The holidays are here - Chanukah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa. Lots of family get-togethers, lots of fellowship and fun, and usually lots of food.
Family dinners, parties, family breakfasts, more parties. Is there any way to avoid gaining five or ten unwanted pounds during the extended holiday season? Thanksgiving through early January can be a pretty long time. In order to maintain that healthy weight range you've worked hard to achieve, it's important to keep following the good habits that got you there.
We want to have fun and enjoy ourselves during the holidays. We want to participate in all the activities and share the abundance of good food with family and friends. This really is a Zen question. How to let go without letting go? The solutions are available by having built a solid foundation. Food plans that work are based on a few simple and solid principles -
- Eat five or six small meals each day
- Make sure each meal combines protein and complex carbohydrates 1,2
- Drink plenty of water
- Exercise regularly
- Have a "free food day" once a week
Such a food plan is realistic and doable. There's no crazy dieting involved, no highs or lows. You are eating healthy food with no restrictions, choosing from all basic food groups. You eat anything you want, being sure to follow guidelines on portion sizes. The results are weight loss that stays lost. Because you're exercising regularly, your body sheds fat pounds and adds a few pounds of lean muscle mass. Your metabolism becomes optimized to burn fat, even when you're resting. If you've been following such a food plan your metabolism is already doing what it's designed to do. During the holidays you'll continue to burn fat for energy, provided you don't overload your system with too many extra calories.
Try to schedule your free day - when you can eat anything you want, as much as you want, and whenever you want - to coincide with a big holiday get-together. When you're at a party and it's your free food day, you can indulge as much as you like. It's a part of your regular food plan. That's a pretty good bonus! Also, alcohol consumption often goes up during the holiday season. Punch, egg nog, all sorts of "holiday cheer". These beverages are super-high in calories. 3 Again, your free day is a good day to indulge yourself. On other days, maybe not so much.
After the last guest has gone home and the last dish is put back in the cupboard, if we've gained a few pounds during the course of the holidays it's not so bad. What we wanted to avoid was gaining a bunch of weight. Now, we can return to our regular food plan - six days on and one day off - and those extra few pounds will be gone in four to six weeks.
We had fun, we spent quality time with a lot of family and friends, and at the same time we took care of our health and well-being. That helps make the holidays especially joyous!
1 Hageman R, et al: A specific blend of intact protein rich in aspartate has strong postprandial glucose attenuating properties. J Nutr 138(9):1634-1640, 2008
2 Claessens M, et al: Glucagon and insulin responses after ingestion of different amounts of intact and hydrolysed proteins. Br J Nutr 100(1):61-69, 2008
3 Suter PM: Is alcohol consumption a risk factor for weight gain and obesity? Crit Rev Clin Lab Sci 42(3)197-227, 2005