KEEPING the Winter Weight OFF

Ok, so you said you wouldn’t let it happen again this year, but those extra holiday inches found their way to your waist. An extra drink here, a few meals out there, a few bites of treats around the office: It all added up! Now it’s the New Year: You are focused, dedicated, sick of the holiday treats, and sworn off alcohol (this week!). You are doing a detox diet or a juice cleanse and hitting it hard at the gym every day. The pounds are coming off. But let’s get real: Can you keep this up long term? My guess is NO! And nor should you. Strict dieting is neither healthy nor practical. Instead of aiming for a quick fix, work on transforming your long-term eating habits to maintain health for a lifetime!

  1. Eat Three Meals a day. You may be tempted to skip breakfast and/or lunch, thinking that you are saving calories while you don’t have time early in the day and don’t think you are hungry. What you are actually doing is putting yourself at risk for temptation later in the day and slowing down your metabolism. You get to dinner after the day is over feeling relaxed but starving. You want to eat everything in front of you. So you end up consuming way more calories that you would have if didn’t have an empty stomach. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to relay to the brain that you are actually full, so it’s easy to overdo it. Plus, your metabolism does not work well when you pile on all the calories at night right before you go to sleep. All these excess calories have no time to be burned off.
  2. Spoil Your Appetite, and do so on a Schedule. Not only do I suggest eating 3 full meals daily, but you should also have a substantial snack/small meal when you go over 3 hours between meals. It takes a full 3-4 hours for your body to fully digest a meal. Although you may not feel hungry, it’s best to eat before you realize you need food and lunge for the bread at the dinner table or your friend’s fried chicken strips. Having something that satisfies your hunger pre-meal gives you the willpower will decrease your intake. The best options are high in protein and fiber and keep you full. Nuts and dried fruit are great options, especially when portion-controlled. Our bodies adjust best to receiving food on a regular schedule. Eating, like sleeping, should happen at similar times each day so the body is aware of what is coming next. This allows your metabolism to speed up, which in turn, permits a loss of calories and pounds.
  3. Drink Water. Yes, it’s cold outside and you are not sweating like you do in the summer months. However, you still need in the range of 2-4 liters per day, depending on a variety of factors (age, weight, sex, height, workout frequency and intensity). Remember that 75% of the time you think you are hungry, you are actually thirsty. Therefore, if you are well hydrated and NOT thirsty, you will be better able to walk by all the cookie and candy boxes that sit on your co-workers desks or stare at you from the check-out counter at stores and restaurants.
  4. Cut Down on Drinks. Ok, so you like your glass of wine on a social basis or at work functions. I know I can’t exactly suggest you STOP drinking (but if I can, then by all means STOP!). Here are a few realistic suggestions: Cut back on the number of drinks you have per night. Make a rule to not have a drink until your main course is served at dinner. Alcohol decreases inhibitions. So your guard is down, and you are more likely to give into food temptations when you drink. The earlier you start in the night, the more you may eat. Drink a glass of water between each round of drinks. Try wine spritzers to cut calories in half. Stick with wine or vodka sodas (or the like). Skip drinks with added juices or sweet mixers while pile on the calories. If you do have a night that may be a bit higher in alcohol calories, then no carbohydrates at that meal and skip dessert.
  5. Keep Up the Exercise. Do your best to stay active, while committing to a routine that you are able to maintain. If you decide that one hour, 4 days a week is reasonable (not the 2-3 hours 7 days a week boot camp that will burn you out and maybe even put you at risk for injuries), then stick with that. Remember that when you travel and don’t have access to your normal routine or regular gym, you can always go for a run, jog, or even walk outside. Even if it’s cold out, just bundle up and get out there. It will make that hot shower, coffee, tea, or splurge of hot chocolate feel that much better. Remember that most hotels have gyms or fitness rooms. Even Grandma or your cousin’s house will have an 8-foot square where you can do some lunges and pushups! No excuses! Just set realistic goals that fit your lifestyle that you can keep throughout the year.