Well, it’s that time of year again, where family and festivities bring us together to celebrate and embrace the coming new year. Along with these festivities, we usually find ourselves indulging a little too much in all the sweet and savory goodness of holiday foods. For better or for worse, these festivities are usually served up with a copious amount of carb and fat-laden foods that taste heavenly and can be quite hard to resist.
While enjoying these foods feels so satisfying and yummy in the short-term, many people kick themselves when New Years rolls around and they’ve gone up 4 pant sizes (which isn’t an exaggeration). It seems pretty common for people to believe that indulging, even for just a few days, won’t add up significantly… but it most certainly can if you’re not careful.
Obviously it wouldn’t be very sensible to just say you shouldn’t avoid holiday foods and cheerful times, because let’s face it, food is part of life and you should embrace a good meal here and there. Given this, it seems prudent to give readers a few simple, yet highly-effective tips to follow during the holidays that can help them enjoy the foods they love while avoiding unnecessary fat gain. Give them a shot, you’ll be surprised how much they helped when the holidays come to a close.
The “One-Plate” Rule
Where most people falter during the holidays is that their meals turn into feasts (quite literally). Portion control doesn’t just fly out the window when the holidays come around, and eating four to five plates of food plus dessert(s) is simply not exercising portion control.
To combat this, I like to tell people to go by the “one-plate” rule. Essentially, start by taking your plate – which can be a generous size, since this is after all the holidays – and then put a moderate amount of any foods you want on it until it’s full. Don’t be a wisenheimer either and stack a bunch of food vertically on top of each other, be cause that’s just beating around the bush of the rule. Once the plate is full, that’s your meal; meaning don’ t go back for a second or third or tenth plate of food afterwards. If you want a small dessert after the main course/plate, that’ s fine.
Psychologically, this may take a bit of fortitude, but you’ll actually notice your cravings dip rather significantly once you become comfortable with the idea that one plate is actually plenty of food. Plus, if you eat slowly (which will be discussed more later) your brain and stomach will coordinate more your satiety signals more efficiently before you run back for seconds.
Eat Slowly – It’s Not a Race
Along with portion control being a major issue with weight gain during the holidays, another significant contributor is eating too fast. It’s almost like some people see their meals as a race against time to shovel as much food down their gullet as possible. Trust me, your food isn’t going to just get up and run away if you take your time (well, a turkey might, if it’s not cooked properly).
Humor aside, eating slowly is what allows your hunger cues to work properly. Before we move on, bear in mind there is a major difference between the terms appetite and hunger; appetite as the psychological desire to eat and the associated sensory cues elicited. Hunger is the physiological need for food (i.e. an organism requires nutrients to subsist). Humans differ from most animals in that we often eat “for fun” or because we crave food as opposed to actually being hungry and needing nutrients.
This is why eating slowly is imperative, as it gives satiety signals the necessary time needed to block orexigenic (hunger-inducing) signals in the brain. If you eat quickly, there is a large delay in this interaction, and you never “feel” full despite consuming a large amount of food. In short, take your time, and enjoy the food one bite at a time. It shouldn’t be that hard, especially if you have family/friends around and are conversing while eating.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that staying hydrated is crucial to keep your fullness in check. For example, think of the last time you watched a competitive eater trying to inhale as much food as possible; you may have noticed that during t he competition they drink as little liquid as possible to keep room in their stomach for food. When trying to limit food intake and promote fullness, you want to do the opposite.
Moreover, the other many other health benefits of p roper hydration, not to mention it ’ s great for digestive purposes.
People often make the mistake of not sleeping properly, especially in the days leading up to a big meal. Even acute losses of sleep have been shown to have a host of significant negative ramifications on appetite and insulin sensitivity, making people eat more and not metabolize sugar as efficiently – two things that contribute to rapid fat gain when combined.1 Sleep loss usually results in feeling stressed out as well, which is generally not favorable for proper appetite regulation.
Eat Plenty of Fiber (Preferably Before a “ Main ” Meal)
Many people make the mistake of starving themselves before the main dinner or lunch on a holiday, which is a big no-no. If you ’ re running on fumes and then are presented with a bun ch of delectable food, your chances of overindulging increase dramatically.
Fibrous vegetables/fruits are micronutrient-dense, lower- calorie options that provide bulk to waste in the intestines, hence you feel fuller for longer. So don ’ t forget to fill up on foods like this before you have your main holiday meals as you ’ ll be less likely to overeat if you have a good amount of fiber in your system.
Enjoy the Holidays!
Hopefully now you can implement these tips and not fret too much about whether or not you’ll need a new wardrobe when New Years comes around. These seemingly simple tips are so effective, maybe that ’ s why many people overlook them this time of year (because simplicity seems to be a lost art these days). Give them a shot, you have nothing to lose and everything to gain… or maybe everything to lose and nothing to gain — if you catch my drift!
1 Benedict C, Brooks SJ, O’Daly OG, Almèn MS, Morell A, Åberg K, Gingne ll M, Schultes B, Hallschmid M, Broman JE, Larsson EM, Schiöth HB. Acute sleep deprivation e nhances the brain’s response to hedonic food stimuli: an fMRI study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2012 Mar;97(3):E443-7.