There has been evidence to suggest that people who gain the least amount of weight during the holidays start strategizing early- as early as October. For North Carolina, I think the NC State Fair is the beginning of the holiday season. Pretty much anything is deep-fried, covered in butter, and somehow pork is always involved– for instance, the Krispy Kreme burger. Two Krispy Kreme doughnuts act as the bun for a burger, which is topped with cheese and bacon. Then, comes halloween and the beginning of all my friends’ holiday parties. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Eve… My weekends are quickly filling up between now and the end of the year with these events.
This week was also our annual Success Week at work (I work at a private residential weight management facility). During success week, former clients who have been successful at home return, and impart wisdom on our current clients. Although their success varies, and everyone’s stories are different. They all have one thing in common- through the years and struggles, they have managed to lose weight; some have lost 30-40 lbs. Some of our most successful people have gone from 675 lbs to 250, or 400 to 200 lbs. Either way, it is always an inspiration to hear how we have impacted these people’s lives, and it’s particularly nice for me to hear. I work with the numbers; working statistical analyses all day, determining outcomes, and reporting averages. When I am in the numbers all the time, I forget about the applied aspect of my research; the stories behind the weight loss.
So what strategies have worked for people in the past?
Planning your strategies now.
It seems silly that we plan our trips home, who we plan to see, where we want to go; but often, we forget to plan to be healthy during the holidays. When you make your plans for the holidays- whether you are going out of town or having people over to your house, the most successful people (people who are able to maintain their weight) plan out the meal and exercise plans while planning out their vacations. This may vary by person, but here are my favorites I’ve heard over the years–
Sign up for a Turkey Trot.
Most of these are pretty flexible and allow people to just walk the entire course, and range in distance from 5K to half marathon (3 to 13 miles).
Create a family tournament.
Besides, who doesn’t like a little sibling rivalry. This could be a pick-up game of flag football, running around the block in a santa suit, or a yoga-off (see who can hold the move longest). Hopefully you get the point.
Bring your own health.
Don’t assume that someone else will cook healthy for you. Ask if there is something you can bring to the get-together (or offer to test out a recipe there, with tons of veggies).
Add some veggies.
One of our former clients started baking fresh veggies at every holiday meal (This started 7 years ago). She claims they are delicious, and year after year, they are the only thing there with no leftovers. All she does is chop seasonal veggies and put them in 15-20 mins before the turkey/ham/whatever is baking is ready. She also swears by the next rule…
Pick a day.
Pick one day for each holiday. On that one day, you can eat everything you want. Indulge in those favorites. But, don’t extend each holiday into a holiweek. There is some evidence behind this, and one day will not ruin your diet, but three months of indulgence will add pounds in all the wrong places.
Put the cookie jar away.
Research shows that if you we don’t see it, we think about it less; and eat less of snacks that are in the cupboard.
Switch your drink.
Non-alcoholic drinks- like seasonal teas or apple cider have less calories, and are less likely to lower your inhibition (which keeps you from eating the entire batch of cookies you just made). If switching to non-alcoholic makes you scoff, stick with wines, beers, or club soda/tonic water and a shot. You can try my apple cider sangria- coming soon… (I’ll link to my apple cider when it is up and running… I made a trial batch- delicious, and am making another LARGE batch this weekend (<200 cals per glass)
Mini-size me. Pile up with smaller portions of each item. Then, only go back for seconds of your “favorites” (as opposed to eat 1 full heaping portion of everything, and then add another heaping portion of your favorites). This allows you to feel satisfied in your choices. You can eat as much as you want of the “top 3 favorites”.
The biggest advice I can give is know when to indulge, and when to be conservative. If you indulge at every party you go to, and do not eat healthy in between, your jeans may be a little tighter in January. I enjoy the holidays with games and activities and talking with people. Food is part of it, but only the main event a few days out of the year.