The holidays are fast approaching. And while you’re dutifully logging reps, weight loads and macronutrient counts in your journal, the evil specter of your social agenda is already wreaking havoc on your willpower. You’re heading to grandma’s for Thanksgiving, and then you have weeks of parties after that, capped off with that huge week in late December that’s all about big food and bigger drinks. But don’t worry — all is not lost. There are some subtle but effective methods at your disposal that can help you stay strong against the season’s hazards.
1 WATER UP
Studies show that drinking 16 ounces of water before meals can reduce the overall number of calories that you consume at each sitting. So if you’re worried about going overboard — even on healthy fare — guzzling a glass before sitting down can help you feel fuller faster.
2 EAT PROTEIN
Protein is a powerful nutrient. Besides making sure that your body doesn’t eat its own muscle mass for lunch, it takes longer to digest, occupying your digestive tract and making you feel full longer. You don’t even have to cook a chicken breast. Whey protein powder has been shown to keep levels of ghrelin, the hunger hormone, low while boosting levels of another hormone called cholecystokinin, which makes you feel full.
Luckily for us, science is sometimes able to wrangle in even the heartiest of appetites. In addition to your usual sports supplements, try products that aid in appetite suppression, like glucomannan, Hoodia, chromium, zinc, guarana or caffeine.
4 SLOW DOWN
It takes food somewhere between 15 and 20 minutes to pass from your esophagus into your stomach. That means it takes that long between your first bite and the moment your brain gets the signal from your stomach that it’s being fed. If you gobble your food down in five minutes flat, you still have 10 or so minutes before your brain gets the “put down the fork” signal. That gap can be hazardous, particularly when there are huge amounts of tempting and fattening leftovers in the fridge. The lesson: Eat slowly to reduce that gap down to near nothing.
5 EAT FIRST
It seems slightly obvious, but if you’re already full, you won’t be tempted to eat. So never go to a party hungry. Keep a protein bar in your car. Or fill up on low-calorie soup or salad first because studies have shown each blunt hunger when eaten at the start of a meal.