By: Dr. Craig Hauser, M.D. & Monica Hauser

I’m excited about my favorite holiday party of the year this weekend. All my besties will be there, the food is catered and will be amazing, and the host hired a fun college senior to tend bar with three…signature…drinks… I even have a coupon for my Uber.

Everything is planned — I’ve planned my outfit, my eyebrows are freshly waxed, and I splurged and got my nails painted (And no, this is not Dr. Hauser talking!).

The day of the party, I skip breakfast and lunch so my holiday jeans don’t look too snug. Right before calling the Uber, I eat a low calorie protein bar.

At the party, the first signature drink (delicious) hits me and I immediately feel loose and fun since I didn’t eat all day.

Can you picture the rest of the evening? Let’s just say, I tried ALL the signature drinks (at least once) and filled my plate with all the delicious food.

The next day, I felt terrible – not only did I drink too much but I ate WAY too much food that I don’t even remember.

What I could have used was a better plan! Sooo….I’ve created this very practical guide so this does NOT happen to you.

How to NOT gain weight this Holiday Season

Overindulging during the holidays is inevitable.

Right?!

There’s too many cookie swaps and parties to attend.

The point of the holiday season is to connect with friends and family. Not to agonize and beat yourself up over food or skipping the gym. Here’s how to enjoy the holiday cheer without going up a pants size:

1. When you’re ready to eat, choose the smallest plate.

Slay the Buffet. Buffets and parties offer an endless flow of drinks, finger foods, and savory desserts.

2. Take stock of all your food choices (it’s OK to scan the buffet) before putting anything on your plate.

Classify the options into the following categories:

    • most enticing
    • high filling+low calorie
    • low filling+high calorie
    • what you feel is socially required of you to eat (the hosts made it themselves)

Fill your plate with the following amounts:

    • 1/2 — high filling+low calorie combo
    • 1/4 — most enticing
    • 1/4 — socially required food choices
    • 0 — low filling + high-calorie combo

3. Don’t rush to get back to the buffet spread.

The quicker you try to finish a meal, the less time you’re giving your body to register fullness.  This explains why it’s also better to eat slowly and socialize between bites and nibbles. Slow-paced eating gives your body time to realize that you’re already full.

4. Avoid “hovering” near the food spread or table as much as possible.

Wander away from the table to avoid mindless nibbles. Before you know it, you’ve eaten way too many cookies or cake.

5. Fill up on protein, veggies, and complex carbs first before indulging in desserts and pastries.

Protein helps you feel full for more extended periods.  The same effect is observed in complex carbohydrates.

6. For potlucks, bring something that you can eat just in case there won’t be a lot of food choices for you.

Bring your own fruit tray, or a delicious salad!

7. When you’re the host of the party or potluck, hand out leftovers to your guests.

Ask friends and family to think of them as “care packages” that you’d be happy for them to take home.

8. Choose food that you don’t regularly consume throughout the year.

It’s okay to indulge in that pecan pie with a chock-full of nuts. Also, you can eat all the “yummy stuff” but keep your portions small.

9. Avoid drinking alcohol before you eat. But if you do, alternate–every drink is followed by a FULL glass of water.

If you must take alcohol, consume it after meals when you’re already somehow full.  Heavy alcohol intake contributes directly to weight gain, regardless of alcohol type.

10. Move Your Groove.

You might be too busy to be a gym rat but, remember this — it doesn’t take a lot of extra time to move your body EVERY DAY.

One idea: take a walk in the mall. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention even wrote a complete guide on how to mall-walk the right way: Mall Walking: A Program Resource Guide

11. Whenever you feel like procrastinating, just get started.

It’s tempting to abandon your usual fitness routine – may it be at the gym or your yoga practice once the colder season kicks in.

According to psychology professor Timothy A. Pychyl, once we start on a task, it’s rarely as bad as we think.

Based on a series of studies with his students, it turns out that we procrastinate because of our perceived difficulty of the task. When you take that initial step in getting started,  it turns out that you’ll perceive the task as less stressful, challenging, and unpleasant than you initially felt.

12. Use your Fitbit or Apple Watch to track your steps. There’s even phone apps that you can use.  Try Google Fit.

Cross-sectional studies reveal that pedometer-based walking programs result in a modest amount of weight loss.

13. Find an accountability partner or a workout buddy!

Challenge your spouse, co-worker, or a neighbor to help you move your body 30 minutes a day.  A Michigan State University study found out that doing aerobic exercise with a buddy motivated subjects to work harder and longer than those working out alone.

14. Relax and give yourself some slack.

If you’re not perfect today, cut yourself some slack and start over tomorrow. Lowering your stress keeps the weight off too!

Your Action Plan

If you need further help and guidance, schedule an appointment with Hauser Health if you’re in Frederick or the surrounding areas in Maryland, Pennsylvania, or Virginia. We’ll work with you to build a realistic plan (and tailored-fit to your needs) to eat healthy this holiday season and in the coming year ahead.

Ask us about our 7 Week Jump Start Plan to help you lose those unwanted pounds in the New Year.