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40 Ways to Recover From Holiday Eating

Yes, you can enjoy the holiday season without derailing your weight loss goals. Just follow these quick and easy tips.

Between Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year, that festive five-week span is filled with lots of irresistible food. And hey, this year has been a rough one, so why not indulge a little? But then comes the days after when you suddenly realize you need to recover from all those cookies you swiped from Santa's plate.

That sort of energy blitz would be a major blow to your weight loss goals at any time of year.

The hard truth? There's no silver bullet to recovering from the gastronomic onslaught that exists between the last Thursday in November through the first day of the New Year. But by adopting some of the small and manageable changes below, you can feel slimmer, rev your metabolism, tackle the rest of the holiday season mindfully, and ring in the New Year feeling good about your health-and-fitness goals. And while you're at it, be sure to try out these 21 Best Healthy Cooking Hacks of All Time.

Add Dumbbells to Your Black Friday List

Gym bag weights sneakers shoes water bottle phone music

No time for the gym? Invest in a pair of dumbbells. Free weights and your own body weight are all you need to challenge every major muscle group in your body. The more muscle you can pack on, the faster you'll be burning the extra food energy you gobbled up at Thanksgiving and will continue to consume over the holiday season.

Get to Stepping

Woman walking in park
Arek Adeoye/Unsplash

The time between Thanksgiving and New Year's is a whirl of activities, get-togethers, and obligations. That can mean you've got less time to work out and recover from a feeding frenzy. So do yourself a favor. Instead of waiting to be active at the gym, sneak in steps all day long. Invest in a pedometer or a Fitbit and try to hit at least 10,000 steps a day. This way, if you miss a workout, you'll know you've already fit in some movement, and it won't throw your progress totally off track.

Swap Egg Nog for Green Tea

Green tea

You can get back on track ASAP by drinking green tea every day. In a recent 12-week study, participants who drank 4 to 5 cups of green tea daily, then did a 25-minute workout, lost an average of two more pounds and more belly fat than the non-tea-drinking exercisers. Why? The brew contains catechins, a type of antioxidant that triggers the release of fat from fat cells and helps speed the liver's capacity for turning fat into energy.

Fill Up on Fiber and Protein

Healthy oatmeal

If you want to lose weight, it's important to keep your blood-sugar levels stable, so you don't overeat. That's key when trying to recover after Thanksgiving and throughout December. To keep hunger at bay, have three meals and two snacks a day (all of these 25 Best Store-Bought High-Protein Snacks are healthy picks). And to help you stay fuller longer, make sure that every time you eat, you're consuming a combination of fiber (one of the most satiating nutrients out there) and protein.

Work Out First Thing

man working out

According to holistic health coach Seth Santoro, the best strategy for not looking and feeling like 10 pounds of sausage in a 5 pound bag after Thanksgiving is to work out soon after waking up. "Hit the gym and do some treadmill sprints on an empty stomach to burn fat," he says. "Your body is already in a calorie deficit, and it will ignite your body's fat-burning ability." Glycogen levels are depleted during sleep, so your body will utilize body fat as an energy source.

Stop Eating at Sunset

late night eating

Make winter's short days an advantage: Use the last of the sunlight as a cue to stop eating. This may help you lose more weight, even if you eat more food throughout the day, according to a study published in the journal Cell Metabolism. Researchers put groups of mice on a high-fat, high-calorie diet for 100 days. Half of them were allowed to nibble throughout the night and day on a healthy, controlled diet, while the others only had access to food for eight hours but could eat whatever they wanted. The result of the 16-hour food ban? The fasting mice stayed lean, while the mice who noshed 'round the clock became obese—even though both groups consumed the same amount of calories! Push back breakfast until 10 am to slim down, and reset your body with our Ultimate One-Day Detox!

Take Hot Bedtime Showers

running water of shower faucet

A UCLA study of some of the world's last remaining hunter-gatherer tribes noted that drops in temperature were an important sleep cue for our paleolithic forebears. We no longer sleep under the stars that much, but you but you can recreate a sunset-like temperature dip by taking a hot bath or shower. That pause to refresh can help you fall asleep faster and make shuteye—prime pound-shedding time—deeper. Need convincing? Check out these 20 Surprising Ways to Lose Weight in Your Sleep!

Lower the Temperatures

Woman setting thermostat

A striking new study published in the journal Diabetes suggests that turning down the heat in winter may help us attack belly fat while we sleep. Colder temperatures subtly enhance the effectiveness of our stores of brown fat — fat that keeps you warm by burning through the fat stored in your belly. Participants spent a few weeks sleeping in bedrooms with varying temperatures: a neutral 75 degrees, a cool 66 degrees, and a balmy 81 degrees. After four weeks of sleeping at 66 degrees, the subjects had almost doubled their volumes of brown fat. (And yes, that means they lost belly fat.)

