Autumn is the start of a big old sugar party that starts on Halloween and lasts through New Year's Eve. And the repercussions aren't usually very pretty when it comes to your body image. But Valerie Bertinelli once told People magazine, "You know what, I lose weight, not gain it, during the holidays."
That's quite the challenge, when the general modus operandi is: "It's the holidays — everyone gains 10 pounds. I'll start afresh on New Year's Day." So why not kick conventional wisdom to the curb this year? This year, stop accepting "It's the holidays" as an excuse with these seven tips.
1. Double Up on Shakes
Let's say you have a big holiday office party or a best friend's gathering tonight and you'll certainly indulge, so you decide to skip a meal. Don't! Instead, make your breakfast and lunch a protein shake to balance your blood sugar levels so you don't arrive famished and gobbling up the first pastry you encounter. Load your 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.
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Green Superfood Smoothie
2. Indulge Smarter
You don't need to feel deprived during the holidays while everyone else gorges themselves on sugary, fatty 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. And for 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?
Recipe & Nutritional Info: Recipe for Mashed Cauliflower Faux-tatoes
3. Increase Your Fiber Intake
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, nuts and seeds. If you have a hard time getting 25 to 35 grams of fiber from what you're eating, check out these seven helpful tips below to get more fiber in your diet.
4. Know Thy Enemy
Abandoning all logic and diving into holiday treats 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 contains around 310 calories a slice — and that's before the whipped cream. Never mind 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 to your kids begging for a fast-food dinner that includes a new holiday-themed dessert. Think ahead and don't fall victim to sudden urges and persuasion. For instance, have some pre-cooked chicken and chopped raw vegetables in the fridge ready to go. Get your kids involved with prep work. And if you have a big party to attend, 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 the holidays bring might make you feel like your exercise routine needs to go on the back burner. Don't let that happen! Make exercise a priority and re-arrange your schedule to make it easier for you to work out. (Warning: This might mean waking up a little earlier.)
Find a workout partner or 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. Or try burst training, 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 the study where people who wrote down everything they ate lost twice as much weight. So start a food journal. It'll keep you honest and help you pinpoint any trouble areas. If pen and paper seems a bit tedious, you can try free tracking services like LIVESTRONG.COM's MyPlate. There's even a free MyPlate mobile app for iPhone and Android that'll make it easier to track foods, snacks and even lattes when you're at work, in restaurants or on-the-go.