explain why they’re skipping the bread and pie. After all, going gluten-free is such a trend nowadays, it barely raises eyebrows.
4. Eat Like a Kid
Sometimes it seems like every year, we eat faster and faster. For some it starts when they become parents, and have to get through their meal before the baby cries. For others, it’s distractions, like TV and reading. Ever looked up from your morning paper (or your ipad) and discovered your entire bowl of cereal is gone and you don’t remember eating it? For contrast, watch a child eat, and you’ll notice the difference. Maybe he plays with each type of food on the plate, mounding up peas, making faces in his mashed potatoes. Or maybe he’s just playful while he eats, sailing each spoonful through the air. Either way, he enjoys the experience minute by minute, and chances are when he’s done there’s still amount on his plate. So from now through Thanksgiving weekend, try these tricks. Do something visual or playful with your food while you eat. Take bites in a spiral, eating from the outside to the inside. Alternate one bite from each food on your plate so the portions decrease equally. Use these tricks to focus your attention on the process of eating. It’s pretty much certain you’ll eat slower, eat less, and notice that you’re full before all your food is gone. Voila – automatic portion control!
5. Earn Your Food
Upping your physical activity level during the holidays is the most straightforward and effective weight control strategy, according to the Calorie Control Council. After all, it’s truly a matter of calories in, calories out. A few suggestions: Before or after you sit down to a big meal, push yourself a little, then make the meal your reward. It doesn’t have to be exercise, per se, although a good vigorous hill walk is often the simplest option. If you’re really too busy hosting family to get to the gym or down to the track, then get physical while getting ready. clearing the dead leaves from the garden, vaccuming the living room, and cleaning out the garage are all physically demanding and will keep you on your feet and moving. (And you’ll have a cleaner house and tidier garden for the holidays too.)
6. Don’t Punish Yourself
If you do overindulge, let it go. Recent brain research shows that beating yourself up for a “slip” in healthy habit sets the stage for a full tumble off the wagon. Instead, focus on what you did right, and compliment yourself. (Creating a positive feedback loop is one of the best ways to insure a healthy habit sticks.) Saying “wow, you said no to that third glass of wine, good for you!” goes a lot further than “Geez I shouldn’t have eaten that second piece of pie.” Now, turn your focus to the healthy ways you’re going to take care of yourself tomorrow. Maybe an evening walk is in order?
7. Go to Bed on Time
There’s a natural tendency to let our sleep routines go haywire over the holidays. We talk into the night with old friends and family, or we hit the bar or sleep in just because we can. But recent research ties weight loss to keeping a regular sleep schedule, showing that those who go to sleep and wake up at regular hours have lower body fat than those who don’t.
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source: Forbes by Melanie Haiken