It’s officially holiday season. I always find the downward spiral of over eating and cravings begins right after we turn the clocks back and the days get shorter. It hits a boiling point with the Thanksgiving feast. Then the trend continues right on through to the New Year, when we wake up with a pounding carby, fatty, sugary, hangover. Feelings of guilt promptly ensue and then we make the dreaded New Year’s resolution.
It’s a vicious circle. But there are some simple strategies that can help you eat less overall and ease the guilt. Ultimately it means less weight gain over the holidays when most people put on the majority of their excess pounds.
Here are my tips for undermining the temptation to overeat.
- Use smaller plates and utensils. The bigger your plate, the more you’re likely to put on it. But the utensil is also key! I eat my meals with salad forks. You’ll feel like you’re eating more by taking more bites.
- Drink a full glass of water before you eat and glass of water as a spacer in between glasses of wine or spirits. And for godsakes, please try to avoid eggnog! You know the drill here. The water will fill you up. The trick is remembering to actually do it!
- Delete a few items. If there are 7 dishes being served around a table or buffet, for example, pick just 3 or 4 items to stick to. In many cases, we tend to over eat when we have too many choices. Yes, I know, you want to sample everything. Think of the importance of your goals. Are you trying to manage your food intake because you often over indulge? This is a good way to practice moderation. Pick a few of the dishes to just say “no” to.
- Know how to set up your plate. Don’t just gob stuff on. Load your plate up with highest fiber rich veggies first (preferably ones that are not soaking in sauce). Those should take up half of the plate. Then divide the other half between the starchy stuff and lean protein. If you’re really hungry because you skipped a meal, go for some extra protein (the leaner the better). Some foods require more energy to break down than others. This is the TEF, thermic effect of food. Meaning just digesting it burns some extra calories. Protein is one of those foods. Plus protein in certain studies has been shown to help some people eat less because it’s filling. (Read: more turkey, less stuffing)
- Eat sloooooowly. This has been proven time and time again. We often over eat just because we eat too dang fast. It takes 20 minutes for your brain to realize you’re full. So set a timer if you have to, but take at least 20 minutes to eat your meal. Then wait 20 minutes before you think about getting seconds (or dessert).
- If you absolutely must eat dessert because someone made homemade Pumpkin pie and you cannot control yourself, share your slice with someone. As amazing as all that sugary buttery goodness tastes, it’s most likely going to turn into some fluffy fat cells. Ok, nothing you didn’t know about here. So, just use the smallest plate possible and savor it slowly. Then get your butt to the gym tomorrow!
- Work on eating smaller meals in the evening and your highest calorie or carb heavy meals earlier in the day. There’s been a lot of research going on in the science field about “time restricted eating”. Give yourself a 12-hour break from dinner until your morning coffee and / or breakfast. That allows your body to tap into some fats stores. Plus, your body burns more calories when it’s still day time. The old saying, “have breakfast like a kind, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” had it right ages ago.
- Avoid snacking between meals. For most people who don’t count calories, this simply leads to eating more than you burn. But if you do need a snack, make them low calorie and high fiber or high in protein. Crudité like sliced celery, carrots, peppers, cucumber and cherry tomatoes are high in fiber and filling. Also, the fiber from raw veggies doesn’t all break down, so it fills up your gut until it’s meal time. Lean protein snacks like a slice of chicken breast digest slowly and requires some energy to break down. A few studies show that higher protein diets helps people feel more full. What NOT to do is mix these snacks with bread, pasta, crackers or sauces with sugar.