Forget the idea of trying to diet during the holidays. Turns out, just maintaining is a worthy goal. The reason? We eat an extra 619 calories per day from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day, says research from Texas A&M International University in Laredo.
That's why I'm always looking for shortcuts to undo some of the diet damage that occurs when my guard is down and my rationale for eating is linked to traditions. (After all, it's family time!) Working out a little longer or adding intervals can spur extra calorie burning, as you may know. In a Self.com poll, 59 percent of readers say they step up sweat sessions to make up for extra helpings of holiday fare.
But time is also precious this month, so if you can't eke out more exercise, consider a few of these simple pound-shredding secrets:
-- Have a seat during meals: Eating while seated at a table with nice plates and utensils can lead you to consume about a third less than if you munch on the fly, a study in the journal Appetite notes. Eat more slowly, so you have time to notice when your body sends the all-full signal.
-- Sniff out peppermint: People who regularly smelled peppermint ate 23 percent fewer calories per week, a study from Wheeling Jesuit University in West Virginia found. Pop a piece of sugarless mint gum or sip some peppermint tea and take a whiff to outsmart a craving.
-- Pack a snack with protein: Try a small container of nonfat plain yogurt or a lowfat string cheese to stave off hunger, says SELF contributor Joy Bauer, R.D. And drinking protein-packed milk after your workout can help you burn more fat, according to a study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Exercisers who had two glasses of skim milk right after toning and another two an hour later lost 2 pounds of fat in 12 weeks. (They lost four times more fat than those who drank soymilk -- holy cow!)
-- Spoon up a satisfying soup: Filling up on a minestrone or another healthy soup can help you eat less of your entree. More of a chowder fan? According to a study at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, even heartier soups can be helpful when it comes to total calories consumed. People who indulged in a fat-based soup before a pizza dinner ate 20 percent less overall than those who had a broth-based soup with the same calories.
-- Spice things up: Preparing your meals with garlic and pepper may prevent overeating, according to a study presented at The Endocrine Society's annual meeting in San Francisco. Overweight people who added zero-calorie spices to their dishes dropped an average of 30 pounds in six months, compared with 2 pounds in the control group.
To gain more quick tips on losing weight, join the SELF Diet Club.