One of the toughest challenges during the holidays is resisting the urge to overindulge. It’s not just the kids who have visions of sugar plums dancing in their heads; many adults take an “anything goes” approach to eating during the season. The result: a thicker waistline and post-holiday regrets.
It’s natural to crave heavier and warming foods as the weather turns colder. But when you combine it with “letting loose” at holiday gatherings – that’s a recipe for overeating.
Here are a few tips to fight the overwhelming forces that lead to overindulging:
- Don’t start out hungry. Do not avoid eating prior to a big holiday dinner or party. It can be difficult to resist beautiful hors d’oeuvres or a bountiful buffet on an empty stomach. Experts say depriving yourself beforehand and then gorging can be taxing on both your digestive and hormonal systems, and can lead to exhaustion, moodiness, bloating, headaches and weight gain. Instead, eat a nutritious snack prior to attending a holiday event. Go for something high-protein: a handful of nuts, nut butter with celery or carrots, or a cooked egg. Smart snacking can give you lasting energy so you’re not ravenous when the food arrives and you can better pace yourself and stop eating when you’re full.
Stay hydrated. Drink lots of water, and then drink some more. Thirst can sometimes be disguised as hunger and can lead you to continue eating past the point of being satisfied. Drinking water can also help with digestion and the transportation and absorption of nutrients, not to mention helping control calories. Also keep in mind that foods with a high-water content, such as fruits and vegetables, are absorbed more slowly by the body, helping satisfy hunger. Staying hydrated can go a long way toward preventing overconsumption, not to mention helping you stay energized, clear-headed, and feeling your best.
- Take your time when eating. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to receive the signal from your stomach that you’re full. So, take your time before reaching for seconds. While it may not be necessary to count your bites, a good rule of thumb is not to swallow your food until you can’t distinguish what you just ate by the texture remaining in your mouth. It’s not just a good trick to help with overeating, it also helps with digestion – and gives you the time to savor the flavors.
- Cut down on the alcohol. In addition to the extra calories in wine and beer, alcohol tends to make us hungrier. Try to drink a glass of water for every drink of alcohol consumed. Not only will it keep you hydrated, it will help steer away from the holiday buffet.
- Keep exercising. The holidays are no time to take a holiday from exercise. And it doesn’t have to be a hard-body workout. Taking a 30-minute walk each day is one of the best and easiest things you can do for your health. It can help reduce the risk of developing diabetes, depression, certain types of cancer, and helps fight cholesterol and high blood pressure. And you might just burn a few holiday calories, to boot.