How to survive holiday dinners without gaining weight: 12 tips for you
How to “survive” holiday dinners and lunches is the most recurring headache of this specific moment.
On the calendar, the Christmas holidays should begin on December 24 and end on January 6; I use the conditional because we know that for one reason or another, the “food marathon” starts in some way as early as December 1.
Traditional dishes, XIX century food pairings, desserts characteristic of the period and glasses that tend to never remain empty, can harm even the most resistant to temptation.
Although I always affirm that a sustainable diet cannot (or rather must not) be extremely rigid, we cannot be too indulgent either.
So how can we defend ourselves?
Unfortunately, the particularity of being repetitive meals (i.e. no longer an exception) over a prolonged period, could generate consequences that are difficult to restore for those who are struggling with diets, or problems related to overweight.
I would like to underline that no one would risk losing control with an abundant lunch or dinner a week; but as just said, here we are talking about continuous “cheats”. Let’s add the fact that the cold weather, besides limiting our movements outdoors, and therefore the possibility of burning the calories, also triggers the body’s atavistic phobias related to remain without sustenance: the consequence is a greater storage of our extras in the form of fat in the places we least like.
In addition, we cannot underestimate the biochemistry of the hunger-satiety circuit, regulated by specific hormones: insulin, ghrelin, leptin, GLP-1 and peptide YY, are too often susceptible to the abundance of carbohydrates and fats introduced with meals; they easily forget the ” good manners “, starting to throw a tantrum the moment we try to take back the reins.
6 Things to do to survive holiday dinners and parties
1) 10 to 20 minutes before starting to eat, drink at least 1 glass of water, preferably with a generous squeeze of lemon:
thanks to the water you will feel fuller and the feeling of hunger will decrease significantly; in addition, the presence of ascorbic acid will ensure that blood sugar does not undergo a drastic increase when you start to introduce food (1,2).
For other applications of this simple rule you can read more here.
2) Try to take dietary fibers during meals, not at the end:
as we know supplementing the diet with fiber promotes a good immune system and a lower risk of metabolic diseases.
Moreover, if you take about 25 g of fiber during the day, the risk of exaggerating with portions decreases significantly (3); however, you will guarantee satiety by revolutionizing the order of meals: eating salad or vegetables will help to fill your stomach, only if taken at the beginning or during meals… not at the end of the dinner.
3) Stick to the simple universal “doggy bag” excuse:
You’re overeating, but still want to try that dessert or have seconds of the lasagna? Ask the guest to set aside your portion to take home; you’ll eat it the next day with much more pleasure and without much guilt.
There is no need to feel ashamed, personally I think this is an excellent rule that I have been applying since I was 20 years old!
4) Bring 1 or 2 healthy dishes:
If you are the hosts, or invited, it makes little difference; prepare 1 or 2 dishes to eat without fear. In this way you will also be able to demonstrate to other diners that sticking to your diet does not mean giving up taste.
5) Move yourself:
lunches and dinners can be very long, and if we add the classic card games, it becomes very complicated to get up from the table; but you should do it, as the blood circulation does not appreciate sedentariness.
In addition to the resulting pain in the joints or back, researchers from Tel Aviv University have discovered that the continuous pressure exerted on the affected body parts when sitting or lying down, causes up to 50 percent more fat production (4).
So, perhaps under the guise of helping the hosts, get out of your chair frequently. It also follows the advice to exercise outdoors: devote 1 hour of the day to walk, perhaps in the company; it will repay you in serotonin, thus giving you muscle tone and serenity beneficial to the whole body.
6) Apply the rule of little but good:
instead of cheap industrial food, try to prefer quality foods even if in smaller portions.
In order to be competitive, industrial foods use refined, ultra-processed, cheap and often imported raw materials; quality artisanal products, on the other hand, choose the opposite path: since they cost more, we will be inclined not to binge on them.
6 Things you should not do if you want to survive holiday dinners
1) skipping meals or fasting:
such action could push us to arrive at the next meal with much more appetite, losing control.
If necessary, choose to introduce more vegetables or fruit at meals before or after binge eating; the following days resume the healthy eating habits of all time.
