While many people look forward to the holidays, when these are over they are anything but happy with the results. It is true that because of the holidays, many enjoy the time with their family, taking time off of work, parties, or perhaps the long evenings in conversation around a fire. But along with these comes the food. When family members are together, it is traditional to eat enormous amounts of honey baked ham, moist turkey, stuffing with loads of rich gravy, mashed potatoes, and all the other trimmings that come along with it.
And don’t forget the drinks! Alcoholic drinks can be disastrous for those who are trying to keep extra pounds off, since these are chock full of calories, having 7 calories per gram – nearly twice that of carbohydrates. In addition to these, since you are drinking them and they have no bulk, it is easy to take in enormous quantities of calories. Also, these drinks slow down your metabolism. Finally, since they lower your inhibitions, they also can get you to throw any caution you might normally have out the window, and eat your way to a big tummy, big hips, and a big butt.
How much weight does the average American put on during the holidays? Estimates on this vary between one and three pounds, with the most authoritative estimates actually on the low side of this scale at about a pound. That may be encouraging news, but don’t forget: If you are 35 years old, unless you’ve been very good about getting the weight off each year, you could easily be carrying around 15 extra pounds since those great teenage years when it seems you could eat without nearly the consequences of today.
Below are a few tricks that can both keep the weight off in the first place, and also help you shed some extra pounds when incorporated into a lifelong healthy eating style.
Drink Water, Not Sodas
Water is a wonderful thirst quencher. It has zero calories, and is exactly what our bodies need to keep hydrated, making up about 70% of the human body. The Mayo Clinic tells us:
Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.
Since our bodies need it so much, it will send signals to you in an effort to avoid dehydration. Unfortunately for those with weight management issues, it is very easy to mistake thirst for hunger, bringing unneeded calories into the body while also not addressing the underlying dehydration. When you drink enough water, it allows your body to release stored water from the intracellular fluid. This helps flush out toxins and reduces bloating.
But don’t substitute sodas for water simply because they taste good. Soft drinks are one of the worst things you can put in your body. They have absolutely no nutritional value apart from their calories, and it appears there is something about the liquid form of these calories that makes a difference. Reader’s Digest reported an interesting study:
Purdue University found that when people were fed 450 calories daily as jelly beans or as soda, the soda drinkers gained a significant amount of weight, but the jelly-bean eaters compensated for the extra calories by cutting back on other food.
If you find yourself craving something besides water, why not try unsweetened ice tea? Herbal teas especially can be very refreshing. And if you need that caffeine buzz, regular iced tea will do the trick.
The holiday season can be a very stressful time. There are often a lot of unreasonable expectations we feel we must live up to. And, while getting back with our family can be wonderful in some ways, often we find ourselves going back to old roles we had when we were younger. These roles are out of date and can bring a lot of resentments to the surface – and these arise just at the time when we feel obligated to help keep a peaceful environment!
Unfortunately, during such times of stress, we tend to give up on two things: healthy eating and getting enough exercise. Exercise in particular is exactly what we need during times of stress. It is a great stress reliever. Internal tension can be easily let out with just a short amount of exercise; even a 15 or 20 minute walk will do wonders! When we feel internal tensions building up, instead of sitting and stewing or letting resentment build up, excuse yourself and go for a walk.
It is important to take time for yourself to unwind as well. With all the hectic activities, we need to make sure we set aside some time to unwind, as Deborah Balfanz says:
Most of us have special rituals we use to unwind, such as taking a long bubble-bath, meditating, dancing, or vegging under the covers with a good book…If you don’t have a way to relax, think back to what you enjoyed as a child, and try that activity.
Reduce Portions and Take Your Time
Have you ever been to a nice restaurant in Europe and noticed how much smaller the average dinner plate is, and how much smaller the portions are? Did you also then notice the average European’s waist size? There seems to be a direct correlation! The average American dinner plate is enormous, and at holiday-time, it is filled to overflowing. All these add up to a huge number of calories that we’d be better off without. So what can be done? One thing is to take smaller portions. A nice trick with this is to reduce your plate size. Smaller portions will fill it much faster, creating the illusion of more food. Always remember that you can always go back for more. While you are at it, take your time while eating. It takes about 10 minutes before your body recognizes that it has had enough and turns off the craving-alert. If you eat more slowly, chew your food more, and enjoy a longer meal, you will reduce calories, digest your food more easily, and enjoy your meal many times more.