December is where all diets go to die. It’s a time to be merry, after all—and honestly, nobody wants to hear about your latest sugar-free challenge while sipping spiked eggnog. Still, that doesn’t mean we have to set ourselves way back.
To help us strike the right balance, we hit up Abbey Sharp, the Toronto-based dietician behind Abbey’s Kitchen blog and Youtube channel and spokesperson for Wonderful Pistachios. She shared five tips for making it to NYE without the post-holiday puff.
1. Don’t “save” your calories. “The best strategy is to have a balanced meal before you go to a dinner or party,” says Sharp. “We’ve all been there thinking, ‘I’m going to overeat, so I better under-eat before I get there,’ but it always backfires.” Instead, Sharp recommends a lunch that combines fibre, lean protein and fat, like a salad or sandwich, so you don’t show up starving and immediately down every buttery roll in sight.
2. Hang on to your garbage. “Research shows that when you have evidence of the food you’ve eaten, you eat less,” says Sharp, in reference to findings by Dr. James Painter of Eastern Illinois University. Painter coined the “pistachio principle” after an experiment found that when people could see empty pistachio shells in plain sight they cut their calorie consumption by 18 percent, compared to people who immediately discarded them. “If you’re at a cocktail party where there are lots of little foods going around, it’s really easy to lose track of what you’ve eaten,” says Sharp. She recommends keeping hold of those shells, skewers, bones and wrappers so that you stay more mindful.
3. Strategize your spot. Where you park yourself at a party can make a big difference on how much you eat, says Sharp, recalling studies by Cornell University’s Dr. Brian Wansink. “People who face the buffet and sit closely to it tend to be heavier than people who just face the opposite way,” says Sharp. At a sit-down dinner, try to grab a seat beside someone who you know eats slowly or has a moderate appetite.
4. Treat yo self. Let’s not even pretend it’s possible (or tempting) to make it through a party on salad alone—and even if you could, it could be detrimental in the long run, says Sharp. “You want to make sure that you don’t get out of there feeling deprived, because that feeling will just fuel a binge later on,” she says. “Allow yourself two to three bites of your favourite foods for your first round.” If you’re still wanting more, reload with another portion. Remember though, Sharp says that after the first few bites, food tends to lose its allure. “Let yourself have small amounts so that you feel like you’ve got that experience that you’ve been waiting all year for without necessarily overdoing it.”
5. But also, trick yo self. “When we see a lot of white space on our plate, we feel unsatisfied,” says Sharp. “I like to crowd out all the white. You can put lettuce on your plate with vegetables so it looks full, even though maybe you don’t have as much on it.” Sharp also says if you have the option, grab a smaller plate—and the same goes for drinks, too. “Choose a champagne glass and put wine in it, so that you see a full glass and feel satisfied.”