How to lose weight over the holidays

scaleI came across some wonderful weight loss and dieting tips from Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. Since it’s a challenging time of year to keep to your usual routines of eating healthfully and exercising, Heidi’s tips will get you into the right mindset for sticking to your weight loss goals.

But first I have a few weight loss and healthy eating tips of my own!

This Mama’s tips to lose weight over the holidays

Relax. The holidays are stressful, because there’s so much to do. Plus, the house is a disster with all those relatives and kids underfoot. Then there are those end-of-the-year deadlines at work. No wonder you’re overeating because you’re stressed out!

Instead, delegate clean up chores to your family. Take some “me time” and make an appointment for a massage or a pedicure. Get organized at work and prioritize what can wait and what needs to be done before December 31st. Get a sitter and go for a date with your significant other or a best friend. Take an exercise or yoga class. Meditate. Listen to your favorite music. Read a book.

Rest. I overeat when I’m tired, as do many people. The best protection is making sure to get eight hours of sleep every night. Take a nap Christmas day and before going to that New Year’s Eve party. You deserve it!

Planning. Fill your house with healthy snacks like veggie sticks, low fat vegetable soups, fruit and sparkling water. Plan ahead by offering to bring a healthy dish to Christmas dinner or your friend’s party. Get in an extra workout before the big company party. Bring your water bottle with you shopping and while you’re running those last minute errands.

BYO food and drink. Don’t be shy about bringing your own dish. We’re all used to people having special diets these days. If someone gives you some grief about it, tell them you’re under doctor’s orders and you have to only eat food on your special plan.

Just say no. Turn down those cookie exchange invites. See if you can just come for dessert instead of the whole dinner, and just have a cup of coffee or tea. (Works great with relatives you can’t stand!) Volunteer to be the designated driver to avoid indulging in high calorie alcohol.

Exercise. If your gym is closed for the holiday, take a walk. Or play a Wii or Xbox workout game. Get the kids to do a yoga video with you. (My daughter loves to do Wii yoga.) Believe it or not, most bowling alleys are open Christmas day, so take the kids (and the grandparents) bowling. Go for a bike ride if the weather is nice. Or challenge the kids to see who can do the most sit ups or push ups during the commercial breaks.

Use those gift cards wisely. Buy yourself some new workout clothes or a fitness game or video.

Get back on the wagon. Did you lose your focus and overindulge or stop exercising? That’s OK, but don’t use it as an excuse to not get back to your healthy habits. Hit the gym. Toss those cookies into the trash. Go to the supermarket and fill the fridge with healthy food. Drink your water!

3 Tips for Avoiding Weight Gain Over the Holidays

By Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D.

Succeed The holidays are a difficult time for those of us who both enjoy eating and worry about our waistlines. Chances are good that if you overindulged a bit at Thanksgiving, you are now looking ahead to the month of December with a wary eye - only too aware of the minefield of cookie platters, holiday parties, family dinners, and gift baskets that you will have to somehow navigate.

You know from experience that you cannot get through these trying times on willpower alone. So here are three very simple and proven-effective motivational strategies for ending up in your current pant size on January 1st.

Tip 1:  Acknowledge That You Probably Can't Have Just One.

According to the laws of physics, bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, unless something acts to stop them.  Well, the same thing can be said about human behavior, too  - - including eating.

Your actions have a kind of inertia  - - once you start doing something, it often takes more self-control to stop than it does to just avoid doing it in the first place.  And it gets harder to stop the longer the behavior goes on.  So it's easier to be abstinent if you stop at the first kiss, rather than letting things get hot and heavy.  And it's a lot easier to pass on the potato chips entirely, rather than just eat one or two.

Stopping before you start is an excellent strategy to keep your need for willpower to a minimum.  Consider cutting out all between-meal snacking over the holidays.  The fewer times you start eating each day, the less you'll have to worry about stopping.

Tip 2:  Set VERY Specific Limits.

Before you get anywhere near the cookie platter, the fruit cake, or the cheese plate, think about how much you can afford to eat without over-indulging.  Decide, in advance, exactly how much of any particular holiday treat you will allow yourself for dessert, or at the Christmas party.

The problem with most plans, including diet plans, is that they are not nearly specific enough.  We plan to "be good," or "not eat too much," but what does that mean, exactly?  When will I know if I've had too much?  When you are staring at a table overflowing with delicious snacks, you are not going to be a good judge of what "too much" is.

An effective plan is one that is made before you stare temptation in the face, and that allows no wiggle room.   Studies show that when people plan out exactly what they will do when temptation arises (e.g., I will have no more than 3 cookies and nothing else), are 2-3 times more likely to achieve their dietary goals.

Tip 3:  Savor.  

Savoring is a way of increasing and prolonging our positive experiences.  Taking time to experience the subtle flavors in a piece of dark chocolate, the pungency of a full-flavored cheese, the buttery goodness of a Christmas cookie  - - these are all acts of savoring, and they help us to squeeze every bit of joy out of the good things that happen to us.

Avoid eating anything in one bite  - - you get all the calories, but only a fraction of the taste. Also, try not to eat while you are socializing.  When you are focused on conversation, odds are good that you will barely even register what you are putting in your mouth.

Eating slowly and mindfully, taking small bites instead of swallowing that bacon-wrapped scallop or stuffed mushroom whole, not only satisfies your hunger, but actually leaves you feeling happier.

And that, ideally, is what holiday feasting is all about.

© 2010 Heidi Grant Halvorson, Ph.D., author of Succeed: How We Can Reach Our Goals. You can follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

One thought on “How to lose weight over the holidays

  1. Pingback: A healthy New Year's Eve with Sam's Club's New Year's Eve Resolutions Twitter Contest | This Mama Cooks!

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