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5 Tips for Indulging in Holiday Food

With the season comes the question: How do I control my eating and avoid gaining weight during the holidays? There's good news: Allowing yourself a few treats could prevent weight gain this holiday season. Make smart splurges so you feel satisfied, not guilty.

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Navigating Holiday Temptations

Fear of weight gain can contribute to the stress surrounding the holidays. Pam Owenson, who has type 1 diabetes, knows that all too well.

"There are all types of parties and snacks coming into work, and if you're not watching, you are going to overeat," she says.

Who hasn't used the "it's the holidays" excuse to feed on treats and other temptations lurking at the office or social gatherings? Pam has tried to avoid the goodies altogether, but she's found that depriving herself while others indulge often leads to eating too much later on.

Tips for Indulging

1. Avoid extremes.
It's a common cycle this time of year: We restrict ourselves for a day or two only to overeat later, which then leads to feelings of guilt and more emotional overeating. "When you tell a person (or yourself) not to eat something, then that's all they can think about. It's human nature," says Susan Burke March, RD, CDE, of Flagler Beach, Florida.

Several studies have shown that men and women gain on average 1-2 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Yet people often perceive that they gain 5-10 pounds. This can lead to tough self-imposed restrictions in hopes of preventing weight gain. A 2008 study in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found that when overweight people engaged in extreme restrictions, such as limiting calories and increasing exercise regimens over the holidays, they were more likely to gain weight than people who didn't implement strict rules.

2. Eat slowly.
"Don't eliminate. Substitute," Burke March says. "If you're going to a party and you know everyone's going to be chowing down on cake and that's not really in your plan, then bring something you can indulge in that will satisfy you but be healthier."

Sheri Colberg, Ph.D., author of The Diabetes Breakthrough: A Scientifically Proven Plan to Lose Weight and Cut Medications (Harlequin, 2013), recommends slowing down and making an effort to taste and enjoy your indulgences. Go ahead and have half a serving of pie; by slowing down, you'll get the same sensations of satisfaction with half the calories.

Slowing down also gives your body the chance to tell your brain that you're full. When you eat too quickly, your body doesn't have enough time to send that signal. Colberg recommends pushing away your plate when you feel 80 percent full; 15 minutes later, you will likely feel 100 percent full.

3. Eat veggies, drink water, and control portions.
Pam, 48, who lives in Harcourt, Iowa, makes an effort to eat more vegetables and drink more water during the holidays. Many people misread the body's thirst signals as hunger. Pam tries to plan her treats and then cuts the portion in half. "I don't deprive myself. Often just a small portion can satisfy you.

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