Ahh, the holiday season: A joyous time filled with festive parties, gift giving, tasty eats, and… tighter-fitting jeans. For some, packing on a few pounds during the winter season is an inevitable side effect from the stresses, unhealthy treats, and sleepless nights that the holidays can bring. This year, with a little slim-down know-how, you can have your holiday hijinks (and eat them too) without tipping the scales. Here are five secrets to help you kick off the new year a little svelter.
1. Plan ahead. Stress eating is a definitely a thing—and last-minute party planning or gift hunting can trigger it. Do “future you” a favor: Take time to organize all your holiday needs ahead of time so you can not only keep your sanity, but also avoid mindless, emotional snacking later on. Making a list and checking it twice can go a long way.
2. Be party prepared. Just like it’s wise to not go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, you shouldn’t go to a holiday party hungry either. Arm yourself with a healthy snack or meal before your party so you’re less tempted by unhealthy treats when you’re there (and don’t hang out by the food table!). If you feel like letting loose a little, plan out some low-cal meals before and after the festivities (and maybe an extra workout) to balance out the extra calories.
3. Sneak in extra physical activity. Sure, online shopping is convenient, but it won’t burn extra calories. Instead, lace up those winter boots and go hoof it to buy gifts. Just 30 minutes of brisk walking sizzles about 150 calories (for a 155-pound person). A two-hour shopping trip? 600 calories gone! Feeling extra motivated? Park farther from the store’s entrance to boost your calorie burn even more.
4. Keep healthy snacks handy. You’re running around. You’re busy. Then all of a sudden, you’re hungry. Storing healthy snacks—like almonds, carrot sticks, or sliced apples—in your car, desk, or bag can be your weight-loss savior when hunger strikes. Not only will it allow you to avoid fast food and other unhealthy on-the-go-options, but it will also help you keep your blood sugar levels stable, so you’re less tempted by holiday treats. (Here's how to make your favorite holiday drinks a little skinnier too.)
5. Don’t skimp on sleep. Even though your to-do list may be a mile long, it’s über important to get those Zzzs. Lack of sleep can cause an decrease in leptin (your “I’m full” hormone) and an increase in ghrelin (your “I’m hungry” hormone), which can lead to cravings and lack of appetite control.