The average American gains between 4-6 pounds over the holidays – but it doesn’t have to be that way! Follow these 5 simple tips and still enjoy all your favorite treats without the weight gain.
Tip 1: Eat Slowly
There is a hormone in the body called “leptin” that signals to your brain when you are full. Leptin produces the feeling of fullness and satiety. However, there is a 15-20 minute delay for this hormone to take effect. People who eat fast often overeat. Fifteen minutes later they are reclined on the couch, pants button popped, complaining of how full they are. If they were to have eaten slowly leptin would have had a chance to take effect and they likely would have eaten significantly less food while still feeling satisfied. Those extra few minutes of eating really pack on the weight since the excess calories are stored as fat. Put your fork down in between bites, chew your food instead of swallowing enormous chunks, and strike up a conversation with your crazy aunt. All are great ways to slow your pace.
Tip 2: Eat Veggies First
Vegetables, assuming they aren’t drowned in butter and sauce, are nutrient dense and low calorie. By eating veggies first – such as a salad or green beans – you’ll occupy a lot of space in your stomach and have less room for those calorie bombs – gravy, fatty meats, and concentrated starches (like mashed potato). Plus, eating the vegetables first will allow your leptin signal to kick in sooner.
Tip 3: Wait Before Eating Dessert
Your body needs calories to run, but it’s difficult to eat exactly the right amount of calories in one sitting at the holidays. Wouldn’t it be nice if your body just excreted those excess calories each meal? Unfortunately that’s not how it works, and eating anything above your current calorie need will result in weight gain. What’s the solution? Space your meals out. Wait at least 2-3 hours after a meal to have dessert. That way your body will burn some of the dessert calories as fuel instead of storing it as fat. If you were to eat dessert immediately after meal your meals ALL of the dessert calories will likely be stored as fat.
Tip 4: Go On A Walk
As I said in Tip 3, your body needs calories to run. If your calorie demand increases at the same time as your calorie intake increases your won’t store any fat after a meal. Go for a walk or challenge your Grampa to a one armed push-up contest. Play with the dog. Any form of activity is better than sitting on the couch after a meal.
Tip 5: Give Away Leftovers
Realistically, a large meal here or there won’t result in a 4-6 pounds of weight gain. Let’s say you have large meals, dessert and a few drinks Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years Eve and two holiday parties. That’s only 5 meals in 6 weeks. You’d have to gain an entire pound each meal, which is fairly unlikely (especially if you follow tips 1-4). The hidden fat comes in the leftovers – the dozen or so calorie-packed meals that you munch on days after each holiday. Give the leftovers away (or give your dog a treat)!