Losing weight is the number one New Year’s resolution–but perhaps instead of resolving to lose those extra holiday pounds after the New Year, resolve to keep the weight off in the first place, starting now. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure–and in the case of weight loss or maintenance, it’s easier to avoid weight gain in the first place than to lose it every year.
• Keep your goals realistic: The holidays are a fantastic time for weight maintenance–not necessarily weight loss. Cold weather, combined with heavier comfort foods and your favorite holiday treats (candy corn, pumpkin pie, mashed potatoes, eggnog), can make losing weight truly difficult. Maintaining weight, on the other hand, is a more achievable goal–you can enjoy the foods you love this time of year without getting completely off-track. Depending on your goals, this gives you about a 100-300 calorie buffer each day to enjoy these treats–just the right amount to avoid feeling like you missed out completely, and to prevent the temptation to binge later on.
• Keep your healthy summer habits rolling into fall: Summer’s abundance of fresh produce (especially on hot days!), longer days, and great weather make your healthy-eating-and-living goals easier to achieve. But just because the temperature dips and the days get shorter doesn’t mean you have to give up these habits. Keep snacking on nutrient-packed seasonal produce like citrus fruits and pomegranate (farmer’s markets stay open well into November); make salads heartier with foods like butternut squash; and enjoy the cool, crisp air as you head out for your morning run or walk (and enjoy all of the colors!).
• Seek out ways to continue exercising–no matter how bad the weather is: Exercising doesn’t have to end when that first snowflake hits. Layer up and head outside–hiking, walking, running, and biking are all great forms of exercise to enjoy through fall and winter. If you can’t stand the cold, take this opportunity to try something new: join an introductory fitness class at your gym or try out a masters swim class. And don’t forget–childhood favorites like sledding and ice skating, as well as other snowy activities like skiing, snowboarding, and snowshoeing all burn major calories! Staying active through the holidays will not only help with your weight goals; year-round exercise keeps your heart healthy and helps reduce stress.
• Practice being picky: When the holidays hit, you’ll be faced with a number of seasonal treats–from pumpkin spice lattes and leftover Halloween candy to extra flutes of champagne and peppermint bark. But it’s likely that you only really, truly enjoy a fraction of these holiday favorites or traditions, and others–like your aunt’s famous green bean casserole–you just don’t care for. Take inventory right now of the treats that you’re really looking forward to and enjoy those guilt-free; take a pass on everything else. You’ll save calories to enjoy the foods that you really want without any deprivation.
• Pick your drinks wisely: Drinks can be a sneaky source of calories around the holidays. Specialty coffee drinks (gingerbread lattes and christmas cookie lattes are increasingly popular) can easily tack on a few hundred extra calories to your daily intake. And those alcoholic holiday drinks–eggnog, mulled wine, hot toddies–not only add extra calories but may also decrease your inhibitions at parties, making you more likely to indulge in a few extra portions that you otherwise wouldn’t.
• Incorporate sustainable, lifelong habits into your eating routine: Cornell recently published a study suggesting that Americans tend to be at their lowest weight in October and then gain a handful of pounds over the holidays–which then takes them about five months to lose. This cycle of gaining and losing, indulging and then strictly dieting, can hinder your overall weight loss goals–and is probably a good way to develop a damaging and unhealthy relationship with food. Instead of drastically limiting food intake now, gorging during the holidays, and then dieting again, treat every day with the same sustainable eating habits and goals that we know contribute to overall health and weight loss (like filling up on vegetables, choosing whole grains, limiting portion sizes). If there happens to be a party that day with special foods, enjoy just enough to be satisfied–and eat only the food you really love.