This time of year is always the same story: several months of parties, dinners and sweet treats. Candy everywhere. The temptation is more than most people can handle. Even if you only indulge occasionally in mashed potatoes, bread or dessert (not to mention calorie-filled alcoholic drinks), it’s still enough to increase body fat.
The average person gains between five and seven pounds over the holidays. But since fat doesn’t weigh much, the scale doesn’t accurately reflect the extra bulk you may be carrying. Still, there are seasonal things to help you stay in shape during this season.
Winter’s cold weather alone makes you burn extra calories to stay warm. You can use the season to lose fat, and also add techniques to keep your appetite in check so that you enter the New Year without gaining even a pound. Here are some tips.
Go for a quick jog outside without enough clothing. A 10-minute run in just jeans and a sweatshirt, with no jacket, will force your body to produce heat faster. As you move your arms and legs, you’ll be burning calories at a higher rate. Even shivering will help you burn extra calories. Don’t overdo it — 10 minutes outdoors in chilly weather will boost your metabolism and burn a lot more calories than just walking around inside. Do this in the morning, rather than before bedtime. The extra calorie burn will last for most of the day.
Fill up before a party. A party offers many more fattening treats, as well as drinks. Curb your appetite by taking its edge away. Eat a snack of low-fat protein — such as a few slices of packaged deli turkey — about 15 or 20 minutes before entering the party. Make your stomach feel full with a veggie snack like a dozen or so baby carrots. In fact, buy a big package of those “baby” carrots, repackage them into small plastic snack bags, and carry a few of the bags with you. Whenever you feel hungry, eat a bag of carrots. It will make you feel full and satisfy your hunger, making it easier to resist the chocolate cake.
Use hot water for eating emergencies. Just before sitting down to dinner or being exposed to a table of treats, drink a big glass of hot water or artificially sweetened tea. The hot liquid fools your appetite into feeling satisfied. You’ll eat or drink a lot less after swallowing a warm drink.
Wait for food to catch up to your appetite. There’s a lag time between eating and feeling full, which is why you can eat so much that it actually hurts. Make it a deliberate practice to eat slowly. Start with much smaller portions than you want. Take a few minutes after cleaning your plate before grabbing a second helping. What this does is minimize the time between your desire for food or candy, and the feeling of satisfaction that comes from eating. Which leads us to the final, and most important part of not gaining winter weight.
Don’t eat if you don’t feel hungry. We’re all so accustomed to the social act of eating during this extremely social season that it becomes almost automatic. Of course, that is a main source of holiday weight gain. So before putting anything in your mouth, think about it. Do you really want that piece of candy? Are you truly hungry for those bits of cheese and slice of ham? Are you loading up on appetizers or cookies just to have something in your hands? If you don’t really feel an urge for food, don’t take any. Use your head instead of your eyes, and it becomes much easier to resist taking in those calories that you really don’t want — either at the moment, or later, when they come to rest on your hips and thighs.
Wina Sturgeon is the editor of the online magazine Adventure Sports Weekly. For the latest in training and workout information, go to adventuresportsweekly.com.