2) filling up with industrial appetizers:
I’m referring in particular to saltines, fried and salted peanuts, chips and other similar ones, rich in salt and fat. They are so seductive that you just can’t stop eating: therefore the best trick is not to start at all! Also because the combination of salt and fats, besides being harmful for health, is deleterious for the diet, as it stimulates the appetite (5,6)
3) filling up with liquid calories:
with alcoholic beverages it becomes beyond easy to acquire calories: a home portion of a 150 ml glass of wine, is equivalent to 2 small boiled eggs.
Of course, not a party without a toast! So keep your glass full for toasts and eat your meal while drinking water.
But who is teetotal, does not run any risk? To avoid categorically carbonated and sugary drinks: lovers of “sugar-full sodas” should be satisfied with sparkling water, better if naturally rich in minerals.
Moreover, a big NO to spirits, alcoholic (and alcohol-free) cocktails and in general those which include among their ingredients syrups, cream, chocolate and various sugars.
Fruit juices are not a good alternative because they are also full of sugars and few fibers.
Hot or cold unsweetened herbal teas, slightly sweet and effervescent water kefir, veggie juice, tomato juice and still or sparkling water, instead would be excellent allies.
4) overfill your plate during buffets:
first of all choose a small plate, those used for fruit for example, trying to be very selective with the carbohydrate-rich plates, especially when rich in fatty condiments; in the case of the pastas, lasagnas etc, avoid at least bread or starchy side dishes such as potatoes.
For meaty meals, choose the less fatty pieces and keep away as much as possible from industrial products such as salami, sausage, mortadella etc.
Instead of binge eating, fill your plate with grace and taste the food by chewing it slowly; well aware of the fact that your digestive system, in just 20 minutes, will signal to the brain a satisfactory sensation of satiety.
5) avoid staying up too late:
not only because the longer you are awake, the greater the risk of introducing caloric food and drink; but also because of our biology, loves routines, especially those related to sleep.
The body will detect lack of sleep as a stress event, increasing the secretion of hunger hormones… and we all know how difficult it is to counteract the hormones’ desire.
Therefore, striving to get about 7 hours of sleep a day is one of the relevant tactics to survive holiday dinners and lunches (7).
6) avoid stress:
I’m old enough to say that the holidays are not always a happy time, but more often in fact a cause of stress; the upcoming end of the year for several professionals can be a real nightmare; as well as the family relationships themselves can put us to the test.
Therefore, try to relax and enjoy these occasions of conviviality as much as you can; do it for your health and your diet. On the other hand, stress increases the hormone cortisol, which acts as a co-factor with other elements (such as blood sugar) triggering weight gain: you will eat more to counteract cortisol levels with serotonin (8).
However the Holidays turn out, let’s try to find a reason to be happy: positivity is good for your health.
May the strength of the revolution assist you during the holidays and happy new year to everyone.
1) Masayuki, Y., Shiori, U., Kaori, I., et al. Effect of the postprandial blood glucose on lemon juice and rice intake. J-Stage 2020 Volume 7 Issue 2 Pages 174-180. https://doi.org/10.24659/gsr.7.2_174
2) Freitas, D., Boué, F., Benallaoua, M. et al. Lemon juice, but not tea, reduces the glycemic response to bread in healthy volunteers: a randomized crossover trial. Eur J Nutr (2020).
3) Biobehavior of the human love of salt. Leshem M Neurosci Biobehav Rev. 2009 Jan; 33(1):1-17
4) Bolhuis, Dieuwerke P et al. “Effects of Salt and Fat Combinations on Taste Preference and Perception.” Chemical senses vol. 41,3 (2016): 189-95. doi:10.1093/chemse/bjv079
5) Shoham, Naama, et al. “Static mechanical stretching accelerates lipid production in 3T3-L1 adipocytes by activating the MEK signaling pathway.” American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology 302.2 (2012): C429-C441.
6) Effects of daily hassles and eating style on eating behavior. O’Connor DB, Jones F, Conner M, McMillan B, Ferguson E Health Psychol. 2008 Jan; 27(1S):S20-31.
7) Slavin JL. Dietary fiber and body weight. Nutrition. 2005;21(3):411-418. doi:10.1016/j.nut.2004.08.018
8) Patel SR, Hu FB. Short sleep duration and weight gain: a systematic review. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2008;16(3):643-653. doi:10.1038/oby.2007.118
9) Effects of daily hassles and eating style on eating behavior. O’Connor DB, Jones F, Conner M, McMillan B, Ferguson E Health Psychol. 2008 Jan; 27(1S):S20-31.