“My enemy was at the party—and no, I’m not talking about my ex’s new girlfriend,” my friend confessed last December. Even though she ate low sugar impact (low in sugar) foods that day, her particular fondness for gingerbread cake (a childhood favorite) became an insurmountable weakness after two glasses of pinot noir at her office holiday party.
You’ll probably confront your fat-loss-sabotaging enemy this holiday season too. That doesn’t mean you need to devour two pieces, nor should you abstemiously skip out (see strategy number one). Instead, I want you armed with the right mindset to skillfully navigate any holiday function with ease and grace while crushing cravings. You can’t control the weather or your carb-pushing family, but you can guarantee a few bites of your favorite dessert or other edible predilection doesn’t become an all-out splurge-fest with these nine strategies.
1. Keep the three-bite rule. If you don’t sample your aunt’s red velvet fudge, you’re certain you’ll be cut out of her will. Simple solution: Do your meals correctly and then enjoy three polite bites—we’re talking what you would eat on national TV, not an 11 p.m. fridge raid—of your favorite concoction and step away from the dessert. Be aware even a few bites of gluten, dairy or other food intolerances can create a miserable aftermath and proceed accordingly.
2. Double shakes on the big day. Big holiday office party or best friend’s gathering tonight where you know you’ll indulge? No skipping meals! Instead, make breakfast and lunch a protein shake. Simply blend non-dairy, non-soy animal or plant protein powder with unsweetened coconut or almond milk, freshly ground flaxseed and frozen raspberries to keep you full and focused all day so you’re not diving into the petite quiche pastries as you wait for dinner.
3. Get great sleep. You know the nasty aftermath of a crappy night’s sleep. You’re groggy, snappy at your coworkers, coasting on dark roast and far more vulnerable to those peppermint brownies your receptionist brought in. During the holiday frenzy, putting sleep on the back burner becomes far too easy. That’s unfortunate, because studies show insufficient sleep stalls fat loss. Remedy that problem with seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night and you’ll find you’re more focused with fewer cravings the next morning.
4. Keep stress in check. Anyone who dismisses the holidays as pure merriment forgets how frantic gift buying, familial tension and a zillion other impediments can become. Stress management is a necessity, not a luxury, so make “me time” a priority. Yoga, meditation, deep breathing or walking your terrier: Find something that helps you de-stress and do it.
5. Think lateral shifts. Be creative and strategize healthier options for your favorite holiday foods. Rather than eggnog, warm coconut milk with chocolate protein powder makes delicious, guilt-free hot chocolate. Instead of whatever gooey concoction your neighbor brought over, have a little dark chocolate with almond butter. Make your starchy side dish faux-tatoes (mashed cauliflower) rather than potatoes. Be creative! Upgrade to low-sugar-impact versions of your favorites and you won’t feel deprived.
6. Add before you take away. Fiber becomes your fabulous holiday friend for fast fat loss. It slows stomach-emptying, lessens your hunger hormone ghrelin, balances blood sugar and reduces cravings so you’re less likely to dive into the red velvet cupcakes. That’s why I want you to work up to 50 grams of fiber daily. High-fiber, low-sugar impact foods include berries (especially raspberries), avocado and slow-roasted or dehydrated nuts and seeds. Tossing in flaxseed, chia seeds or a professional-quality fiber supplement to a protein shake provides an easy fiber boost.
7. Plan ahead. You’ve had a brutal workweek, only to arrive home with your kids begging for a fast-food dinner that includes a new holiday-themed dessert. You might succumb if dinner requires hours’ worth of prepping. That’s why you have to think ahead, particularly around the holidays. For instance, have some precooked chicken and chopped raw veggies in the fridge ready to go. Get your kids involved: Make it fun and promise them something fun (and non-food related) as their reward.
8. Work it out. Juggling shopping, preparing for your in-laws and a multitude of other stresses holidays bring might mean exercise gets neglected. Don’t let that happen. Hire a trainer and ask them to charge you double if you bail. Otherwise, you might drive right past your gym for the shopping mall. If you’d rather work out at home (with traffic and inclement weather, I can’t blame you!), my 4 x 4 workouts provide a fast, effective, 15-minute workout. Yep, 15 minutes: much less time than it takes to find a parking space at the mall on a December Saturday. Click here for a free 4 x 4 workout.
9. Journal daily, weigh and measure weekly. Surely you’ve seen that study about people who wrote down everything they ate lost twice as much weight. If a supplement made those claims, the line would be longer than for the latest Apple product. A food journal keeps you honest and helps you pinpoint any trouble areas and holiday dietary debacles. While you’re writing down your food, make sure you weigh and measure yourself once weekly and write those numbers down.
Even with these strategies, I know how challenging navigating the holidays healthily can become. What one tip would you add to this list so you don’t end up with New Year’s Day remorse on the scales? Share yours below or on my Facebook page.