The holidays are just around the corner. The season's huge celebratory meals and rapidly cooling weather can make hibernation seem like the best idea ever. The bad news is, there is no socially acceptable way to curl up in bed and live off your own stored body fat for the whole winter.
Although those holiday feasts might be great for the soul, they're terrible for the waistline -- but that doesn't mean you can't have your turkey and eat it too (or some similar, less bizarre food metaphor). Here are some ways to keep off the weight this holiday season:
Up Your Workout
You don't have to wait until New Years Day to start going back to the gym. Why not step up your workout routine now in anticipation of the extra holiday consumption? Not only will this get your metabolism running, it will help you get into the habit of working out.
Exercise might be a topic of conversation at the Thanksgiving table, but it's going to be the last thing your body wants to do when you're stuffed full of mashed potatoes and candied yams. If you've already established a routine, however, you'll find it way easier to throw on some sweats and head to the gym.
If you're not much of an exercise enthusiast, take this opportunity to find a workout you love. Cardio and strength exercises are endorphin-producing activities your body is bound to like eventually. If you can find an activity you enjoy, you'll find a fitness regimen that works for you in no time. Dance, yoga, and aerial fitness classes are all great places to start.
Bring Healthy Sides
If your family is all about matching heavy main courses with even heavier side dishes, it can be hard -- if not impossible -- to make a healthy plate. The easiest way to get around this issue? Volunteer to bring a side dish of your own. This way you can make your own low-calorie option: The odds are good some of your family members will appreciate the dish as well.
If you're not much of a cook, you can just pour a ready-to-go salad mix into a bowl and bring along a low-calorie dressing. If you're more ambitious, consider looking up healthier versions of traditional holiday foods. For example, you can substitute applesauce for sugar in many baked dishes, seriously reducing the overall calorie count.
Plan for Seconds
Before you begin filling your plate with food, decide whether or not you'll come back for seconds if you're still hungry after the first round. This may sound counter intuitive - after all, if you're trying to keep portions reasonable, you surely shouldn't be going up for seconds, right?
The thing is, the odds are good you won't be hungry after you finish eating your first plate. Because you plan on going up a second time, you'll probably give yourself reasonable portions on the first go instead of overstuffing your plate. Even though you've planned for round two, you're likely to feel full and decide you don't need it.
Even if you're still hungry, give yourself a few minutes between servings. It can take a while for your stomach to let your brain know it's full, so you might be feeling hungrier than you actually are. Once you've let some time pass, you're good to get a second plate if you like. Keep dessert in mind, however: There's nothing worse than having to decide whether the stomachache will be worth that big slice of pumpkin pie.
It would be absurd to suggest that you not have any cakes, snacks, or candy during the holidays. Even a full afternoon of chowing down on sugary, calorie-filled treats isn't going to make you suddenly gain tons of weight. However, planning those moments in advance can help you look and feel better than if you totally cut loose.
For example, you might decide that you're going to eat whatever you like on Thanksgiving, but spread the leftovers out to make multiple, reasonably sized meals. Or you might be portion-conscious on Thanksgiving, but know in advance you're going to eat as many cookies as you like come Christmas Eve. Little moments of indulgence are fine, as long as you're staying on track most of the time.
When you plan these moments ahead of time, you can tailor your intake and exercise plans around them. If you know you're going to get seconds and thirds at Thanksgiving, you can move your workout to early in the day, so you don't have to try and exercise on an over-full stomach. The same kind of planning can go in the other direction - if you know you can't workout first thing in the morning, you can decide to save snacking until the evening, after you've gone for a run.
As long as you're paying attention and making healthy choices, you should be able to keep your weight and health on track this holiday season.