It’s holiday party time! The bane of everyone, especially athletes who are trying so hard not to gain weight during this time of increased eating and decreased activity. I was going to write out a holiday eating guide, but I found one that is better than anything I could have written! And it’s from a very reliable source. I get emails from Trainright.com, which is Chris Carmichael’s coaching company. Chris was Lance Armstrong’s coach during his years as a world-class cyclist, and he is now devoting his time to his excellent training and coaching company in Colorado Springs. Chris gave me permission to reprint these tips here, and whether you are an athlete or not, you will find some excellent advice for keeping the weight off (or at least to a minimum) over the next month.
Tips for Handling Holiday Parties and Keeping the Weight Off
What if I told you that you can wake up on January 1st without the spare tire you normally strap on between Thanksgiving and New Year’s? It’s much harder to lose weight than it is to gain it, because you can burn off a few hundred calories in an hour, but you can eat the same calories in a matter of seconds. The holiday season is roughly five weeks long, but many people are still dealing with its impact on body weight and fitness up to six months later. However, you don’t have to lose that which you don’t gain, and I’ve used the following guidance to help thousands of clients navigate through the holiday season without gaining unnecessary pounds or sacrificing fun.
The Top 5 Things You Should Do
1. Step away from the buffet table: The closer you stand to the food, the more of it you’re going to eat. You’re at the party to socialize with friends and family. Visit the food, and then find a good location away from it for people watching and catching up.
2. Shorten your workouts: Just because you’re schedule is packed, that’s no reason to forego exercise. Even short workouts are beneficial. On top of burning calories to keep weight off, workouts that are even 15-30 minutes help keep your fitness from eroding out from under you.
3. Seek healthy food options: Cranberries are packed with antioxidants and sweet potatoes are full of beta-carotene and quality protein. Want a simple dish to take to a party? Slice sweet potato wedges, spray lightly with olive oil, and sprinkle with sea salt and cayenne pepper before baking at 350 degrees until soft in the middle and crispy on the outside (about 20 minutes).
4. Drink wisely: Beer has fewer calories per ounce, but wine is served in smaller quantities. A four-ounce glass of wine has about 90 calories, and a pint of beer has about 150-160. Cocktails can be a relatively low-calorie option, but only if you choose low-calorie or no-calorie mixers like tonic water.
5. Fill your plate: Go through the buffet line and fill your plate. One full plate will likely contain fewer calories than you’ll accumulate with several small trips, especially if you reserve at least one-third of your plate for vegetables.
The Top 5 Things You Shouldn’t Do
1. Don’t go to the party hungry: Having a snack or a small meal before heading out to the party will keep you from gorging yourself. The best foods for this snack are high in fiber or low on the glycemic index, because these are the most filling. Try whole grains like a vegetable stir fry over whole grain rice, or low-fat cheese on whole grain crackers.
2. Don’t let stress wear you down: People make poor decisions when we’re tired and stressed out. Take a step back and look at the bigger picture of the holiday season. Find the days and weeks that will be tough because of schedules, parties, and travel; as well as the days where you can recuperate and pencil in time for yourself.
3. Don’t keep leftover sweets: Make your home your refuge from the holiday dessert overload. It’s one thing to keep leftover turkey for lunches and dinners, but give the extra pie and cookies to someone else. Take them into the office the next day, but don’t keep them in your house. If no one will take them, toss them.
4. Don’t close down the party: Make a memorable appearance at the party, socialize, eat, drink, thank the host, and then find a reason to leave. The longer you stay, the more you will eat and drink, and the later it gets, the more you’re likely to overindulge, in a variety of ways.
5. Don’t skip your favorite treats: The holidays bring out foods specific to the season, including favorites you’ve been waiting all year to have again. You shouldn’t deprive yourself of your favorites, but don’t waste calories on sweets and high-fat dishes you don’t really like at any time of year. Choose your indulgences wisely.
It’s important to keep the holiday season in perspective and do your best to maintain your normal routines. Continue exercising, but don’t obsess about every calorie you put in your mouth or burn off with activity. And even if you start to gain weight, it’s not the end of the world; just keep your gains under control. Three to five pounds will melt off within a few weeks after the holidays, but it could take well into the spring to shed 15. Above all, stay safe and enjoy the opportunities this season presents to spend more time with friends and loved ones.