How Lean People Eat Every Holiday Season

Stave off winter weight gain with these expert tips.

We all pack on some pounds over the holiday season. Studies disagree on the exact number—it varies anywhere from an easily manageable one or two all the way up to ten—but there's one consensus: Over the five weeks from Thanksgiving to January 1st, you're all but certain to walk away with some extra padding. That is, if you stick to your traditional holiday season habits. See, the holiday season doesn't have to be this way. In fact, if you adopt a few key habits—pick the right alcohol, for instance, or undertake a calorie-incinerating hobby—you can turn this stretch of the year into a bona fide weight loss festival. Just follow these 15 tips and you'll spring into 2018 feeling fitter, healthier, and sexier than you did before. And for more ways to behave this holiday season, learn (and avoid!) the 30 Biggest Holiday Party Faux Pas Of All Time.

They cut back on drinking.

holiday season healthy eating

Over the holiday season, the number one culprit of winter weight gain is drinking; you can count on every drink—be it a beer, a glass of wine, or a more potent cocktail—having about 150 calories. What's more, the calories are so-called "empty calories," meaning they come with zero nutritional benefits. Now, think of your slate of upcoming holiday parties. How many are there? And how many drinks will you have at each? (Starting to get it?)

Lean people combat this exponential calorie intake by instilling a few ironclad tactics. One: They alternate beverages; every other drink will be a glass of water. Two: They show up an hour late. This minimizes the amount of time they can imbibe. Three: They—like this list—count to three. As it so happens, most people pour egregiously large glasses of wine. By counting to three and halting, the glass size comes to a hard stop a 5 ounces. And for more ways to drink healthier this holiday season, learn the 10 Ways To Cut Back Your Drinking At Holiday Parties.

They enforce smaller portion size.

holiday season healthy eating

It's not rocket science: Less food equals less weight gain. A simple and effective trick—and this works especially well at buffet-style holiday parties—is to pick up a smaller plate. Smaller plates, after all, hold less food. (Also not rocket science.) If you only see entrée-sized plates at the buffet, ask the host if there's a tinier option.

Unhealthy snacks are banned.

pigs in a blanket unhealthiest holiday finger foods

Pigs-in-a-blanket? Calamari? Chicken strips? Utterly verboten. As are the other Unhealthiest Holiday Finger Foods You Should Avoid.

Healthy snacks, on the other hand…

Grapes holiday season healthy eating

That said, just because trim people avoid fatty—though finger-licking good—foods, they still tend to snack. Instead, it's on waistline-conscious foods, like grapes, hummus, edamame, and the other Healthiest Holiday Finger Foods You Can Eat.

The 80 percent rule is ironclad.

holiday season healthy eating

It's common consensus that it takes your brain about 20 minutes to "catch up" with your stomach. In other words, you won't realize that you're full until you've already been full for 20 minutes. As such, slim people enforce the so-called 80 percent rule: Eat about 80 percent of your normal portion size, halt, and then wait 20 minutes before eating anything else.

When they drink, they drink tequila.

tequila shots holiday season healthy eating

Agave, the stuff that tequila's distilled from, is chock-full of compounds called agavins. Recent research from the American Chemical Society suggests that agavins are not only not as bad as artificial sweeteners but that they can actually help you lose weight. No wonder that opting for tequila is one of the Best Ways To Drink Alcohol without Gaining Weight.

A good night's rest is essential.

sleep holiday season healthy eating

A recent study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that folks who sleep less than seven hours each night consumed nearly 400 more calories than normal the following day. So, to stay trim and keep your food intake down this holiday season, be sure to get a healthy amount of sleep every night. And if you need help with that, don't miss these 65 Tips For Your Best Sleep Ever.

They stick to healthy carbs.

Sweet potato slices holiday season healthy eating

Contrary to popular belief, carbs aren't evil. You just have to pick the right ones. Potatoes, white bread, semolina pasta, and rice are out. Sweet potatoes (full of insulin-resistant carotenoids), whole wheat bread (replete with appetite-sating fiber), whole wheat pasta (complex carbs, folks), and quinoa (the rare grain equipped with protein) are in. So, next holiday party you're at, be mindful of which stomach-stuffers you're putting on your plate.

They check the scale—every day.

scale holiday season healthy eating

According to the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, people who weigh themselves on the daily are more likely to lose weight—and keep it off. During this holiday season, be sure to weigh yourself every day, preferably at the same time, so you can keep an accurate reading of your weight over time. (Your weight fluctuates throughout the day.) We recommend the morning, for the best motivational results: You'll clock in at a lower number earlier in the day than you will later on in the day.

They never skip breakfast.

omelet eggs holiday season healthy eating

This may sound anathema—after all, we've been touting the benefits of eating less—but it's true! Eating breakfast has been proven to lead to weight loss. This first meal will kickstart your metabolism and help quell pangs of hunger throughout the day.

Lunch is their largest meal.

holiday season healthy eating

It's simple math: By loading up the majority of your calories at lunchtime, you have more hours throughout the day to burn those calories off. Plus, if you consume calories later in the day, they're more likely to be stored in your body as fat.

They hit the slopes.

skiing with friends holiday season healthy eating

Get this: Two hours of skiing burns a whopping 984 calories. That's more than a six-mile run. Considering that most ski hills are open for eight hours (or more, depending on your locale!), you can incinerate nearly 4,000 holiday party calories in a single go.

The pre-meal meal is key.

salmon holiday season healthy eating

Simple logic might dictate that it's best to fast before a big holiday party. That way, you can go all-out without putting a stain on your conscience. But, by eating a meal beforehand—say, a 500-calorie spread of healthy grains and lean meats—you'll show up to the party less hungry and will eat less. Now that's even simpler logic.

They cut 150 calories each day.

holiday season healthy eating soda no

Let's do some math. The holiday season is, give or take, five weeks—or 35 days. Getting rid of 150 calories each day (that's just one beer or one soda!) removes 5,250 calories—or nearly two whole days of calorie intake.

They chat the night away.

holiday season healthy eating conversationalist

By stuffing your face, you're literally unable to speak. (Unless you were never taught that rule about never speaking with food in your mouth, in which case: Man, learn that one.) Instead of eating nonstop, slim people will spend their holiday parties doing what you're supposed to do: Socialize. For ways to boost your own conversational savvy, learn how to Dazzle Any Gathering With These 14 Small-Talk Tips.

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Ari Notis
Ari is an editor specializing in news and lifestyle. Read more
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