Tet is the most significant celebration of the year for the Vietnamese. But the continuous parade of plentiful feasts and gatherings lead to a common concern – weight gain.
Here are three steps to have better holiday weight management.
Step 1: Be well-prepared before the parties
Adjust your daily meals
Your daily meals already provide enough energy for your body, so the abundant amount of festive foods would leave us with some unwanted pounds.
A simple and easy-to-apply ‘trick’ now is to cut down from one-third to half your normal meal portions during the day or the week of the event. This may help balance the extra calories you consume at the parties.
Have enough sleep
Research shows that short sleep duration (less than 7 hours per day) would result in fatigue, promoting the ‘feelings’ of hunger, which leads to excessive food intake and ultimately increases the risk of obesity. Remember that it’s just a ‘feeling’ of craving for food, which does not necessarily need to be fulfilled.
Additionally, overeating may cause digestive discomfort, which consequently can disrupt your sleep. The effect of overeating, therefore, develops an endless loop of sleep loss – overeating – stomach discomfort, which is harmful to your health in the long run. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is extremely crucial to avoid weight gain during the holiday seasons.
To easily fall asleep and improve your sleep quality, dim down the light and keep your room cool and quiet. Besides, you can practice some meditation with pleasant scents, or try out the technique to quickly fall asleep in 120 secs.
Parties plus snacking during Tet can greatly contribute to excessive calorie intake, and leave you with some extra weight.
You know what they say, ‘Out of sight, out of mind.’ Don’t keep any types of snacks within your reach, especially on your working desk, your bed, or the coffee table – anywhere that you spend most of the time around. However, the best way to avoid snacking unnecessarily is to not store them in the first place.
Step 2: Have a strategy to start the party
When it comes to food, be picky
The spirit of the holiday season also lies in the signature festive meals. For Vietnamese people, we traditionally celebrate Tet with a feast of sticky rice cake called ‘bánh chưng’ and ‘bánh tét’) and pickled small leeks. Since you hardly have these kinds of food during the rest of the year, you allow yourself to indulge in them, maybe too much.
To avoid food overconsumption, be a picky connoisseur. The easiest trick is to limit or stay away from the common dishes and focus on your favorite, nutritious, and iconic festive foods.
Avoid high-calorie drinks
Soft drinks or beers are common calorie-rich beverages at parties. A 330-milliliter can of beer or soft drink contains about 150 calories, which is equivalent to a bowl of rice.
You can opt for sugar-free alternatives or sparkling water in place of sweetened beverages.
Choose fiber and protein over carbs
The holiday feasts are normally rich in carbs, which is tempting yet daunting for weight management. That’s why popular health diets like low carb encourage consumption of fiber-rich vegetables as well as high-protein foods while limiting the carbohydrates intake.
High-protein foods contain many important nutrients and promote a longer feeling of fullness without stomach discomfort. Also, compared to carbs digestion, our body takes longer to break down proteins, which is beneficial for weight control.
However, excessive animal protein intake will have adverse effects on your kidney and liver. Therefore, it is necessary to maintain a balanced diet with 50% of protein source from animals and 50% from plants like legumes, mushrooms, dark green vegetables, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds, etc.
Savor every bite and eat mindfully
We tend to satisfy our palates at hearty feasts, especially buffets.
But when you eat too fast, your brain is unable to recognize your body’s fullness signal, thus leading to overeating.
Therefore, eating slowly will give your brain enough time to pay attention to when you are full. As soon as you start to feel a little discomfort, take a break to allow your body to digest.
Step 3: Have post-party solutions
Boost your workout routine
During the holiday season, we often allow ourselves to temporarily shift away from our normal workout routine. Maybe it's because the gym is closed, your gym friends are on vacation, or you just prefer to spend every minute with the family.
Just 15-30 minutes of walking (or jogging, cycling at a moderate level), 3-5 days a week, would help burn a significant amount of calories, increase metabolism and give you a good appetite.
Fasting for the whole day after the party
This is the worst-case scenario. For example, you wake up with a full stomach, feeling uncomfortable after overindulging at a party.
This method is called “intermittent fasting” (IF), which is quite well known in the fitness world. Using IF means you decide not to eat anything for 24 hours to somewhat "compensate" for the calories you consumed the previous day and to reduce the workload for your digestive system.
Before applying IF, make sure that you do not have problems with your digestive system or stomach.
If you have to use intermittent fasting, you need to prepare a disciplined mind to not compensate by eating 2 or 3 times higher than usual after the fasting period.
And keep in mind that this is only a last resort after having tried all of the suggestions above and still failing. Do not consider IF as an excuse for your lack of self-control during the holidays.
- Vietnam Institute of Applied Medicine 1
- Vietnam Institute of Applied Medicine 2
Professional medical consultation: Dr. Bui Quoc Thang - Cardiovascular Surgeon cum Deputy of Scientific Research Department – Cho Ray Hospital.
Translated by Bich Tram