Quick tricks to lose that holiday weight

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published January 8, 2020

Key Takeaways

Gaining weight during the holidays is almost as much of a tradition as kissing under the mistletoe. We know we shouldn’t indulge too much, but we risk being a Grinch if we don’t join in for a little bit of holiday revelry. But now you have a round little belly that shakes when you laugh like a bowlful of jelly. 

So, how do you get rid of that extra holiday weight? Sure, you know you need to eat better, exercise more, and get more sleep. But what other simple steps can you make to shed the weight more quickly? 

Eat more slowly and chew more often

People who are overweight and obese have been shown to eat at a faster rate than thinner people. So, it’s not a surprise that researchers have found that eating more slowly is linked to eating less food, consuming fewer calories, and gaining less weight. 

Researchers still aren’t sure why eating slowly means eating less food. One possible explanation is that the speed of eating and the frequency of chewing may influence satiety. Another possible reason is that slow eating may result in slower gastric emptying, so you feel less hungry. But, the leading hypothesis is that people who eat more slowly have more “exposure to taste” compared with fast eaters. In other words, fast eaters eat more just to get the same oral sensory exposure as slow eaters. 

Unfortunately, researchers haven’t yet found the best strategy for eating at a slower rate. Some ideas include eating smaller bites, chewing more thoroughly, and taking the time to really taste the food instead of gulping it down. 

Use a smaller plate

Here’s some food for thought: As obesity has ballooned in the last three decades, the size of the average dinner plate has increased by more than one-third (36%). It’s no coincidence: Bigger plates lead to bigger portions. 

But the opposite holds true, as well. It sounds too simple to believe, but using a smaller plate makes your lunch or dinner look larger, so you eat less. There’s even a scientific term for it—the Delboeuf illusion. 

“In the case of food on a plate, a portion of food may be perceived as larger on a small plate, but smaller on a large plate due to the space between the food and the edge of the plate,” wrote researchers who studied the effect in adults

Even people who know how the effect works are still vulnerable to the illusion, the researchers noted. That’s good news because it means that using a smaller plate could help just about anyone to better control their food intake. 

Go nuts

Once you get used to eating Christmas cookies or Passover potato latkes, you can’t help but want to keep eating them, even after the holiday season is long over. 

Swap those sweet and fatty foods for healthier snacks, like nuts. Eating more nuts won’t make you lose weight per se, but eating nuts instead of other foods—like potato chips, French fries, red meats, cookies, candy, or cakes—is linked to less weight gain, according to nutrition researchers at Harvard University

Try a ‘dry January’

“Dry January” originated in the United Kingdom as a public health campaign to encourage people to reconsider their alcohol consumption. It refers to abstaining from drinking alcohol during the first month of the year, typically after the excesses of the Thanksgiving and December holidays. Bear in mind that Americans double their drinking during the holiday season, from an average of four drinks per week to eight drinks. 

Alcoholic effects aside, people often forget how high in calories booze can be. An 8-oz glass of red wine, a 16-oz pint of beer, or a 3-oz glass of whiskey (or vodka or gin) contain roughly 200 calories each. So, if the average American adult has eight alcoholic drinks in just 1 week of the holiday season, that accounts for an extra 1,600 calories. Multiply that by the 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, and you get a whopping 9,600 calories of alcohol during the holidays. 

Cutting back on booze, or eliminating it altogether, will prevent this kind of weight gain in the new year. 

Weigh yourself regularly

Step on the scale on a regular basis to check your progress. Researchers have reported that doing so helps to lower weight and—contrary to what you might expect—it won’t drive you crazy. 

“Self‐monitoring is the cornerstone of behavioral treatment for weight loss,” wrote the authors of a literature review published in Obesity. “The findings from prospective, longitudinal studies provide evidence that regular self‐weighing has been associated with weight loss and not with negative psychological outcomes“ like depression or anxiety. 

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