The endless procession of holiday foods is either a blessing or a curse, depending on your point of view. If you happen to be bulking at this time of year, good planning on your part can let you gorge away. If, on the other hand, you seem to be in bulking mode 24/7, even when you don't want to be, it can be a scary time. Still, it doesn't have to be your downfall. Use these five tricks to help you resist when the calories call.
1. Deep Six the Sweets
The saying, "Out of sight, out of mind," carries a lot of weight—literally—during the holidays. The more pies, cookies, and breads you have around, the more you're going to eat. A forkful here, a razor-thin slice there, and pretty soon you've added another couple hundred calories to your day. Now is the time for bold action, and you have several options:
Option A: Throw it away. Just do it. Don't worry about wasting food. It's either going to end up in the trash can or on your waist or thighs.
Option B: If the sweet is so delicious, you just can't bear to throw it away, freeze it. This gets it out of your sight and, if you're lucky, when you remember you put it there, it'll be so freezer burned you'll have no choice but to move directly to Option A.
Option C: Bring it to work and watch your coworkers eat it. They need those extra calories about as much as you do.
2. Weigh Yourself More Frequently
Are you one of those people who discretely nudges your scale into the linen closet for the holidays? Have you learned with the passage of time that it's better not to know how many pounds you're gaining this time of year? The fact is, you need to do the exact opposite and keep that scale front and center.
Weighing yourself more frequently will increase your awareness of what's going on with your eating habits over the holidays. Make a goal of staying within a few pounds of your usual weight this time, and weigh in a few times each week for some immediate feedback on how well you're doing. Keeping within a few pounds of your preholiday weight will make it all that easier to trim up once the eggnog and Christmas cookies go back into hibernation.
If you don't have a scale, put one on your wish list! But keep in mind that there are other ways to keep track of your body weight.
3. Have a Whey Protein Shake Before Every Party
Sometime people down a big glass of water or eat a big meal before going to a party, just so they won't drink too much. You can use the same strategy with food, but instead of drinking water, have a whey protein shake right before you head out the door. Whey protein triggers the release of several satiety hormones, so you don't feel like eating as much as you would otherwise.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, subjects consumed either 10, 20, 30, or 40 grams of whey protein 30 minutes prior to being asked to eat as much pizza as it took to make them "comfortably full" in a 20-minute period.
Compared to the control day in which subjects didn't drink any whey protein before the meal, they took in fewer calories in direct proportion to the amount of whey protein they consumed before they ate. On average, those who got 20-40 grams of whey protein before the meal ate 305 fewer calories.
When you do eat, focus on portion control and having lean protein and vegetables.
4. Go Ahead and Drink, but Drink Smart
When indulging in alcoholic beverages, practice moderation. Stick with 1-2 drinks per occasion and no more than two occasions per week. That may be easier said than done.
Before you hop into your limo for the next cocktail party, down a big glass of water. When you get there, have one cocktail—two at the most—and then switch to something you can dilute with club soda or another mixer. Better yet, get used to thinking of your cocktail, glass of wine, or beer as a party prop. Just because you have a drink in your hand, doesn't mean you have to finish it.
Also consider sticking with lower-calorie drinks. There's not a huge difference between kinds and brands, but every little calorie adds up.
5. Walk It Off
If you have made the executive decision to avoid the gym altogether over the holidays—which is fine; you deserve a break—let the occasional walk act as a stand-in. After a big meal, walk straight past the couch and head out the door, even if it's only for 10 minutes. Bring the kids with you to help them get used to taking walks. Start your day with some power walking, and you can burn 100 calories in just 15 minutes. You can even burn calories by window shopping.
Interested in learning more about the basics of nutrition and supplementation? Check out Foundations of Fitness Nutrition in BodyFit.
- Akhavan, T., Luhovyy, B. L., Brown, P. H., Cho, C. E., & Anderson, G. H. (2010). Effect of premeal consumption of whey protein and its hydrolysate on food intake and postmeal glycemia and insulin responses in young adults. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 91(4), 966-975.