Eat an Apple Every Day

fresh red apple slices

This crisp, refreshing fruit is among the most super of superfoods: Apples boast the powerful antioxidant quercetin and vitamins C and B-6, which keep your cholesterol levels low and slash your risk for heart disease. But thanks to their high fiber count, an apple a day can do more than keep the doctor away — it can help you trim down during the holidays too.

Make Healthy Cocktails

cocktails with orange

The holiday season doesn't only bring laughter, cheer, and goodwill to all — it also brings unwanted weight gain from all those festive foods. It's inevitable that you'll lose gym time or splurge on "just one more" piece of pie, but don't let that stop you from making healthy choices. Instead of traditional cocktails like eggnog, or sugar-laden spiced cider, opt for a Hot Toddy, which is made with ginger, tea, and whiskey!

Get Intense

Man running in a gym on a treadmill concept for exercising, fitness and healthy lifestyle

Interval training is the best way to shock your body back into shape, increase your metabolism, improve your cholesterol profile, and improve insulin sensitivity, especially during the holidays when you're being pulled in every direction. At the gym, sign up for a HIIT class, or turn your favorite aerobic exercise (running, biking, even walking) into an interval workout by adding periods of intense speed (start with 30 to 60 seconds) followed by periods of rest (normal speed) for the same amount of time. Do this six to 10 times to complete a fat-slashing workout. As you get better, slowly increase the amount of time of increased intensity.

Fit in Quick Reps

Calm couple in pajamas meditating, listening spiritual practices lessons on laptop, sitting on lotus pose at home

A busy holiday schedule of parties, shopping, and gift wrapping isn't a reason to skip your workouts and lose some of that turkey weight. In fact, slacking off could slow your slim-down progress. Thankfully, fitting in fitness doesn't have to be time-consuming. Trade exhaustive hour-long sessions for one daily resistance exercise (like a bicep curl, squat, lunge, or shoulder press). Spending five minutes doing one daily resistance exercise is all it takes to build and maintain muscle, reduce fat, and protect bones. For more easy fat-frying tips, check out these 44 Ways to Lose Inches of Body Fat!

Learn to Love Legumes

Lentils in bowl

You're not socially obligated to scarf cheese dip. Whip up some hummus instead. Legumes such as lentils and chickpeas, a rich source of vegetarian protein, have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower cholesterol, promote fat metabolism and boost satiety. They're also a source of resistant starch, a slow-digesting fiber that triggers the release of acetate, a molecule in the gut that tells the brain when to stop eating.

De-bloat with Fruit Salad

Fruit salad

Do your pants seem to be snugger than they were just a day or two before? That rich, salty holiday meal and sugary wine could be causing water retention and constipation. Working bloat-fighting foods into your diet can ease your discomfort and help you slough off a holiday bulge. Kiwi, honeydew melon and papaya all contain compounds that kick sluggish bowels into gear and fight water retention. Use them in a fruit salad or keep them around the house to snack on throughout the season.

Take a Long Winter's Nap

woman sleeping on sofa

Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep a night. Slacking on shut-eye depletes your energy levels and wreaks havoc on your hormones, causing you to eat more. Over time, this can contribute to significant weight gain, especially in the wake of a 4,500-calorie holiday meal. In fact, according to a recent study, losing as little as 30 minutes of sleep can up your risk of obesity by 17%

Sip Rooibos Tea

Rooibos tea

Rooibos tea is made from the leaves of the "red bush" plant, grown exclusively in the small Cederberg region of South Africa, near Cape Town. What makes rooibos tea particularly good for your belly is a unique and powerful flavonoid called Aspalathin. According to South African researchers, polyphenols and flavonoids found in the plant inhibit adipogenesis–the formation of new fat cells–by as much as 22%. The chemicals also help aid fat metabolism. Plus, Rooibos is naturally sweet, so you won't need to add sugar. Rooibos is only one of the 22 Best Teas You Should Drink for Weight Loss — there's one for every taste!

Drink Whole Milk


Studies conducted at The Nutrition Institute at the University of Tennessee suggest that consuming calcium — which whole milk has plenty of — may help your body metabolize fat more efficiently. Other studies have shown that increased calcium intake from dairy products (though not from supplemental calcium carbonate) caused study participants to poop out more fat as opposed to it sticking around on the body. (During Thanksgiving day alone, the average American eats a staggering 229 grams of fat, according to the Calorie Control Council!)

Muscle Up

weight lifting man

Even when you're at rest, your body is constantly burning calories. In fact, 75% of the calories that you burn each day are being used up just keeping you alive. "Resting metabolic rate" is much higher in people with more muscle, because every pound of muscle uses about 6 calories a day just to sustain itself. If you can pack on just five pounds of muscle and maintain it, you'll burn the caloric equivalent of three pounds of fat over the course of a year. That's especially useful when you're overindulging over the festive period.

