Whatever your dietary enemy is, count on it appearing during the three-month sugar orgy that starts in October and ends New Year's Day. Without fail, almost every occasion becomes an excuse to deep-dive into whatever gooey concoction your co-workers or grandma or friends have made.
But just because someone baked peanut butter gingerbread sandwiches doesn't mean you need to devour them. Salvage your dignity now with these nine strategies to curb holiday cravings.
1. Keep the enemy out of the house.
I should also add: out of the office, car, glove box, desk, or anywhere your secret stash creates temptation.
We all have an unhealthy food that creates a downward spiral into overeating, or a healthy food that becomes unhealthy because we overeat it. Mine's almond butter. A few spoons become … well, more than a few spoons. Keep that food out of your range and you've eliminated one serious potential dietary debacle.
2. Make breakfast a protein shake.
Devour a low-fat muffin with coffee for breakfast and you've set a slippery slope into hunger, cravings and overeating. A protein shake, my number one needle mover for fast, lasting fat loss keeps you full for hours and takes less time to make than placing an order at Starbucks. Blend non-soy, non-dairy protein powder with frozen raspberries, avocado, leafy greens, freshly ground flax seed and unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Or try one of these delicious recipes.
3. Eat stabilizing foods.
Create steady, all-day blood sugar and energy levels with clean, lean protein, healthy fats, slow-release high-fiber carbs and leafy, cruciferous veggies.
4. Eat by the clock.
Meal timing is crucial when it comes to stabilizing your appetite and reducing cravings. Have a protein shake within an hour of waking up as breakfast sets your day's metabolic tone. Then make sure to eat every four to six hours, and stop eating three hours before bed. Skipping meals, spacing them too far apart or otherwise erratically pacing your eating is an invitation to go face-down into molten lava chocolate cake.
5. Write it down.
One study found people who wrote everything down lost twice as much weight as those who didn't. Writing everything down can pinpoint where hunger and cravings evolve because you can look back to see how what you ate for a previous meal might be effecting what you're craving in the moment.
6. Incorporate lateral shifts.
Deprivation only exacerbates cravings. Instead of abstaining, make lateral shifts or healthier alternatives for your favorite foods. If you love white potatoes, sub faux-tatoes (steamed mashed cauliflower with salt and ghee or grass-fed butter). Quinoa makes a perfect substitute for white rice. Be creative and any food becomes a lateral-shift opportunity.
7. Follow the "three-bite rule."
If you feel obligated to sample your aunt's chocolate-pecan chess pie, enjoy three polite bites — we're talking what you would eat on national TV, not in your kitchen — and then step away. If you have gluten or other food intolerances, even those few bites could create reactions, so proceed accordingly.
8. Get enough sleep.
It's not just your imagination that a crappy night's sleep makes you more likely to reach for glazed gingerbread muffins. Studies show insufficient sleep knocks leptin, your satiety hormone, out of balance while raising gherlin, your hunger hormone. In the midst of holiday craziness, optimal sleep becomes especially crucial.
9. Burst to bust cravings.
Gift shopping and social obligations make blowing off your workout all too easy. If you don't have hours for the gym or classes (and really, who does?), burst training makes a fat-blasting, crave-busting exercise alternative in just minutes a day. Find a workout that combines burst training with weight resistance for the most efficient, butt-kicking exercise in just 20 minutes, three times a week.
Even with these nine strategies, curbing holiday cravings can become a major chore. That's where I need your help. What one tip would you add to this list? Share yours below.