By: Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
“After New Year’s, I’ll be a new person.”
I hear this all the time, and it concerns me. There are so many opportunities to overindulge during the holiday season, and so many sources of stress, that it’s too easy to give yourself a pass and let your weight get out of control. It’s too easy to think, “I’ll eat right starting January 1.”
Why not start now? With some careful planning, you can maintain a healthy weight this December. If you’re really ambitious, you can even drop a few pounds.
In the bathroom
First, make friends with your bathroom scale. As daunting as it might seem, setting a regular weigh-in schedule is a great motivator.
I usually tell my patients to weigh themselves once a week on Monday morning. That way, if you hit any holiday parties over the weekend, you can see where you stand. Just be sure you weigh at the same time each week, with the same amount of clothing, for consistency. Set a weekly maintenance or loss goal for yourself, write it down, and check yourself against that goal.
“Too many people skip meals and ‘save up’ for a party or Christmas feast. But doing that puts your blood sugar in the tank and throws portion control out the window.”
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD
In the dining room
In the debate on breakfast, I’m definitely in the “pro” camp.
Why? Eating a protein-rich breakfast — think Greek yogurt or eggs, for example — can help you curb your cravings for sweets later in the day. During a season when sweets are everywhere, decreasing your cravings can help reduce your risk of weight gain.
Too many people skip meals and “save up” for a party or Christmas feast. But doing that puts your blood sugar in the tank and throws portion control out the window. Stick with your normal breakfast routine, or have a snack — a few whole-grain crackers and string cheese, for example — before that big family meal.
When the big meal arrives, fill your plate with high-fiber and high-water veggies such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and spinach first, along with sweet potatoes (hold the marshmallow topping). Foods such as these help you feel full longer and stabilize your blood sugar. And drink plenty of water. Staying hydrated goes a long way toward portion control.
At the mall
Ready for that Christmas shopping sprint? If you’re heading for the mall, be smart about your eating strategies. Danger lurks in the food court — think 486-calorie pizza slices and 330-calorie café mochas.
Bring your own snacks. A handful of almonds or pumpkin seeds makes you feel full and helps control blood sugar fluctuations. If you need a meal, seek a salad with lean protein — and go light on the dressing, which is likely loaded with added sugar. Alternatively, choose a small sandwich with 100 percent whole-wheat bread and light condiments.
Better yet, plan your shopping trip for odd hours of the day so you can control your meals at home. This will allow you to get the benefits of shopping without the high-calorie drawbacks, since the mall is a great place to log steps on your pedometer or fitness tracker.
At a party or other social setting
I’ve written about navigating a party buffet in the past. Most of the best tips revolve around portion control. Using smaller plates and limiting yourself to one trip through the line are a good start.
If you really must indulge in that sweet treat you crave, there are ways to make sure you don’t end up devouring the whole dessert table. First, plan ahead. If you’re attending a yearly gathering where you know a friend will bring her world-famous chocolate pie, plan on having a slice — one slice — but skip the rest of the desserts.
Second, don’t just hover around the dessert table. Studies have shown how environment affects our food choices, and proximity is a factor. Choose your treat, and then go to another room to eat it.
Last tip: Keep your drinking moderate. A glass of wine at a holiday party is fine, but as the drinks add up, you’ll start to forget all about portion control and healthy food choices.
With your family
No matter where you are with your family, create new traditions that don’t revolve around junk food. If you’re cooking with the kids, use your bounty of sweet potatoes to make hummus. Try a new take on pumpkin pie, or switch things up and make pumpkin mousse. Pick a new type of dip for a party pleaser.
Better yet, trade food-centered traditions for activities that get you moving. Ditch the cookie decorating for a day at the ice-skating rink. The memories will be just as sweet, and you’ll burn calories.
If you live in a wintry wonderland, make the most of it: sledding, snowshoeing, you name it. If you want to lose or maintain weight, your exercise habits are as important as your eating habits. Stick with them, and even add to them by being active with your family.
[Tweet “Why wait until New Year’s? Get tips for holiday weight loss.”]