People joke about wearing their stretchy pants over the holidays, and while we don’t condone sitting around the dinner table in stretch attire, turns out there’s scientific evidence supporting this fashion statement. Research in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that half the weight people gain in a year (5 out of a whopping 10 pounds) occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Here are five traps that cause you to eat more at the holidays, plus our advice to avoid them (so you can keep your regular pants on).
1. Starving yourself leading up to the party.
While it may seem sensible to cut calories during the day to help counteract overeating later, the truth is that starving yourself slows your metabolism. By party time, your cravings will be much harder to control. Leading up to the party, snack on peanut butter with apples, low-fat string cheese, or a handful of nuts throughout the day..
2. Mismanaging your meal plan.
Don’t let your party schedule dictate your meal planning. Mark holiday events in your calendar in advance and make that day’s meals the healthiest of the week to counterbalance party treats and drinks. Start off the day with a filling breakfast (try the recipe below) loaded with protein, carbs, and healthy fat, and an equally balanced lunch.
3. Hanging out near the food.
Research suggests that having a strong visual image of food can heighten food cravings, and a table piled high with tasty treats, holiday pies, and other fattening foods can be a diet danger zone. Make yourself a small plate and position yourself away from the food table to avoid picking up extra food even when you’re not hungry.
4. Stressing out.
Whether you’re wrapping up a big project at work, navigating the stores for last-minute gifts, or playing referee with the family, the end of the year can be a stressful time. One of the most common responses to stress is eating. Manage stress with extra planning and plenty of sleep. Try listening to music while you’re wrapping up your day to relax. This combination will help you de-stress and lower your chance of eating too much.
5. Throwing back too many cocktails.
At seven calories per gram, alcohol provides almost as many calories as fat. Add to that soda, juices, sugar, or milk and your favorite seasonal cocktail may notch up as many calories as a meal. Plus, alcohol lowers blood sugar levels, which can result in you piling your plate high with holiday cookies. So eat a snack before the party and fill up on plenty of water throughout the day. Once you’re at the party, alternate alcoholic beverages with water.