Doing This Before a Party Helps Ward Off Weight Gain, Doctor Says
Holiday gatherings don't have to make an impact on your scale.
It starts with Halloween and carries on right through New Year's Day, with Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, and other holidays offering plenty of opportunities to gather with friends and family and indulge in sweet treats, calorie-laden cocktails, and fried foods galore. All of that celebrating can easily lead to one thing: a higher number on the scale than what you're used to seeing.
So, how can you have all the fun you want, and still be able to zip your favorite jeans up in January? Rekha Kumar, MD, MS, Head of Medical Affairs at weight care program Found, shares one simple party pre-game tip with Best Life—and it may be just the thing you need to help you maintain a healthy weight throughout the holidays (and the rest of the year, too). Read on to find out what you might want to start trying this holiday season.
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The holidays are notorious for ruining diets.
Whether you're trying to drop a few pounds, avoid foods that upset your stomach, or just stick to a healthy diet, the holidays can really throw a wrench in your plans. Who among us hasn't headed back to the buffet table for seconds (or thirds) and lived to regret it? Buttery mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie piled high with mounds of fresh whipped cream, gooey jelly doughnuts, that decadent chocolate-pecan pie your sister only makes once a year—the diet pitfalls are everywhere this time of year.
A study published in the Dec. 2018 issue of The BMJ found that the average holiday weight gain is less than a pound—a fact that might be surprising to anyone who's stepped on a scale after New Year's Eve, feeling bloated after weeks of consuming charcuterie, cheese, and champagne.
Still, if you'd rather not be tempted to overindulge at your next party, going in armed with a healthy eating strategy can be helpful.
What you eat has a bigger impact on your weight than exercise does.
If you've ever tried to offset the effects of going a little too hard at the dessert table by working out, you may have already learned something that weight loss experts confirm: It's difficult to lose extra weight through exercise alone. The so-called "80/20 rule" holds that weight loss is 80 percent the result of your diet and only 20 percent due to exercise, Healthline reports.
Of course, ideally, you'll combine a healthy diet with regular exercise—but if you're looking to shed pounds, it's much easier to skip that 300-calorie glass of spiked eggnog than it is to burn off that same number of calories. Livestrong estimates that it takes anywhere from 50 to 80 minutes of brisk walking to expend 300 calories, depending on your body weight and other factors.
So unless you want to spend your holiday season sweating in the gym, exercising control at the refreshment table might be the better way to go—and Kumar has a surefire strategy to make it easier.
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Doing a "protein preload" can help ward off weight gain.
Kumar, an endocrinologist who has served as the medical director of the American Board of Obesity Medicine and as the associate editor of the journal Obesity, says that doing a "protein preload" before your next party is "a great way to control appetite in scenarios that might be a challenge, such as prior to a holiday gathering or a party where there might be passed hors d'oeuvres that are hard to resist if they keep coming around before dinner."
Why? "Protein signals fullness to the brain," she explains. "Having a bar or shake an hour before an event like this will curb appetite and allow you to still enjoy the food, while also making good choices on portion and quality." Going into these events with an empty stomach, she says, is a recipe for overindulging in foods that otherwise might not tempt you.
Weight loss medications may be a good option for some people.
If you're carrying enough extra weight that it's a potential health hazard, you may find that simply eating a protein bar before a party isn't quite enough to do the trick.
"Obesity physicians may also ask patients to take certain anti-obesity medications ahead of events to help on the biology side, in addition to the behavior modification of protein preload," says Kumar.
Luckily, a number of highly effective weight loss drugs exist these days. Speak with your healthcare provider if you think you might benefit from trying one of them.