Halloween is a few days away, and I know how hard it can be to stop yourself from reaching for the candy. Here's a dose of reality that might have some effect on you: Studies show we gain five or more pounds during the holidays, and that we hold onto that weight.
Though the holiday season typically applies to Thanksgiving through Christmas, many people start indulging when the pumpkins come out — and don't stop until January 1. Well, allow me to become the voice of reason right now. Those few minutes of gooey sugary bliss aren’t worth the inevitable toll on your waistline, health, and sanity.
These 10 battle-tested strategies will help you crush cravings and avoid holiday weight gain.
1. Keep the enemy out of the house.
Mine’s almond butter. One tablespoon becomes … more than one tablespoon. If you tell yourself you'll only have 10 slow-roasted nuts and you eat 50, there’s your trigger food. Know your enemy, and even if it’s healthy, if you are likely to overeat it, keep it out of your cupboard, office, car, glove compartment, desk, or anywhere it will be a temptation.
2. Eat by the plate.
Make breakfast a crave-crushing protein shake, and for your meals combine clean, lean protein with healthy fats, tons of leafy and cruciferous veggies, and slow-release high-fiber carbs. When you eat filling, crave-crushing, blood-sugar-balancing meals, you’re far less likely to devour that pumpkin loaf your co-worker brought in.
3. Eat by the clock.
Eat within an hour of waking up (a protein shake is perfect) to get your metabolism going for the day. Then eat every four to six hours. Stop eating three hours before bed. Let’s face it, when you skip meals or space meals too far apart, you’re going to reach for something easy and quick — which usually means it isn't healthy.
4. Write it down.
One study found that people who wrote down everything they ate lost twice as much weight as those who didn’t. If a supplement made that claim, you would be all over it. The nice thing about journaling is this: Let’s say at 4 p.m. you have this crazy craving. You can go back and review, “What did I do at lunch? What happened to create this craving?”
5. Beware of snacking.
When you eat every four to six hours, you stabilize your blood sugar and you shouldn’t be hungry. Between meals, you should be drinking filtered water and crave-busting green tea. If you’re hungry, look at your journal and determine whether you ate enough. If you’re doing everything correctly yet still get between-meal munchies, reach for some slow-roasted or dehydrated almonds, or maybe a protein shake. First, just determine whether you’re really hungry or just succumbing to a bad habit.
6. Shift to healthier versions of your treats.
Pretty much any holiday favorite can get a nutrient-rich, low-blood-sugar-impact upgrade. Quinoa makes a perfect substitute for white rice. A little low-sugar-impact dark chocolate (but take it easy there!) will kick any sweet craving to the curb. Pretty much any food or drink becomes a lateral-shift opportunity with a little creativity.
7. Create accountability.
Commit to yourself. Write down your goal, have a bathroom talk with yourself if you feel tempted at your next social gathering, and remember that little black dress (or maybe skinny jeans) that awaits you for that big New Year’s Eve party.
8. Practice gratitude.
A study in the journal Psychiatry showed that people who kept a gratitude journal experienced more joy and optimism. In the frenzy of food and festivities, we can forget the holidays’ true meaning. Make your own gratitude list: Remind your family and friends who’ve gathered how much you appreciate them. You’ll feel great, with no lingering regrets like you’d have with that second piece of caramel pecan pie.
9. Schedule in bliss time.
We go out of our way to take care of others all day and yet won’t take 30 minutes for deep breathing, meditation, yoga, or otherwise unwinding. Treat stress management as a priority, incorporating stress-reducing activities (or non-activities) like high-intensity exercise and seven to nine hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep.
10. Follow my three-bite rule.
With numerous high-sugar-impact appetizers, desserts, and other concoctions you’re likely to encounter this holiday season, you’ll probably choose to indulge once or twice. Eating low-sugar-impact foods doesn’t mean you need to become a wet blanket at social functions. Mindfully indulge with three polite bites — we’re talking what you would eat on national TV, not during an 11 p.m. fridge raid – and step away from the dessert!
Armed with these tactics, you’ll be far less likely to give in to whatever momentary sugary bliss awaits you this holiday season. What strategy would you add here to divert temptation? Share yours below!