One of the best parts of this season is all the food and fun. The worst is when your clothes are tight come the New Year. But you don't have to skip the goodies in December to look svelte in January. ESSENCE asked nutrition and fitness experts--and real readers like you--for tips to help you enjoy the festivities without breaking out your fat pants.
Don't go hungry.
Before the event, fill up on a large salad or veggie-packed soup. "Research shows that having high-fiber snacks before a meal will decrease your hunger and help you eat less later," says Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, C.D.E., a registered dietitian in New York City.
Stop at three sinful snacks.
"The goods news about those little hors d'oeuvres is that they are portion-controlled," says Jeanette Jenkins, The Hollywood Trainer and creator of the Sexy Arms, Abs & Legs DVD. Whether it's fried shrimp or hot wings, have only three. Then fill up on figure-friendly edibles like shrimp cocktail.
Sit to save calories.
Don't just pop fried cheese balls while standing and chatting. "You may inhale 400 calories or more, but your brain won't register that you've eaten that much," says Marlene B. Schwartz, Ph.D., deputy director of the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity at Yale University. At the office party, sit and enjoy that stuffed mushroom by cutting it into bite-size pieces.
Flatter the food pushers.
If your aunt is hurt when you refuse her seven-cheese mac 'n' cheese, take a bite, rave about it and then say, "It's amazing, but I'm so full. Can I take it to go?" suggests Jenkins.
Wear something form-fitting.
Not only are body-hugging clothes more flattering than lose-fitting ones, but that snug feeling keeps you connected to your body. "If you know your belly's going to hang out if you eat too much, you're less likely to do so," says wellness coach and fitness trainer Lisa Priestly of Wholelife Styles in New York City.
Get a "skinny girl" special.
At the bar, order a wine spritzer or "ask for your mojito to be made with agave nectar instead of sugar," says David Box, a mixologist at Cantina Latina in New York City. Too much sugar is not only fattening, but it also causes your blood sugar to spike and then crash, leaving you craving even more sweets. Pick your poison. At house parties, ask for vodka and soda or a white rum and diet coke. "White liquors like vodka and gin tend to have half as many calories as dark rums, At the whiskey, scotch and cognac," says Box.
Apple martinis and pina coladas sound healthy, thanks to the fruit in their names, "but they've actually got a lot of calories and sugar," says Box. Order wine, which only has 115 to 125 calories per glass versus 250 for an apple martini.
Cut the fat.
If you're the host, look for low-cal options. For example, alcohol, heavy cream, sugar and eggs fatten the calorie count for traditional eggnog. Instead, use skim milk, fat-free half-and-half, egg substitutes and low-cal sweetener.
Mix your drinks.
Have some water between each drink. "A glass of water dilutes the alcohol in your body, so you don't get buzzed as quickly," says Box. It also helps you avoid the sugar rush.
And Be Merry!
Skate the day away.
Skip the holiday happy hour and opt for an active afternoon of ice skating or yoga with your girls. "What we want at the holidays is connection. This will give you that sense of togetherness without the fatty food," says Priestly.
Estimated calories burned: 420 per hour of ice skating.
Do a clean sweep.
Crank up-tempo holiday tunes while you declutter. Try Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You" and the Jackson 5's "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus."
Estimated calories burned: 150 per half hour.
Strap on a pedometer.
Before you hit the mall, put on a pedometer (available at most sporting goods stores). "This will help you gauge how much you're moving and motivate you to walk more," says Brian T. Jones, an exercise physiologist in New York City.
Estimated calories burned: 130 per half hour at a three-mile pace.
WORK IT OUT!
Gift yourself a new figure with Jeanette Jenkins's DVD Sexy Arms, Abs & Legs ($19.95, thehollywoodtrainer.com).
"After dinner, our family takes a walk to see the festive sights. This keeps everyone mobile, allowing our bodies to burn off those excess holiday calories."
--ANOWA ADJAH, 28, PISCATAWAY, NEW JERSEY
"If I'm visiting more than one relative in a day, I skip the carbs, and at the last destination, I just eat a fist-size portion of protein and veggies.
--SHANNON D. NELSON, 38, LOS ANGELES
41% of American women find comfort in food during the holidays.
--American Psychological Association
Bender, Michele. "THE CURVY GIRL'S GUIDE TO Beating Holiday Weight Gain." Essence Dec. 2009: 158. Academic OneFile. Web. 8 Nov. 2009.
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