How to Lose Weight During the Holidays

By Janice Taylor

I receive hundreds of emails from readers at this time of year, all shouting, "Help!" People want to know, "How can I get through the holiday season without gaining weight?" Some even dare to dream of waking up on New Year's Day thinner than they are now. They ask me, "Do you think it’s possible to lose weight in the face of holiday cookies, fruitcake and eggnog?"

So I jumped into action mode and created The Christmas Diet. Yes, you can make it through the holi-daze unscathed, happy, and hopeful. Follow my plan, and there will be no reason to start the New Year bloated, stuffed, or unhappy.

To give you a taste of The Christmas Diet program, here are 10 tips that will help you to easily and effortlessly navigate the holiday season without adding on pounds.

Read the First Weight Loss Tip

Janice Taylor is the author of the Our Lady of Weight Loss blog on Beliefnet, and the book, All is Forgiven, Move On.

Tip #1: Eat Slowly and Savor the Flavor

Research shows that those who slow down while eating eat less than those who gulp and stuff.

In a recent study conducted by the University of Rhode Island, scientists found that when eating quickly women consumed 646 calories in approximately nine minutes. When they ate slowly, they averaged 579 calories in 29 minutes.

Get it? They ate 67 calories more in nine minutes than they did in 29 minutes! In addition, those who slowed down enjoyed their meals and felt more satisfied on multiple levels.

So, starting today: Slow Down--Savor the Flavor!

Tip #2: Kill the Sugar Craving in 5 Steps

For the record, I enjoy a sweet or two now and again, especially during the holiday season. And it has been my experience that as soon as I tell myself that I absolutely cannot have something, I want it even more than I did before. So here are 5 quick ways to make peace with (or kill) your cravings:

  1. Plan Ahead: If you are a chocoholic, pull out your weekly food plan/calendar right now and schedule in 3 chocolate snacks that you love.

  2. Enjoy It: When "Chocolate Hour" is before you, stretch that one ounce piece for an hour! Well, that may be a stretch. Nevertheless, take the time to be one with your chocolate.

  3. Find Alternative Sweets: People generally tend to crave sweets after a meal or when they hit that late afternoon slump. You might enjoy some peppermint tea, a one- ounce box of raisins, a piece of fruit.

  4. Wait it Out: Cravings are like clouds. They roll in with the winds and out, too. Generally, the 'crave' cycle is ten minutes long. As soon as you see a 'crave cloud' rolling in, call a friend, take a walk, get busy and distract yourself for a mere ten minutes.

  5. Give Yourself A Star: Whether you wait out a craving or sit and be one with your chocolate, you have changed a behavior. Seriously, that's bigger than losing a pound and harder to do! So, give yourself a star. Buy a packet of sticky stars and put one on your food journal page every time you do something that shows that your thinking and behavior are beginning to shift.

Tip #3: Choose a Food Plan

First, some science. No matter how you slice it, dice it, package it, or name it, 3,500 calories cut is one pound lost. Whether you take in 500 calories fewer per day, or burn 500 calories more per day by exercises, by the end of the week, you will be one pound lighter.

Before settling on a food plan, ask yourself:

  • Do I like the foods on this food plan? If you do not, you will not stick with it.

  • How long can I live with this food plan? If you say for a week or even a month, you are doomed to fail. This is about making a healthy lifestyle change for life!

  • Is this diet too restrictive? If your food plan is based on too few calories (1200 to 1500 is the suggested range), or if your food plan omits certain food groups, you are likely to binge and have uncontrollable cravings.

Tip #4: Know Your Trigger Foods

Trigger foods are foods that get the better of us; that set off some sort of irrational chain reaction that causes us to over-eat, binge - go crazy!

Those are the times when the mere mention of fries, or the aroma of fresh baked goods from the local bakery, or even a food commercial sets us off! There are emotional triggers, too. Big boss says something that's unnerving and undermining and the urge to order an entire pizza pie for lunch is set into motion. Or, your mother gives you a "compliment" (HA!) and next thing you know you are covered in Oreo cookie crumbs.

It's important to identify your triggers and write them down! Doing so - for food triggers, emotional triggers, or situational triggers - can help you to identify your 'trigger patterns.' With awareness, you can derail the 'trigger' before it is actually 'triggered.'

