Hoping to keep the pounds off over the holidays?
Follow Your Body Evolution’s 12 Ps of holiday weight-loss wisdomThe holidays are a time for kindness, reflection, enjoying time with family and indulging in more than a few tempting treats—think everything from an extra helping of turkey to mom’s Christmas cake.
In other words, the season can pose a major challenge for anyone trying to maintain their hard-earned weight-loss results, as well as those hoping to continue shedding pounds. December is the time of year when most of us are shuttling from office parties to family functions, eating more than we normally would (and should), not to mention indulging in our fair share of sweets and other tasty bits.
But I’m not here to play nutritional Scrooge. On the contrary, I think it’s OK to stray from our diets a bit over the holidays. Instead, the key focus for any dieter should be moderation, while also taking a strategic approach to how, when and what you eat.
Sound too tough to manage, especially when you want to avoid seeming rude by not turning down food at a party or at a family gathering? Not to worry. Here are my 12 P’s of holiday weight-loss wisdom to guide you through the most nutritionally-challenging season of the year:
Plan—Take out a calendar and mark down the nutritional obstacles that lie ahead between now and New Year’s (perhaps into the New Year if your culture’s holiday celebrations or work office holiday party fall in January). That could be everything from that aforementioned office gathering to a visit to your friend’s house and an inevitable offering of egg nog. Knowing the weight-loss challenges that lie ahead will help you plan to manage them. That could mean dieting a bit more before the holidays to shed a few extra pounds in anticipation of a slight seasonal caloric binge, or even alerting your hosts that you’ll be bringing your own food to their place for dinner. If they’re friends or family who support your weight-loss ambitions, they’ll be happy to help you succeed.
Permit—Allow yourself to be nutritionally naughty. After all, you’ve been mostly good for the entire year, so giving yourself permission to have a good time and relax your dietary restrictions will provide a nice break from the rigours of a strict weight-loss regimen. But again, moderation is key. Overindulging only threatens to sabotage your hard-earned gains and will leave you with extra weight-loss work once the holidays are over.
Prioritize—Make your food list, check it twice and ask yourself: ‘What are the two or three items that I simply have to have over the holidays?’ Once you have your list, go ahead and enjoy those delicacies in moderation. If egg nog is your must-have, enjoy a cup or two; if Christmas cake is your seasonal obsession, have a small slice and don’t think twice.
Participate—When you have the opportunity, help plan your festive meals to ensure there’s plenty of nutritionally-friendly choices on the table. If going out to lunch with a group of friends poses a challenge, try to help pick a restaurant with healthy dining options.
Pre-plan for events—Dining out for your office holiday party? If you’re not on the party planning committee and weren’t able to help choose the venue, be sure to do a bit to reconnaissance and take a sneak peak at the menu online. Know what you’re going to eat before you arrive, or even call the restaurant in advance and explain your dietary dilemma. Better restaurants will find a way to accommodate your needs. This is a simple step, but one that can help keep inches off your waistline.
Practice portion control—From salads to meats to cranberry sauce, remember that it’s OK to indulge, just not over-indulge. Enjoy salads with dressing on the side (remember that those delicious creamy toppings can hide hundreds of unwanted calories) and use no more than a tablespoon. Opt for lots of vegetables such as broccoli or cauliflower, and use the palm method when dishing out meat (that means the portion of turkey on your plate shouldn’t exceed the diameter of your palm). Lastly, keep your consumption of starches such as stuffing and potatoes to a minimum, but when you do dig-in, time them to the end of your meal.
Prepare for pre-meal appetizers—Grabbing appetizers and finger foods off cocktail party trays is a major danger area for dieters. But if you do nosh on those tiny pre-meal delights, stick to high-protein options such as shrimp or chicken skewers, and be sure to avoid high-calorie cheeses or crackers.
Prepare for post-meal desserts—Hosts often pile their dinner tables with a range of baked desserts at holiday meals. That doesn’t give you license to eat like you’re dining at an all-you-can-eat buffet. Use the same portioning approach I outlined earlier and keep slices of cake or cookie portions to the size of the palm of your hand, then use a teaspoon to help you eat slowly. The latter is a simple technique that helps trick your mind into thinking it’s eating more, but without the concern of adding extra calories.
Pick the perfect potent—Many of us drink a little extra over the holidays, but alcohol can be a diet derailer—particularly libations such as egg nog or sugary cocktails and coolers. Try to keep your consumption to two standard-sized drinks (less if you’re driving, of course), and limit your options to light beer, dry red wine or spirits mixed with diet pop. Remember that drinking your calories will only leave you craving more food, putting your weight-loss ambitions at risk.
Play defence against saboteurs—Your family and friends all undoubtedly love you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t inadvertently try to sabotage your weight-loss ambitions by offering you every seasonal treat imaginable (while insisting you eat them!). It can be tough to say ‘no’ to great food, but if you’re offered something you don’t want, say you’re full or explain your weight-loss goals to help them understand why you’re taking a pass. Some hosts may still reply with a familiar refrain like: ‘Oh, come on, it’s the holidays. Live a little!’ If necessary, feign a food sensitivity, take the treat to-go and toss it as soon as you get home, or if it’s a sealed and boxed item such as chocolate, re-gift it.
Prepare your pantry—Prepare for the holidays by cleaning out your pantry and remove problematic foods. When people give you gifts such as chocolate or cookies, don’t store them in your pantry to be eaten in the New Year, re-gift them, head straight to your local food bank and make a donation, or drop them in your office food-drive bin.
Practice—Make and keep your New Years’ resolutions about practicing healthy habits and use the tactics I’ve outlined here throughout the year. Your body will thank you for it!
Dr. Jeffrey Brown, Medical Director
Your Body Evolution
Weight Loss Through Wellness