If you’re trying to watch your weight, the holidays can be a gauntlet, testing your willpower, your resolve and your resistance. It all starts with Halloween, where candy is the name of the game. You buy it for trick-or-treating, but what doesn’t get given away often winds up sitting out in the open somewhere looking all-too-appealing. Less than a month later – this week, in fact – you’re hit with Thanksgiving; a time when overeating is almost a universal truth. Then, of course, there are the holiday parties, work events and outings that lead up to Christmas – all of them typically involving meals or snacks of some kind. And then, the main event itself, Christmas dinner, which at many homes becomes many separate meals as leftovers are abundant. Is it any wonder that, by New Year’s Eve, so many of us set weight loss resolutions?
But, Blount Memorial registered dietitian Heather Pierce says it doesn’t have to be this way. “If you’re trying to lose weight, the holidays can pose a big challenge to your waistline, but holiday weight gain does not have to be a guarantee if you follow a few simple steps and strategies,” Pierce said. “The first step to remember is never go anywhere hungry. You can do this by keeping your appetite steady with regular eating. This includes not skipping breakfast. Study after study has found that people who are successful at losing weight are breakfast-eaters, not breakfast-skippers,” she explained. “When looking at breakfast, aim for a high-fiber carbohydrates paired with a protein source. Examples of this would be oatmeal with almond butter, or Greek yogurt and fruit,” she added.
Pierce says another tip to remember is to keep easy-to-prepare meals on-hand. “The freezer section of the grocery store and a crock pot can be your best allies here,” she said. “Stock up on frozen vegetables or lean proteins – anything to keep you from stopping at a fast food restaurant, or picking up a pizza on the way home will be a victory every time,” she said.
As for those big-event meals, Pierce says you may want to keep an eye on the calorie counts. “When it comes to calorie-rich foods, such as pecan pie, fudge or eggnog, try to keep it under 200 calories,” Pierce said. “This, of course, will vary person-to-person, but if you try a few bites of pecan pie, rather than a whole slice, you can still get the taste you’re craving while saving yourself a few calories. Also, avoid grazing. If you’re going to eat something, put it on your plate first. While you’re eating, remember to savor each bite. Take time to notice the textures and aromas of the foods on your plate,” she said. “People do this with wine all the time, so why not treat your favorite foods the same way? And finally, if you don’t love a particular food, just skip it. There’s no reason to waste your calories on something that doesn’t ‘wow’ your taste buds,” she explained.
“What we want to do is attempt to make the holidays more about the ‘fest’ and less about the ‘feast,’” Pierce said. “Think of your appetite as an expense account. Begin the meal by asking yourself how much of your appetite you plan to spend on appetizers and desserts. If a certain special dessert is particularly important to you, definitely plan on saving room for it. Doing so can help you avoid overdoing it. Eat slowly, and savor those foods you’ve waited so patiently for. Remember, it takes 15-20 minutes for the brain to receive fullness cues from your body,” she said. “The goal is to try to see Thanksgiving as time with your family rather than a massive meal. Spend time playing games, enjoying each other’s company or taking walks together. This puts the emphasis on quality time, rather than time spent overeating or taking post-feast naps,” she added.