With the holidays in full swing, there’s no need to be a Grinch about celebrating while you’re trying to slim down. The parties, the holiday toasts, even your aunt’s 25-pound fruitcake are no match for these simple, sometimes even lazy, ways to lose weight and stay healthy during the season of greeting and eating.
Try these super simple tips and techniques offered up by dietitians, trainers, and other expert sources. Read on, and then make sure you check out The #1 Best Way to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain.
Tea that is. One of the laziest ways to lose weight is to relax in a comfy chair and sip a cup of hot green tea at least once a day. A study in the Canadian Pharmacists Journal found that on average green tea drinkers lost as much as 7.7 pounds more weight than non-tea drinkers over a 12-week period.
Take your green tea with lemon, suggests holistic nutrition specialist Heather Hanks, MS, a nutritionist with USARX.com. “It not only makes your green tea taste better, but it increases the bio-availability of the antioxidant compounds in the green tea that are responsible for helping you lose weight, essentially making the tea more effective,” Hanks says.
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What could be a lazier weight-loss activity than getting seven to eight hours of restful slumber? Doing so regularly is a great way to keep your hunger hormones in check. “Lack of sleep throws hunger and fullness hormones off,” says Paula Doebrich, MPH, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist and owner of Happea Nutrition. “When we are sleep deprived, we have more cravings for high-energy foods.”
Some research suggests that exposing your body to cold temperatures activates brown fat cells to burn more fat, says fitness expert Darren Steen, the 2015 winner of America’s Next Greatest Trainer competition and owner of FatlossLifestyle.com. Steen suggests a number of lazy ways to send a shiver through your body, such as setting your thermostat down to 60 degrees, especially the one controlling your bedroom’s temperature. Drop it two degrees per week until your body gets used to it. A colder bedroom also enhances sleep quality, which impacts weight loss and provides extra motivation to move more the next day, says Steen.
Encourage clean eating by swapping candy stocking stuffers with fresh fruit. It’s a way to train your brain to focus on adding healthy foods to your diet instead of dwelling on what you’re depriving yourself, a strategy called “habit stacking,” suggests registered dietitian nutritionist Grace A. Derocha, RD, a national spokesperson with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. For example, cut out the chocolate Santas and candy canes (pure sugar) and replace them with something naturally sweet like clementines. Add things that are “good for your body so you’re not always taking things away,” says Derocha.
You’ll likely save significant calories over a cocktail served in a “rocks” glass. A 2005 study in The BMJ suggested that the shape of the glass influences the size of the pour when bartenders make alcoholic drinks. The study found that bartenders tend to pour 28 percent more alcohol into wide “rocks” glasses than they do when mixing drinks in tall “highball” glasses. Order your holiday cheer in a tall narrow glass (and stop at one drink).
Dietitians say we often go back for a second helping of stuffing or another Christmas cookie because the yummy taste of the first serving lingers in our mouth. Here’s a lazy but tasty remedy: Take a palate-cleansing bite of a peppermint candy cane or pop a breath mint and you’ll likely discourage yourself from wanting seconds.
Taking a quick walk around the block may help you avoid overeating. Research suggests that keeping your mind busy can disrupt temptations to eat.
There are lots of ways to save significant calories by making simple substitutions that turn your favorite holiday recipes healthier. For example, “Use tofu in your traditional pumpkin pie recipe,” suggests nutrition coach Jinan Banna, PhD, RD, a registered dietitian and professor of nutrition. “This is a great way to add fiber, vitamins and minerals and protein to your dessert. Fiber and protein help you to feel full so that you don’t overeat.”
One of the easiest ways to eat clean is to drink clean, says certified dietitian-nutritionist and member of our medical expert board Amy Shapiro, RD, founder of Real Nutrition NYC: “Stay hydrated with water or unsweetened beverages to feel full and decrease sugar cravings,” she says, and recommends drinking 80 to 100 ounces of water per day.
According to Harvard researchers, drinking sugary sodas, sweet tea and other high-calorie beverages will not make you feel as full as if you had eaten the same calories from solid food and you won’t likely eat less food because you pair your meal with a 150-calorie soft drink.
The shopping will get done. The stockings will be hung. Chill out. Lower those holiday stress levels. “Stress has a profound impact on weight because it can make us crave more sugary and high-fat foods or dysregulate our hunger and fullness cues,” warns Doebrich. Try meditation, which only looks like you’re being lazy.
Behavioral experiments remind us that when we leave food in plain sight within easy reach, we tend to grab it and eat. The good news is that it usually works for healthy snacks as well as unhealthy ones. A bowl of fresh fruit on the counter is likely to encourage snacking just as the bag of potato chips does. The lesson here is that when snacks are out of sight, they’re more likely to be out of mind—and therefore, not end up in your stomach.
To keep holiday pounds at bay, a balanced breakfast is key, says sports nutrition specialist Vanessa Spina, author of Keto Essentials and owner of Ketogenic Girl. One way to do that is to pair carbs with protein with every meal. “Protein is the most appetite-suppressing macronutrient as it contains 9 essential amino acids,” says Spina. By pairing your carbs with some protein, you’ll end up eating less. “For example, if eating whole fruit like a banana, pair it with a tablespoon or two of nut butter,” says Spina. Or swap cereal and O.J. for an egg omelet or a protein smoothie with at least 30 grams of protein powder for your first meal of the day.
Instead of calorie-heavy Christmas tiramisu and eggnog, treat yourself to a tasty satiating protein smoothie made for the season: The Peppermint Pattie. Here’s the recipe for 1 serving, from The 7-Day Smoothie Diet book from the editors of Eat This, Not That! Blend together 1 large frozen banana, 1 cup cashew milk, 3 large ice cubes, 1 scoop chocolate whey protein powder, 2 Tbsp. cocoa powder, 1 Tbsp. dark chocolate nibs, pinch sea salt, and ¼ tsp. peppermint extract.
The gift of forgiveness. Forget about trying to lose weight. “Okay, hear me out,” says Elizabeth Huggins, RDN, a registered dietitian nutritionist at Hilton Head Health. “If your health-related goals include weight loss, I recommend parking your weight loss expectations during a time of year that is historically tough on most of us for sticking to the original plan. Instead, strive for weight maintenance.”
How it works: One of the primary reasons people get off track with their health-related goals is due to their high expectations. Huggins says cutting yourself some slack over the holidays and making sure your expectations are more realistic considering the time of year can empower you to meet the New Year in better shape for shoring up your healthy lifestyle.
During the holiday season, it’s often a struggle to find time and motivation to exercise. “Remember, not all workouts have to be performed in a gym,” says certified personal trainer Jake Dickson, a weightlifting coach with BarBend.com. “Lift anything. Find anything heavy around your house and take it for a weighted walk.” Or use seasonal sports like these to elevate your heart rate and burn off holiday calories:
- Ice Skating: 294 calories
- Cross-country Skiing: 293 calories
- Snowshoeing: 336 calories
- Building a snowman: 144 calories
All calories per 30 minutes of activity for a 185-pound person.
Many people avoid holiday parties and family gatherings at this time of year because they trigger emotional eating patterns to cope with feelings of loneliness and disconnection, says Huggins. She recommends fighting the urge to cocoon. Use get-togethers as a spirit-lifting opportunity and an affirmation of your ability to make a plan for avoiding overeating in the face of family and food.
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