OK, you ignored the advice we gave you Wednesday on how to avoid the seven worst holiday diet disasters and ate the 3,000 calories the typical American eats on Thanksgiving anyway. That's enough to gain about a pound, which, according to the American Council on Exercise, is likely to stay with you the rest of the year.
A single pound may not sound like much, but multiply it by 10 and by the end of the decade, that's a lot of extra padding around the middle. Dr. Timothy Harlan, medical director of Tulane University in New Orleans and creator of Drgourmet.com, has some tips and strategies for shedding your Thanksgiving excess and navigating the rest of the holiday season without going up a pants size.
A good portion of holiday weight gain can be avoided simply by having a plan on how to traverse the buffet. For example, instead of mindlessly sweeping down the line taking one of everything, suss out the selection then decide what you absolutely must try. When in doubt, don't put in on your plate or you'll feel obligated to eat it and try being last on line so a lot of the good stuff is already gobbled up. It also helps to eat something before you hit the party; showing up ravenous will only increase your chances of caving to temptation.
Plan Ahead, Part Deux
In the best of times, it's hard to squeeze in a workout. Add shopping, parties and travel into the mix and it seems next to impossible to find the time to burn off some of those excess holiday calories. Here again, some advanced planning can make a difference.
At home, gather up your workout gear the night before so you don't waste precious time hunting down your iPod in the morning. If you're traveling, find a hotel with a gym or at least gym privileges, or scope out the nearest gym to grandma's house in advance.
You may not even notice how many calories you consume in alcohol, but they flow easily and don't fill you up. One cup of eggnog has more than 300 calories, and even light beer will add 80 to 100 calories to an already calorie-laden season.
Plus, researchers from Laval University in St.-Foy, Quebec found that combining high-fat foods such as glazed ham, stuffing and pie with alcoholic drinks lowers inhibition so people tend to consume more calories than eating fatty foods with nonalcoholic drinks, or eating low-fat foods with or without alcohol. Some good strategies: Alternate each adult beverage with water, seltzer or diet soda or decide on a limit at the beginning of the night, and then stick with it.
Why the 10 appetizers, the 12 sides and the 14 desserts? Consider downsizing your big holiday meals to a simple breast of turkey, a single side dish and one or two low-cal veggies. You may be surprised how relieved your guests are to get a reprieve from the season's gluttony. The cooking and cleanup will be easier, too, so you'll have more time to catch up with loved ones.
If you find it too hard to say goodbye to green bean casserole or Aunt Lupy's pecan pie, then lighten up. You'll find dozens of lower calorie, lower-fat versions of your holiday faves with a simple Internet search. Harlan's own Drgourmet.com, for example, is an excellent place to start.
Although travel is common during the holidays, avoid taking a guilt trip. If you do overdo a holiday meal or overindulge at your office holiday party, it can seem perfectly reasonable to polish off a bag of chips, cookies or candy because heck, what's a few more calories? But get over it and forgive yourself instead. Remember that emotions are just as big an eating trigger as physical hunger. Take a 10- to 20-minute time out to examine your feelings. If negativity seems to be fueling your urge to eat, try a healthy alternative such as exercise or meditation first. That's often enough to stave off cravings.
Sleep It Off
Nap to up your calorie burn. Studies show that chronic lack of sleep can slow down your metabolism by throwing your fat burning-and-storage hormones off kilter. Lack of sleep also can make you feel hungry even when you're not while lowering your defenses so you're more likely to give into Christmas cookies. Of course, it's harder to get rest during the holidays, but even a 15-minute nap will increase your anti-pigout powers.
It takes a little charity sometimes to remind you that the holidays are not only about gluttony. Volunteer at a local soup kitchen, donate your leftovers or collect gently used clothing for those in need. Reaching out to your community and providing for those less fortunate is a wonderful way to focus on something that is productive and doesn't involve excess calories.