Remember that feeling of delicious excitement that we used to feel as kids at the approach of the end of year holidays? Sadly, for many of us it’s been replaced with a sense of dread… and not just at the prospect of opening our credit card bill in January!
For some an even bigger fear awaits – the prospect of facing the bathroom scale after weeks of festive food and drink.
It wasn’t for nothing that they once called holidays like Christmas “feast days”. Back in medieval times these feasts were rare islands of indulgence in oceans of famine lasting for months.
In the developed world these days, the closest we get to famine is when we work through lunch. It can be a battle to keep our weight under control in the face of everyday food temptations. End of year feasts can tip us right over the edge.
But it need not be like that. Here are five simple tips to beat the festive season fat traps… and the inevitable guilt that follows. You’ll be relieved to hear that none of them involves starving yourself. In fact, the first tip actually advises the exact opposite…
1) Eat a good breakfast
This may seem counter-productive, but this advice applies to everyday life, so why change it over the holidays? Many people sleep in and skip breakfast during the holidays. By the time lunch or dinner comes along they’re ravenous and cram far more into their mouths than they would normally.
I’m assuming, of course that your usual breakfast is a sensible, healthy one. Starting off the day with a stack of pancakes, grits, bacon and six eggs is NOT a good way to start the day, holiday or no holiday!
2) Drink at least eight glasses of water a day
You should be drinking plenty of water each day anyway. Over the holidays this is even more important.
We all tend to drink more alcohol or sugary sodas over holiday periods. I’m not going to be a killjoy and suggest you deny yourself these indulgences, but try to alternate each “bad” drink with a glass of water. If it’s a glass of sparkling mineral water, with a slice of lime in it, you won’t look or feel out of place. Your head and stomach will thank you the next morning.
3) Fill up on fiber
Drink one of you eight or more glasses of water half an hour to forty minutes before the main meal, along with a fiber supplement. There’s no need to buy an expensive, over-hyped diet aids like ZetaCap or FiberThin, either. A product like Metamucil is far cheaper and just as effective.
You’ll feel fuller by the time the food arrives, so you’ll eat less. And thanks to the additional fiber in your diet, the food won’t hang around in your digestive system for as long, which means less of it will be absorbed to eventually find its way onto your waist or thighs.
4) Pace yourself
This applies to the festive season as a whole and to each of the big meals you encounter over this period. By all means enjoy these feasts, but resist the temptation to turn every day between Thanksgiving and New Year into a feast day.
When presented with a table groaning with all manner of delectable treats, the natural response is to heap your plate high with as much of everything you can fit on it. Go instead for more, but smaller helpings. Have a slice of turkey with some greens. Then go back for a slice of gammon and potatoes. Hmm, that sauerkraut looks good…
Chew slowly and talk to your friends and family. Feasts are by their nature leisurely affairs. Use this to your advantage and take your time. This way your stomach will have plenty of time to register that it’s full, which is not the case when you scoff down a huge plate of food.
The bonus is that you actually get to enjoy dessert, rather than forcing it down out of sense of obligation.
5) Take a hike
Yes, the holidays do offer more culinary temptations. But they also offer more opportunities for fun, fat burning activities.
Go for a leisurely swim or walk on the beach if you live in a warm climate. If not, take a relaxing hike in the woods with your kids. Or cuddle up to your significant other in front of a blazing fire… which is sure to lead to one of the most effective and enjoyable forms of exercise!