Life would be so simple if there weren’t so many holidays (and office parties, and potlucks, and gift exchanges, etc.) squeezed into such a short period of time. Of course, it’s not a celebration without loads of booze and copious amounts of dessert, and your fridge practically stocks itself with leftovers. To avoid leftover weight come January, use these tricks to keep your diet on track.
1. Don’t beat yourself up. You can’t take back the debauchery that happened at last night’s dessert table. (And truthfully, you wouldn’t want to — it was amazing!) Treat the day after as just another day of eating healthy and staying active.
2. Stock up on healthy foods. Yes, your fridge contains half a pecan pie and enough petit fours to feed an army. While it might sound crazy to buy more food, a fridge full of tempting treats won’t help you get back on track. Of course, you shouldn’t trash the good stuff (that would be a serious shame), but a slice of pie will do less damage when it tops off a meal that’s full of healthy stuff. Go for high-fiber veggies to fill you up, and lean protein (leftover turkey breast counts!) to keep you satisfied.
3. Put food away. Those holiday cookies might look festive on the countertop, but they’re more likely to tempt you if you can see them. The more accessible food is, the harder it is to resist, says Beth Vallen, Ph.D., assistant professor of marketing at Villanova University and environmental food cues researcher. Your best bet is to keep food in the cupboard or fridge below eye level, so you don’t see treats every time you walk by the kitchen or swing open the fridge door for a snack.
4. Organize your fridge strategically. Put leftovers in the fridge towards the back and keep fruit and veggies in front. This way you’ll have to work to get the good stuff, and have easy access to the healthiest foods.
5. Use silver foil instead of plastic containers. Again: When you can’t see the delicious pie, it won’t tempt you until you crack into it with a fork.
6. Eat leftovers sitting down. Sneak a few bites out of the fridge, and your body won’t register it as a meal – no matter how many bites you take. That’s because it’s hard to process how much you eat when you mindlessly shovel food down. If you crave Thanksgiving leftovers, get in there and do it up. Just put your portion on a plate, and take that plate to the table so you can really be thankful for each bite.
7. When you do eat those leftovers, use smaller plates. Overeating on a holiday won’t kill you or drastically tip the scale. But feast like that every day for a week, and you will notice a difference.
8. Avoid the “What the Hell” effect. This well-documented phenomena occurs when you slip up on your diet and instead of accepting it and going back to healthy eating, you completely throw in the towel, Vallen says. It’s when eating a piece of peanut butter fudge turns into eating the entire tin (and polishing off the fruitcake, too). Needless to say, this mindset can be disastrous. If you violate your diet rules, do say “what the hell” — then make your next bite a healthier one.
9. Don’t try to lose weight. It’s just not realistic – especially overnight. Set out to maintain your pre-holiday season weight through the New Year, so you can enjoy the holidays without deprivation and guilt.