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7 Strategies to Stay Lean and Sexy During Fall and Winter


Autumn is the start of what I like to call "the big old sugar party" that starts on Halloween and lasts through New Year's Eve.  The repercussions aren't usually very pretty when it comes to how you feel about your body image come January.

Valerie Bertinelli, one of my favorite actresses, told People magazine a few years ago: "You know what, I lose weight, not gain it, during the holidays."

Wow. I love that challenge.

Why not kick conventional wisdom to the curb this year? You know what I'm talking about, the general modus operandi: "It's the holidays — everyone gains 10 pounds. I'll start afresh on New Year's Day."

Stop accepting "It's the holidays" as an excuse.

Tackle these 7 strategies now and you'll look fit, fabulous, and sexy on New Year's Day:

1. Double Shakes
You've got a big holiday office party or best friend's gathering tonight and you'll certainly indulge, so you decide to eat light or even skip a meal. Wrong! Stop skipping meals or grazing on bird food. Instead, make your breakfast and lunch a protein shake to balance blood sugar levels so you don't arrive famished and grabbing the first pastry you encounter. I load my shake with plant-based (but not soy) protein powder, frozen berries, kale (you won't taste it!), freshly ground flax or chia seeds, and unsweetened coconut or almond milk. Try the Virgin Diet shake or this chocolate raspberry vegan smoothie.

2. Indulge Smart
You needn't feel deprived during the holidays while everyone else gorges on sugary, fat-storing foods. Instead, upgrade with nutrient-rich, lower-sugar versions of your favorites. Keep a bowl of raw almonds on your coffee table rather than Halloween candy. Healthier hot chocolate: warm unsweetened coconut milk and stir in plant-based (but not soy) chocolate protein powder. Make your starchy side dish faux-tatoes (mashed cauliflower) rather than potatoes. And who needs stale Christmas cookies when you can indulge in almond butter with dark chocolate?

Related Article:
Try These 7 Healthy Updates to Classic Comfort Foods

3. Increase Your Fiber
Fiber is your holiday friend for fast fat loss. It slows stomach emptying, lessens your hunger hormone ghrelin, balances blood sugar, and reduces cravings so you're less likely to dive into the red velvet cupcakes. High-fiber foods include berries (especially raspberries), leafy greens, and nuts and seeds. If you have a hard time getting 25-to-35 grams of fiber from what you're eating, check out my seven helpful tips to get more fiber in your diet.

4. Know Thy Enemy
Abandoning all logic and diving into a holiday treat becomes far more difficult once you know your numbers. That little cup of eggnog, for instance, packs almost 350 calories. Ditto the stuffing. Pumpkin pie packs around 310 calories a slice — and that's before the whipped cream. Nevermind the ensuing cravings and potential food intolerances: once you realize how easy it is to devour several thousand calories in one meal, you may reconsider what's allowed on your plate.

5. Plan Ahead
You've had a brutal workweek, only to arrive home with your kids begging for a fast-food dinner that includes a new holiday-themed dessert. Think ahead and don't become victim to sudden urges and persuasion. For instance, have some pre-cooked chicken and chopped raw veggies in the fridge ready to go. Get your kids involved with prep work. Here are some additional tips on getting your kids to eat healthily (willingly!) If you've got a big party to, eat something beforehand so you don't arrive famished. A little preparation saves major regret.

6. Work It Out
Juggling shopping, preparing for your in-laws, and a multitude of other stresses holidays bring might make you feel like your exercise and fitness needs to go onto the back burner. Don't let that happen! Make your exercise a priority and re-arrange your schedule to make it easier for you to workout (warning: this might mean waking up a little earlier for some). Get a workout partner, or simply ask a friend to help you stay accountable. If you have a trainer, ask them to charge you double if you don't show up for your scheduled workout. Burst training is my favorite, because high-intensity exercise provides an efficient, effective workout in less time than it takes to find a parking spot at the mall.

7. Track What You Eat
Surely you've seen that study where people who wrote everything they ate down lost twice as much weight. If a supplement made those claims, the line would be longer than the line at Apple waiting for the latest iPhones. Keep a food journal. It will keep you honest and help you pinpoint any trouble areas. For instance, you'll be clearer about why you gained those two pounds. While you're writing down your food, make sure you weigh and measure yourself once a week and write those numbers down too. If pen and paper seems a bit tedious, you can try free tracking apps like LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate. There is even a free MyPlate mobile app for iPhone and Android that will make it easier to track foods, snacks and even lattes when you are at work, in restaurants or elsewhere on-the-go. Ashley Donahoo used MyPlate to lose over 130 pounds; check out her "before" and "after" photos, and get her nine weight loss tips.

- JJ

Readers - Do you usually gain weight between Halloween and New Year's Eve? Do you know what your biggest temptations are? Do you have any tricks that help you stay slim during "the big old sugar party" season?  Leave a comment below and let us know.

Celebrity Nutrition & Fitness expert JJ Virgin is author of NY Times bestseller The Virgin Diet and the bestselling Six Weeks to Sleeveless and Sexy. She was also co-host of TLC's Freaky Eaters. JJ frequently blogs for The Huffington Post, LIVESTRONG.COM, and other prominent media outlets. She created the 4 x 4 Burst Training Workout and regularly appears on TV shows like Rachel Ray and The Today Show to discuss topics such as fast fat loss, weight loss, and food sensitivities.

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