Tip #5: Eat More!

Yep, you heard me right! Eat more…fruits and vegetables, that is.

Here are 6 ways to add veggies to your daily food plan:

  1. Try a V8 for your 3 p.m. afternoon snack.

  2. Toss extra veggies into your soups, stews, and salads.

  3. Use pre-bagged baby spinach just like you would lettuce, toss it into your soups, or wilt it on top of pasta.

  4. Buy vegetables that are already cut up. I know it costs more, but if that's the only way you are going to eat more veggies, it's worth it. (Skip the $4 cup of coffee!)

  5. Did you know that vegetable soup counts as a serving of vegetables?

  6. Lettuce, tomato and sprouts--oh my! Pile up layers and layers on your sandwiches. You can add a layer of cucumber, too.

Get chompin' this holiday season. Bring a tray of crudités with you to parties. Come armed with your celery sticks, you are worth the effort!

Tip #6: Create the Perfect Plate

Want to eat healthfully? Then you've got to create the perfect plate! And who better knows what a healthy plate looks like than the American Diabetes Association. They suggest we divide our plate into three sections:

  1. 1/2 of your plate: non-starch veggies (broccoli, carrots, cucumbers, salad, tomatoes, cauliflower, all the leafy greens)

  2. 1/4 of your plate: starches (rice, pasta, potatoes, corn, couscous, peas, or any whole grains)

  3. 1/4 of your plate: protein (chicken, fish, meat, or tofu)

Finishing touch: a glass of milk, a peace of fruit OR a small roll (and they mean small).

Tip #7: Before and After Photos

I know that the thought of snapping a "before" photo is upsetting to a lot of us. But if you want to stay motivated and lose weight fast, do it NOW!

A "before" picture truly says a thousand words. And I can assure you that you will be thrilled to compare the "after" photo to it. In fact, you may want to take photos every couple of pounds or every ten pounds, as you the scales of injustice head south.

It’s oddly easy to forget where we started and not give ourselves enough credit for how hard we’ve worked or how far we have come. So start snapping today!

Tip #8: Show Your Family How to Eat

Are you thinking that if you make public your weight loss commitment, you will be weighed down by the pressure of it? Are you concerned that if you share this news with friends and family that they might either turn into the food police or saboteurs?

Think about it this way--if you don’t tell them and enlist their support, you are running the risk of them inadvertently sabotaging your efforts.

The best thing to do is to tell your family that you have turned over 'a healthy leaf.' You don’t have to mention the scale if you don’t want to. You can share healthy recipes with them, or bring healthy foods to the holiday gatherings. In essence, you can become the designated 'health' leader of your clan.

It may feel odd at first, to take on this position – to be the leader of the pack – but the rewards are plentiful. Not only will you slim down, but you may turn some unhealthy lives around, just by example.

Tip #9: Think About Life, Not Fat

Your weight, your diet, and your exercise plan are from just one slice of your life’s pie. Permanent weight loss is about living a balanced life always. It’s about looking at all areas of your life – health, relationships, finances, career, fun, creativity, spirituality, physical environment – and creating them so that they support you to have the life you want.

Focusing only on weight loss will not serve you well. You may lose weight, but you will most definitely find it again later.

Make a commitment to YOU, all of you, every aspect of you. Losing weight won’t fix what’s wrong with your finances, just like gathering buckets of money won’t help you lose weight. Seek balance. Enjoy every aspect of your life!

Tip #10: Own Your Power

According to the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, those who “owned” their power over what they ate lose more weight than those who don’t.

How do you "own your power," you ask?

  1. THINK about all that you’ve learned from past weight loss attempts. These attempts are a part of your path. It’s okay that you didn’t drop those pounds the first time around. People rarely do (I sure didn’t).

  2. THINK about how you see yourself, and create a positive mental picture. How do you want to look? See it; believe it!

  3. THINK about your goals. Are you going for fast weight loss or permanently lifestyle change? Are your goals SMART (specific – measurable – accountable – realistic -timely)?

I have total faith that if I can, you can! Let’s join together in the spirit of the holiday season and support each other, as we all become big-time losers.

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