Everyone loves a good holiday party. It's a great time to socialize with your friends and celebrate the season, but many women at this time of year give up on trying to lose weight and use it as an excuse to pig out. This can leave you feeling guilty the next day and make it harder to lose weight because you'll be fighting against intense sugar cravings and extra pounds long after the partying is over.
There is a way to enjoy the holiday season and celebrate with your friends, family and loved ones without pigging out and then feeling guilty the next day. Follow these tips and you'll be way ahead of yourself when you make your New Year's commitment to lose weight.
- Eat right before you arrive. You know that there will be lots of high-calorie, highly processed foods at the holiday party... and those are the foods you are trying to avoid in order to lose weight. If you've gone more than 2 hours without eating, you are going to be in the "desperation zone" where your body is going to be desperate for calories. When you are in this desperate state, is almost impossible to resist the high-calorie, highly processed foods.
When you eat a meal with low-fat protein, a slow-burning carb, and lots of vegetables right before you leave home, you will arrive full and be able to resist those foods that you know you don't really want to eat (and only leave you feeling guilty for eating them). If you don't have time to eat a full meal, eat a piece of fruit and a handful of raw nuts. This will keep you full for at least 2 hours and out of the "desperation zone." This way, you will have conscious control over the foods you choose to eat.
- Eat 3 or 4 meals that day. When you eat throughout the day, you are less likely to pig out at night. This is especially important when you are going to a holiday party. That means that if the party starts in the late afternoon or evening, you should eat a healthy, natural breakfast with protein and a slow burning carbohydrate (egg whites and oatmeal are my favorite), and then a 2nd meal such as a protein shake with berries, and maybe even a 3rd meal such as a green salad with salmon and brown rice.
Many women skip breakfast and starve themselves early in the day in order to "save up" for all the calories they want to eat later that night. Well, this actually makes things worse because if your body is deprived of calories, it will think that there is a shortage of food around. And as soon as you do eat something, your body will store those calories as fat.
Eating small, natural meals throughout the day actually speeds up your metabolism because it keeps your blood levels stable. When your blood sugar shoots up too high, you store fat and when it dips down too low, you have INTENSE cravings because your body needs calories NOW. Eating throughout the day keeps you energized and alert, and it signals to your body that, "Food is everywhere. I don't need to store fat."
When you eat every 2-3 hours (5 or 6 meals a day) STARTING as soon as you wake up, this keeps your blood sugar levels stable and keeps you from craving high-calorie, processed foods later in the day. If you've already had 2 or 3 meals BEFORE you arrive at the party, you will have A LOT more control over the desire to eat all that fattening food that is bound to be there, and the foods you DO eat are less likely to get stored on your butt.
- Walk around the spread of food before you fill your plate. Be on the lookout for healthy options and ask what the ingredients are in every dish. Vegetables are good for you, but if they are covered in butter and cream sauce, they are no longer a healthy option. Find out exactly what healthy choices you have before you decide what you want to eat.
- Bring your own healthy food with you. There's nothing worse than being trapped at a party where the only food available to eat is high-calorie food that you know will send your blood sugar skyrocketing and make you store fat. YOU are in control of your health, and you can't rely on other people to feed you.
The only way to know FOR SURE that you will stay on track to losing weight and eating healthily is to bring your own food with you. Bring some fruit and a bag of natural, unsalted nuts. This is a great way to get you through your "munching desire" when there are lots of chips and unhealthy snacks around you. Eating crunchy, healthy nuts is just as fun as eating those greasy, fried chips...in fact, it's MORE fun because you know that they are tasty AND good for you. And if you feel like getting into the holiday spirit, bring a healthy dish or salad for everyone to share. That way you know there will be at least one healthy dish that you can eat. (Plus, you'll get good karma points for helping other people eat healthily.)
- Fill up on vegetables and salad first. Then go back and eat smaller portions of the holiday dishes. You'll be amazed at how much easier it is to eat only a little bit of the high-calorie, fattening foods when you have the first course of a large salad and vegetables.
- Avoid the high-calorie drinks. Nothing adds calories to your diet faster than alcoholic beverages. Any form of alcohol is a "calorie-dense" food. At seven calories per gram, it packs almost twice as many calories as either carbohydrate or protein. And when too many calories hit your system at once, this is what causes your body to secrete insulin and store fat.
This alone is a serious obstacle when you’re trying to lose weight but those bowls of chips and high-calorie snack food and sugar-filled deserts can also be made more tempting when your inhibitions are down. This is where having those HEALTHY snacks you brought along with you will save you from loading up on high-calorie foods just because you have the urge to munch.
If you do choose to indulge and celebrate with some cocktails, be sure to stay away from those high-calorie, sugar-filled mixers and be sure to say "no" to the eggnog. Drink a vodka soda with a twist of lime. And to really cut down on calories, add some sparkling water to your wine. That's what they do in a lot of European countries and they actually prefer their wine this way. Alternate between a glass of water and an alcoholic drink throughout the celebration, and you will cut your calorie consumption in half and stay in a coherent state that will help you to make healthy choices.
- Celebrate the holidays and have fun! Why do you enjoy going to parties? I'm sure you go to parties, like most women, to have fun, let loose and celebrate life with your friends, family and loved ones. So if that's your main objective, then that's what you should do. The more engaged you are in good conversation, laughing and enjoying yourself, the less likely you will be hovering around the food, stuffing your face. And the more you are letting loose and having fun, the less likely you will be lured into eating out of boredom.
Think about this... by NOT pigging out, what are you missing out on really? You know what it feels like to pig out and eat way too much of the food you know is bad for you. You know what that momentary instant gratification is all about...is it really that much fun? Is it really worth the guilt and the extra weight gain?
Ultimately, only you can decide. But I have a feeling that you are going to have a much better time enjoying your friends and family than pigging out... again. And then feeling bad about it the next day. Remember WHY you're there - to celebrate the holidays with the people that are most important to you in your life. So embrace the celebration attitude! Have as much fun as you can... dance, sing, laugh, play games, have deep conversations and intimate moments - really absorb yourself in the celebration of it all.
You have made a commitment to yourself that you are a person who makes healthy choices, but that does not mean that your life has to stop. There IS a way to live a healthy lifestyle and still enjoy the most that this life has to offer...you will find the further down this road you go, that you get MORE enjoyment out of life when you are living and loving with health.
Andrea Albright is the author of "How To Lose Weight By Feeding And Nourishing Your Spirit." For more great tips on losing weight, leading a healthy and fun lifestyle, and overcoming the challenges of the fast-food culture around us, sign up for her FREE newsletter.