‘Tis the season for peace on Earth, good will toward men, and gluttony that would make the Romans blush.
Many of us have resigned ourselves to packing on pounds during the festive season, but holiday weight gain is far from inevitable (even when Auntie Joan is giving you the stink eye for not taking seconds of her pie).
Follow these simple tips to stay svelte even when you’re surrounded by the season’s most seductive temptations.
Don’t Skip Breakfast
The jury’s out on whether it’s actually the most important meal of the day, but breakfast is key to successful weight management before a feast. Skipping meals in order to “save your appetite” for a debaucherous dinner can backfire by causing you to binge later on (hello, two extra slices of cake with dessert). Multiple studies have concluded that omitting breakfast encourages compensatory behaviour at lunch or dinner.
Take It Slow
Ease up on the gas, Speed Racer. As much as you want to shovel every delicious dish into your face posthaste, it pays to pace yourself. Research shows that the quicker you eat, the less time your brain has to register that you’re full, causing you to overeat long before your body has had a chance to realise it’s stuffed. Eating slowly, on the other hand, may help to maximise satiation and reduce calorie intake during meals.
After you’ve finished your first plate, hold off on a second helping for at least 20 minutes – the average time it takes for your brain to get the message that your stomach is full – before going for round two.
Use Smaller Plates
As our waistlines have expanded, so too have our plate sizes, and it’s causing an optical illusion that incites overeating. A large plate with empty space surrounding the food tricks your brain into assuming the serving contains less food than a smaller dish with no empty space – even if both plates contain exactly the same amount. In other words, it’s your eyes, not your stomach, that count calories. And they aren’t very good at addition.
Use the optical illusion to your advantage. Serve less healthy foods from smaller dishes to trick yourself into feeling satisfied with less, and serve healthful eats like fresh veggies on larger plates to encourage consumption.
Fill Up On Protein, Fiber And (Healthy) Fats
It’s not all bad news. There are some things you should eat more of if you’re trying to lose or maintain your weight. First up: protein. Diets high in protein are associated with greater satiety, and as an added bonus, are great for muscle growth. Next: fiber. Fill up on fiber-filled items like fruits, vegetables and legumes to stay fuller, longer. Lastly, remember that not all fats are bad fats. Healthy fats from things like avocados, nuts, and olive oil provide essential vitamins and also promote lasting feelings of satiation.
Turn A Blind Eye To Temptation
Out of sight really is out of mind, and science has the research to prove it. One study found that just having food in your field of vision makes you more likely to eat it. Face away from the feed to literally turn your back on temptation. Another study that examined eating as an automatic behaviour found that changing the environment is a better strategy for beating overconsumption than relying on human willpower. Leave food in the kitchen, out of sight and out of reach, rather than displaying it directly on the table.
Anyone who’s had a big night out knows the dangers of uncontrollable snacking once a buzz sets in (not to mention that alcohol adds heaps of unnecessary calories to your diet). To prevent caving to your cravings while imbibing, swap short and squat glasses for tall, thin ones. Research shows that people tend to pour a smaller volume of liquid into tall glasses than they do into short ones, meaning you’re likely to down less in a single sitting. Save the small and stocky glasses for water, which you should be guzzling to help you feel full.