The holiday season is upon us, a time when, for many people, eating healthy becomes more difficult while unhealthy foods become more tempting, a perfect storm for unwanted holiday weight gain. Here are some tips to keep those added pounds at bay.
1. OFFER A DISH
Have you been invited to a dinner where you’re certain the healthy food choices will be few to none? Make a dish to share and make it a surprise. Don’t announce beforehand what you’re doing. Just show up with a beautiful Paleo dish, preferably a main course and enough for each guest to taste. This way you’ll be sure to have something to eat. You can sample smaller portions of the other dishes while still consuming a generally healthy, Paleo friendly meal. Instead of being the “picky eater,” you’ll be the generous guest.
2. DIRECT THE CONVERSATION
You’re at a party and intentionally avoiding the sugary and otherwise unhealthy offerings. Instead of giving the impression that you’re overly strict, dogmatic, or extreme with respect to food, direct the conversation to show you’re entirely aligned with current popular trends.
Here’s a conversation starter: “So next month Google will publish the top trends of 2014. What do you predict will be the top diet trend?” If you get a blank look, explain that in 2013, Paleo was the top trending diet. Ask your friend if they anticipate Paleo holding the top position for 2014 as well. Like this, the conversation will naturally flow into a discussion about healthy lifestyles and the fact that you’re avoiding the non-Paleo party food will go unnoticed.
3. FORGO BREAKFAST
The holiday season inevitably brings numerous late-night snacking situations. Even if you’re accustomed to eating dinner at a sensible hour, you might find yourself tempted to snack at parties or nighttime gatherings. Late-night eating is certainly not something you should make habitual, but rather than refusing party food outright, perhaps you should think more about time-restricted eating, also known as intermittent fasting.
A new study, published this month in Cell Metabolism, found that restricting eating to 9 to 12 hours during the day helps the body synchronize hundreds of genes and gene products related to weight gain.1 The researchers observed that mice on time-restricted feeding schedules, regardless of their weight and the type of diet they consumed, gained less weight than their unrestricted counterparts (who ate the same amount of calories).
So especially if you find yourself in late-night eating situations this holiday season, try forgoing breakfast, thereby restricting your eating window to half the day or less.
4. PRE-EAT BEFORE BUFFETS
Are you invited to a party with buffet-style food? Can you reasonably assume that most of it will be unhealthy? By all means, eat your own food at home first. When you get to the party, you can sample a few items, taking just a few nibbles. Nobody will notice that you aren’t really eating and you’ll feel fully satisfied after the delicious Paleo meal you ate at home.
5. WATER DOWN THE DRINKS
Avoiding alcohol becomes increasingly difficult during the holidays. Suppose you find yourself in a situation where refusing spirits would be improper, dilute your drink with water. Sip slowly while you socialize, then follow that drink up with a glass of straight water. Keeping well hydrated helps mitigate the damaging effects of alcohol. But if you’re on the other side of spectrum and are craving a little buzz, settle for a sulfite free wine that will keep your hangover away.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A.
Christopher James Clark, B.B.A. is an award-winning writer, consultant, and chef with specialized knowledge in nutritional science and healing cuisine. He has a Business Administration degree from the University of Michigan and formerly worked as a revenue management analyst for a Fortune 100 company. For the past decade-plus, he has been designing menus, recipes, and food concepts for restaurants and spas, coaching private clients, teaching cooking workshops worldwide, and managing the kitchen for a renowned Greek yoga resort. Clark is the author of the critically acclaimed, award-winning book, Nutritional Grail.