We'd never suggest eating nothing but veggies at your best friend's party, or swearing off your favorite pie. To stay healthy while enjoying the festivities to their fullest, follow this expert advice. By Ava Feuer, REDBOOK.
1. Make a plan
The party buffet isn't going away, so make a game out of it. Promise yourself six bites of the very best stuff, and that's it, so what will it be? "If you know the desserts are great and the alcohol isn't so important to you, pre-plan for it," says Brett Blumenthal, author of A Whole New You: Six Steps to Ignite Change for Your Best Life. Put the focus on choosing the very best, most delicious stuff and really enjoying your selections. It'll help you change your mindset from one of deprivation to one of satisfaction.
2. Plan a fabulous New Year's Eve outfit
Before the holiday eating madness begins, pick out a to-die-for outfit - newly purchased or sourced from your closet - to wear on New Year's Eve or shortly thereafter. If it fits now, it should slip on then as well. "I know if I go too overboard, I won't fit into this fabulous outfit I'm so excited to wear," says Kim Barnouin, author of the Skinny Bitch series and founder of Healthy Bitch Daily. To keep to her goal, she tries on the outfit periodically.
Related: 100 Gifts Under $50 for Everyone on Your List
3. Create a trick of the eye
Those in the décor world call it a "complimentary plate." We call it genius. When serving a big meal, present food on a lunch- or appetizer-sized dish, and place a larger plate with a decorative rim underneath. "It looks bigger even though people are eating less," says Molly Morgan, RD, author of The Skinny Rules. How's that for portion control?
4. Sleep it off
Holiday shopping. Holiday cooking. Holiday travel planning. It's no wonder you haven't been clocking as many hours in dreamland. But, it's vital to get your ZZZs - for your mind and your body. Ghrelin, the hunger hormone, is produced in excess when you don't get enough sleep, and leptin, the hormone that tells your brain you're full, is in short supply. So ask your family to give you an early holiday gift - eight hours of sleep each night, all holiday season long. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to turn down the cake and cookies when you're feeling well-rested. (Little known fact: Decision making skills are the first to go when you're working off of too few hours of sleep.)
5. Cut it in half
We've been there: You decide to save all your calories for the delicious party spread, only to arrive so ravenous that you consume what feels like the entire appetizer table in five minutes. Instead, eat half a meal 30 to 45 minutes before arriving at the event, advises Dr. Ian Smith, author of Shred, and a member of the President's Council of Fitness Sports and Nutrition. "You still have some hunger, but you don't have the hunger that makes you want to gorge," he says. "You take some of your stomach out of play."
Related: 100 Cute, Affordable Winter Accessories
6. Eat early
It's not just about what you eat - when you eat matters, too. A recent study at the University of Pennsylvania found that when Amtl, the clock gene in fat cells, was deleted in mice, the rodents shifted their mealtimes and became obese. The results have implications for us, too, since our metabolism is thrown off by changes in routine in the same kind of way. If you're going to a late-night or all-night party, try to eat at the same time you would normally - closer to the front-end.
7. Make it a holiday, not holidays
You know how hard your sister worked perfecting her chocolate cake, and you want to show her how good it is. Those cookies your kids made for the school bakesale are full of love, and absolutely worth it. Eat these things, but don't keep shoveling them in. "It's one thing to have it at the moment, but try not to have repeat performances," says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet. Pre-write gift tags and stick them on the packaging so once the party's over, all you have to do is hand off the goods!
8. Be mindful
A comparative three-month study showed that when it comes to weight loss, practicing a mindful approach to eating is just as effective as following a stict diet, indicating that responding to hunger and fullness cues is as important as vowing to skip dessert. So once you're sated, move away from the food, and enjoy catching up with a friend or family member you haven't seen in a while.
9. Fatten up
With healthy, mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, that is. A study published in the October issue of the Canadian Journal of Cardiology showed that a single, saturated fat-laden junk food meal is detrimental to the health of arteries while one rich in good fats does no damage. Guacamole on vegetables, nuts, and trail mix are all great options according to Morgan. Bean dips, hummus, olives and whole grain crackers are also good choices, as are protein-rich foods like chicken skewers and shrimp cocktail.
Related: 50 Really Cool Gifts Under $50
10. Keep a record
Numerous studies have shown that keeping peanut shells, wrappers, or other evidence of food consumed causes people to ultimately eat less. "It's so easy to lose track when you're eating in a very piecemeal style," says Gans of party-style meals. She suggests holding on to cocktail napkins to remind yourself how many hors d'ouevres you've eaten, or stirrers to keep tabs on the number of drinks you've sipped.
11. Fit in sneaky exercise
You don't have to commit to hours and hours of exercise at this busy time of year. You can stave off the pound or two you might normally gain just by fitting in two or three sweat sessions a week. A recent study found volunteers burned an average of 200 calories doing 2.5 minutes of sprint intervals, with each 30-second bout separated by four minutes of recovery time. The best part: So long as you give those short bursts your all, each workout can be a mere 15 minutes.
12. Put things in perspective
Despite all the hype, the average person actually only gains one pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's, according to a study in The New England Journal of Medicine. "This a short period of time," says Blumenthal. "Compare it to a bad vacation when you're eating tons and doing what you wouldn't normally do. You probably lose that weight pretty easily once you get back to your normal life."
For five more ways to keep holiday weight under control, visit Redbookmag.com.
More from REDBOOK:
- Top 10 Skinniest Holiday Treats
- 25 Lazy Ways to Stay Skinny
25 Foodie Gifts Under $50
- How to Make a Truce With Food
25 Things That Will Keep You Young
Become of a fan of REDBOOK on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!