Indulge Yourself -- and Still Lose Weight!

Trying to lose weight over the holidays can seem impossible. Between family feasts, lavish parties and office treats, the temptation to indulge is everywhere. But with the right mindset and a little planning, you can have fun, satisfy your sweet (or savory) tooth and still love the scale in the morning! Just follow these smart eating tips for the holidays:

Lose the guilt. Trying to say “No” to every mashed potato and cookie between Christmas and New Year’s Day will just make you feel miserable, and studies show that people on strict diets are more likely to go off the wagon than those who don’t deprive themselves of any one particular food. Adopt a more realistic attitude by planning to indulge in moderation, and when you do, don’t think of it as cheating.

Go for seasonal favorites. Instead of reaching for food you can have any time of year, pick ones that you won’t see again after January: chestnut stuffing, latkes, pumpkin pie, your mom’s special holiday jam cookies. You’ll feel like you’ve really treated yourself, and the leftovers (and temptation!) won’t be around for long.

Think small and savor. Keep portion control in mind when you fill your plate: a palm-size slice of turkey, 2 tablespoons of buttery mashed potatoes. Then eat slowly and try to really enjoy each bite.

Start with feel-full foods. Dr. Barbara Rolls, a professor of nutritional sciences at Penn State University and author of The Volumetrics Eating Plan, says that water-based high-density foods like most fruits, vegetables and lean meats fill you up, without adding many calories. So at parties, start with a salad or roasted vegetables to satisfy your hunger before moving on to richer fare. Or have a broth-based soup before you go; Rolls has found that people who eat soup before a main course eat 20 percent fewer calories than those who don’t.

Keep your distance. If you hang out next to the buffet table or by the cubicle of the co-worker who always brings in homemade brownies, you may fall into the trap of mindless munching. Take what you want, and then do your chatting in another part of the room.

Balance big and small meals. Going to a big dinner? Eat lightly the rest of the day: oatmeal or egg whites for breakfast, then soup and fruit for lunch. Between meals, snack small or not at all. “For some people,” says Rolls, “having small snacks helps keep them from feeling hungry; for others, it leads to added calorie intake.” Go for satisfying noshes like low-fat yogurt, or veggies with hummus, rather than those single-serve packs of pretzels or cookies, which aren’t very satisfying.

Stay active. Exercise will burn off the extra calories you take in at the office Christmas party and make you feel good about yourself to boot. Try to walk for at least a half hour a day. You can even break it up into 10-minute spurts spaced over time -- or get up a little earlier than usual and head to the gym before work. Your favorite winter activities, like skating, skiing and sledding with the kids (especially if you pull them up the hill!), can also be a fun alternative to the treadmill.