In the Season to Lose Weight

The holidays are a time to eat, drink, and be merry. And for most, after the holidays is a time to lose the weight that you’ve gained in the past few weeks. Why not skip your weight-loss New Year’s resolution this year by losing the weight now instead of later? This way, you can strut into your next holiday party and enjoy the hors d’oeuvres without worry!

So, what exactly does it take to drop a dress size? Well, one dress size is about seven pounds for those in a size 12 and under. It's about 10 pounds for those above it. That said, it's easier to lose weight faster when you've got more total weight to lose. So, a gal who seeks to lose 30 pounds total will lose 10 pounds faster than one who wants to also lose 10 pounds, but only needs to lose about 15.

You've got to trim about 500 calories a day to lose a pound a week. This should come from both increased activity and better eating. Walking a mile (about 2,500 steps) burns about 100 to 150 calories. Exercise helps take the pressure off of your eating habits because it's not just about cutting back on food—it's about increasing your caloric output. That is what weight management is all about: calories in and calories out. You can't fool Mother Nature.

Here are my strategies for dropping a dress size before the holidays, so you can enjoy a happy (and healthy!) New Year.

  1. Mentally prepare yourself: Avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain and change your lifestyle now. A habit takes about two to three weeks to make a daily part of your life, so if you become a mindful eater now, it will carry over to the holidays. You'll be cutting calories no matter where you are.
  2. Eat less often and stop grazing: Limit yourself to three meals and one snack per day. In order to keep those normal hunger/fullness signals in place, you shouldn’t go longer than four hours without eating. Too many people are grazing, and the "snacks" become mini-meals. It's too hard to keep track of calories when you're eating every two hours or so. The problem here is that healthy foods still have calories.
  3. Limit processed foods: They are loaded with hidden calories, fat and salt. Avoid processed "convenience" foods, like items in a box or can, that add extras like fatty sauces, salt and extra fat. Choose foods that are in nature's recognized form, like fresh or frozen fruits/veggies (no sauces), or a rotisserie chicken (without the skin). Extra salt makes you feel bloated—and is not real weight—but it is mental baggage. It's a big chunk of foods to limit (think processed deli meats, canned soups), but there are many options, from frozen dinners to fresh packaged items, that are both calorie-controlled and low in salt. Look for them.
  4. Bulk up on calorie "diluters": Select foods with high fiber, high water, and high air content. These "dilute" the calories in foods—they are less dense, meaning fewer calories with the same volume of food. It's a no brainer! Eat fruits and veggies (high fiber, high water), and use your blender with ice and air to stretch your beverage calories.
  5. Become a calorie counter: That's the easiest way to limit your portion size. We all just eyeball servings (and studies show we're always wrong), and underestimate calories by up to 50 percent. Get a calorie book or go online, but know the calories for your portions. Smaller portions of high fat foods (like nuts) are workable with this mindset.
  6. Cut out liquid calories: Liquid calories are not perceived by the body as well as those in solid food. So, 300 extra calories in a drink are not "counted" by your body as having had some fuel. Skip 100-percent juices, juice drinks, smoothies and whole milk. When it comes to alcohol calories, limit yourself to one. Use low-calorie mixers—like seltzer, water or diet soda. Make a wine spritzer and cut those wine calories in half. (That also allows you to have a two-for-one.)
  7. Increase your daily activity: This means move more in everything you do. There's nothing special to do or to buy. Stand instead of sit. Walk around instead of standing. Jog a bit, intermittently, when you're walking. For weight loss, pick up the pace and be active like this for 60 minutes daily; 30 minutes daily if you're just trying to not gain weight. It’s okay to divide up the time. While this is the last tip on the list, it's a must-do for weight loss. It's not an afterthought.
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