‘Tis the season for cakes, candy canes, cookies, fudge, eggnog…and your ever-expanding waistline. Chances are you’re facing weeks of holiday work events, banquets, family dinners, and cocktail parties. Life has become a smorgasbord of tasty treats. But just because visions of sugarplums have danced out of your dreams and onto your plate, you don’t have to lose your head (or your restraint). According to nutritionist, celebrity trainer, and former professional boxer Cristy “Code Red” Nickel, you can enjoy the holiday party circuit, indulge a little in your favorite foods, and not gain a single poundreally.

“Most people gain an average of ten pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day,” says Nickel, author of The Code Red Holiday Survival Guide: How to Maintain or Even Lose Weight During the Holiday Season (Thanet House Publishing, 2016). (NOTE: As a gift to readers, Nickel is offering a free download of her book by visiting www.coderedholidays.com. )
“This rapid weight gain is the direct result of overindulging at too many food- and drink-centric events. But you can break this vicious cycle and ring in 2017 at your normal weight, or even a few pounds lighter!

“Parties can be tricky,” she continues. “Even if you’ve been eating healthy, you can blow all of your progress in just 24 hours. It really doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you’ve been all week long if you pig out at the party!”

Nickel’s approach to surviving holiday party season is all about having fun while sticking to a few “best practices” that help you lose weight without extreme diets or even exercise. Read on for her no-fail guide to navigating every holiday event in your calendar without packing on the pounds.

Before you party, get your nutrition on track.
Adopting a healthy mindset is the key to surviving the holidays, comments Nickel. Good health and smart habits begin in the mind, so commit to eating a healthy diet during the weeks leading up to Christmas, Hanukkah, and New Year’s Eve. In other words: hydrate and detoxify by drinking a gallon of water a day; avoid sugary foods and drinks as much as possible; be moderate with carb-heavy vegetables like potatoes; curb excessive drinking; and consume healthy fats like avocados, olives, and oils in moderation.

“If you follow these guidelines, you will likely lose a little weight even if you make no other changes,” says Nickel. “Also, remember that good nutrition should be a year-round priority—not just during the holidays when you’re already prone to gaining weight. Make healthy habits part of your lifestyle, and you’ll be amazed at how good you feel.”

Kick sugar to the curb NOW.
“It’s important to go into the holidays understanding how terrible sugar is for you,” insists Nickel. “It’s the cause of many diseases today. If you want to avoid gaining weight—and more importantly, getting sick—you must consume less of it.”

Nickel recommends consuming no more than 25 grams of sugar each day. For the holiday party season, this means you can’t sample every pie, cake, and cookie you see. So choose wisely, and if you know you will have a sugary treat at your office party, be sure to avoid sugar earlier in the day. Nickel points out that it’s not about total deprivation—it’s all about balance and making smart choices.

Wear tight fighting clothes.
Loose clothing will make you a little too comfortable and more likely to overeat. Instead, dress to impress and wear that tight shirt, or if you’re a woman, that little black dress that is sure to keep you in check. You’ll feel beautiful, savvy, and in control!

Don’t head out the door hungry.
Before you go to a holiday party, do yourself a favor and eat a balanced meal. Even the most disciplined person will give in to temptation when they are hungry. At the party, grab the smallest plate you can while enjoying a reasonable portion of party food. Eat slowly, and avoid seconds. After you’ve finished, pop a stick of gum to keep your mouth occupied. You’ll be proud of yourself for staying on track—and you’ll feel great the next day.

Work the room (not the snack table).
The social aspects of holiday parties are just as important—if not more so—than the food. So make a point of mingling with everyone in the room. When your focus is on connecting with the guests, rather than eyeing the snack table, you won’t have time to go back for second and third helpings of the food. So laugh, dance, play party games, and have fun! Who knows, you might make a connection with someone new.

Be sensible with the party food.
Don’t pile your plate full of meatballs, cheese cubes, and decadent cake at every single party you attend—those calories add up fast. At any party, take a good look at the food choices, and primarily fill your plate with veggies and lower carb options. Of course, you can also choose to have a little of the “good stuff,” just be aware that you’ll need to be extra vigilant before and after so you stay on track.

Learn to talk yourself down from the (buffet) ledge.
As you navigate the party scene, listen to the small, smart voice in your head that wants you to make the healthiest choices possible. When you’re tempted to gorge on rum-spiked eggnog, pecan pie, or help yourself to another helping of gravy-soaked mashed potatoes, say this: I can have that _____________ if I really want it. Right now, my body feels _________. If I decide to eat/drink that, my body will feel ___________. Tomorrow morning, I will feel ___________. Do I really want it?

Drink your troubles away (with water, NOT eggnog!).
Water consumption is the number one key to weight loss and keeping your weight down—especially when you’re attending parties full of not-so-healthy foods and beverages. Nickel recommends drinking a gallon of water a day to keep you hydrated and satiated. Not a huge fan of water? Try drinking it with a straw and adding lemon or lime slices, or a few drops of a sugar-free flavoring to improve the flavor. And be sure to keep a glass of water in your hand while you mingle at parties. This trick will keep you full, and squelches the urge to have extra calorie-dense cocktails.

And if you do have a drink, follow these rules.
“There’s nothing wrong with having a cocktail, just be smart about it,” instructs Nickel. “Stick to clear liquor like vodka and gin, and pair it with diet tonic or diet sprite instead of a sugary juice. If you prefer wine, choose red, as it has fewer calories than a white or blush. Avoid beer altogether, and stick to the ‘one and done’ rule. It also helps to plan a workout for the following morning, which will encourage you to only have one drink.”

Schedule a workout the next morning.
Plan to go to the gym for an early run first thing in the morning after the party. This will encourage you to make smarter food choices, and ensure that you don’t have too many drinks. You’ll also be more likely to say goodnight earlier and get the rest that you need.

“You can have a great time at your holiday festivities without depriving yourself,” concludes Nickel. “You just need to stay in control and focus on your goals. When you give your body exactly what it needs, you can indulge a bit without totally derailing your health and weight. Now that’s something to celebrate!”



Dottie DeHart

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