From Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, author of S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds, and Lose Inches.
Many of my clients look forward to winter, because it brings cherished holidays and treasured traditions, like cozying up in front of a fireplace or taking a stroll as the snow falls.
But if you don’t want to welcome spring with an extra layer of padding, navigating winter can be a challenge. To enjoy it without expanding your waistline, put these four strategies into action. Each has helped my clients and readers skate through the season without gaining an ounce, or even shed pounds before it’s time to lose the layers:
Establish an Eating Schedule
An erratic eating pattern can wreak havoc with your blood sugar and energy levels and make it difficult to know if you’re hungry. One of the key strategies in my newest book S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches, is to eat breakfast within an hour of waking up and eat your remaining meals no sooner than three and no more than five hours apart. In addition to best fueling your body and regulating appetite, this pattern can positively impact your metabolism. One recent study found that when healthy men and women skipped meals during the day and consumed all of their calories between 4:00 and 8:00 pm, they experienced hormonal changes that could lead to diabetes. If you’re not used to eating every three to five hours, set an alarm as a reminder. In time your body will adjust.
Build Your Puzzle
The eating plan in my book includes four daily meals, each constructed as a unique “puzzle” made from specific portions of five pieces: produce; a whole grain; lean protein; plant-based fat; and natural seasonings, like herbs and spices. This approach provides a concrete strategy that lays out what to eat and how much—necessary factors to manage your weight—but it also allows for a great deal of flexibility.
Even better, it doesn’t require counting calories, points, or grams. The five-piece puzzle lets you choose foods based on your preferences and/or their availability, and it’s easy. Once you know what the five puzzle pieces are, and visually how much of each one to include, you can use this strategy whether you’re at home, on-the-go, or ordering from a restaurant menu.
Multitasking while munching can prevent you from actually enjoying your meals, thereby triggering mindless overeating. For the opposite effect, set a goal of taking it slow. Eat without doing anything else, put your utensil down between each bite, and focus on the flavors, aroma, and textures of your food. Several studies have found that a more leisurely eating pace results in eating less without trying and feeling more satisfied.
Plan Smart Splurges
It’s not realistic to go through life never having treats, especially during the holidays. And the truth is, you can indulge without letting go of your weight loss goals, if you build treats into your meals.
First, zero in on what you’re craving. Next, think about where it fits and build the rest of your meal around your splurge using the puzzle principle. Desserts generally provide carbs and fat, and while they may not be as nutritious as wild rice and extra virgin olive oil, they most closely fill the whole grain and plant-based fat puzzle pieces. To balance them out, choose a meal of lean protein and veggies (like white meat turkey with a side of roasted vegetables), then enjoy your dessert. It may seem like an odd combination or counterintuitive to weight loss, but it makes a lot more sense than choosing to overeat, or depriving yourself, which can trigger rebound overeating. This middle ground approach won’t completely derail your overall efforts, and it can help you to finish a meal feeling satisfied, without feeling stuffed and sluggish.
For more of Cynthia’s realistic and empowering nutrition and weight loss advice, follow her on Twitter @CynthiaSass, connect with her on Facebook at Facebook.com/CynthiaSassFans, visit her website at www.CynthiaSass.com, and check out her book S.A.S.S. Yourself Slim: Conquer Cravings, Drop Pounds and Lose Inches.