Your Holiday Nutrition Recovery Plan

An extra serving of sweet potatoes, a sliver of pecan pie, a Campari cocktail or two. By itself, each of these festive splurges seems so innocent. But like holiday presents, dietary indulgences come at a cost. Most of us never lose the 1 to 2 pounds we gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve—and over the years, they add up. The damage is even worse when December's hearty eating patterns take hold and last well into spring, as they often do.

That is why we developed this 3-day recovery plan—to get you out of party excess mode and put you on a healthy eating track for the new year. It's simple, fast, and effective. Stick with it and you will have those extra pounds gone before you take down a single decoration.

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BREAK THE CYCLE

The Splurge Those dreams of sugarplums dancing in your head may be more like a nightmare brought on by too many sweet treats. While experts used to dismiss the notion of sugar addiction, a growing body of research suggests that the sweet stuff can hijack the same brain circuitry that's affected by drugs and alcohol, leading to a vicious cycle of cravings and binges. And holiday desserts with high levels of both sugar and fat provide a double whammy. The sugar hooks you, while the fat piles on the pounds.

The Solution
Eliminate desserts that are rich in sugar and fat for at least 3 days—7 to 10 would be even better. This will help quell cravings while you start to reestablish a taste for naturally sweet foods, such as fruit and starchy vegetables.

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RESIZE YOUR BELLY

The Splurge
As the "it's a holiday, I'll diet tomorrow" mentality sets in, one of your natural appetite control systems—the stomach's network of stretch receptors—starts losing its effectiveness. Normally, when your stomach is full, these receptors send messages to the brain that say "I'm satisfied." But prolonged periods of overeating make the receptors less sensitive. This helps explain why that feeling of "I'm so full, I'll never eat again" is followed the next day by the sense that you're even hungrier than usual.

The Solution
If you keep eating the same high-calorie foods but merely reduce the quantity, your stretch receptors will signal your brain that you're starving and need emergency rations—now. But you can short-circuit this by eating healthy-size servings of low-calorie, high-fiber foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Their bulk will keep the receptors happy while avoiding excess calories.

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CUT DOWN ON COCKTAILS

The Splurge
So you had a few too many spiked eggnogs. The problem isn't just the sugar and fat. The alcohol itself packs in 7 calories per gram (compared with 4 for protein and carbs and 9 for fat). And the stomach and brain don't register liquid calories in the same way as solids, so it's easy to go right on eating and drinking—without compensating for the added calories.

The Solution
Satisfying, low-calorie beverages can boost metabolism and even temper your hunger. Tea (lose the cream and sugar) has zero calories and lifts metabolic rate. Or prepare a pitcher of flavored water. Add sliced oranges, lemons, and limes to a pitcher—or toss in berries or sprigs of mint or lemongrass. They're refreshing and give you healing antioxidants.

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