Make Hearty Weight-loss Soup

chicken noodle soup

You know how the USDA wants you to get between five and nine servings of fruits and vegetables a day? Think of soup as your extra credit, the perfect chaser to a rich holiday meal. A well-crafted soup can give you three or four servings of vegetables and fruits, and presto, the fiber will have you feeling satisfied and less bloated. These are 20 of Our Favorite Weight-Loss Soups!

Drink More Water

water glasses

Most of us know that we need to drink water during workouts to stay hydrated, but many of us overlook the importance of sipping water throughout the day. Thirst can often be mistaken for hunger, so regularly drinking water can keep excess calories off of your holiday plate— and, more importantly, out of your mouth. Also, the extra sodium we eat during holiday meals will cause more water retention and belly bloat. You can flush it out with more water!

Break Out the Blender

clean blender

First thing in the AM, silence your iPhone alarm, hit the shower and then make your way over to the blender. Buzzing up a fat-burning homemade smoothie for breakfast is a great way to stay full make up for some of that overindulgence on Thanksgiving.

Feel the Burn… of Peppers

Spicy chili peppers

It's well-reported that fiery capsaicin (the compound that gives peppers their kick) can rev up the metabolism, but non-spicy peppers have fat-burning potential too, according to research presented at a recent Experimental Biology meeting. They contain a natural chemical called dihydrocapsiate (DCT). Study participants who ate the most DCT experienced a metabolic boost that was nearly double the placebo group. Bottom line: pile on the poblaños!

Buy a Standing Desk

Man working at standing desk

Some quick math: Ideally, we all sleep about eight hours a day. Most people spend another seven to ten hours sitting at their desk. That means most of us spend the overwhelming majority of our time being sedentary. One British study found that standing at work burned 50 more calories per hour than sitting. Consider this: If you stand for just three hours of your day, in one year you'd expend more than 30,000 extra calories — which amounts to about 8 pounds of fat!

Eat Out, Don't Pig Out

fajita takeout

People tend to eat at restaurants more during the holidays, and this year, it's more likely that you're ordering in from your favorite restaurant. That's still a recipe for packing on extra pounds. But it doesn't have to be. "When dining out, order two appetizers instead of an appetizer and an entrée," says nutritionist Amy Shapiro, MS, RD, CDN, founder of Real Nutrition NYC. "This is instant portion control, and usually appetizers are lighter overall."

Ditch the Diet Soda

soda in glasses

Yeah, yeah, it has zero calories, but diet soda can derail your goals of staying in shape this season. Research published in the journal Trends in Endocrinology & Metabolism shows that artificially sweetened beverages may screw up the body's normal metabolic response to sugar, actually increasing appetite! Increasingly, diet drinks are being linked with weight gain, metabolic syndrome and a host of other ills. (Check out what happens to your body when you give up soda.) Avoid them at all costs.

Watch the Wine

woman pouring glass of wine

Wine contains 120 calories per 5 oz pour. It's easy to overlook that, especially when you're making merry and the vino is flowing. But after a few hefty pours, you've consumed over 400 calories — and that doesn't include dinner! "Cut back to one 5 oz pour a day, or scale back your drinking overall by 25%, and you'll see a few pounds come off," says Shapiro. And just so you know, 5 Subtle Signs You're Drinking Too Much Wine.

Snack on Almonds

Raw almonds

Cookies, brownies, candy canes. All kinds of empty-calorie treats are within easy reach during the holiday season, and they can add to the damage done on Turkey Day. Swap them out for almonds. Their combination of satiating protein and fiber will stave off snacking for hours! The nut is rich in the amino acid L-arginine, which can actually help you burn more fat and carbs during workouts, according to a study printed in the American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism.

Eat Three Square Meals


Bodybuilding lore holds that you must eat every few hours to keep muscles fueled and metabolism high. But don't discount the weight-loss potential of three squares a day. A study in the journal Hepatology put two groups of men on weight-gain diets. One group had three small meals, with snacks in between, while the second group ate the same number of calories in three square meals. Although both groups gained weight, researchers found that belly fat — the dangerous kind that boosts heart-disease risk — only increased in the high-meal-frequency group. Eating three square meals a day is just one of the 55 Best Ways to Boost Your Metabolism!

Eat Bananas

Banana bunch

The humble banana is perhaps the least-heralded supermarket staple, a superfood more associated with kids, monkeys and slapstick comedy than with steel-cut abs. But it can help you lose weight, reduce bloat and increase your energy. To investigate just how impactful bananas can be, we consulted our team of nutritionists to determine exactly what eating one banana does to your body.

Start Laughing

happy woman laughing

The holiday season is all about good times with friends and family, and probably a few laughs. That's a good thing for getting back in shape. Genuine laughter may cause a 10 to 20% increase in basal energy expenditure and resting heart rate, according to a study published in the International Journal of Obesity. That means a 10-15 minute giggle fest could burn up 40 to 170 calories.

Snack on Dark Chocolate

dark chocolate

There's plenty of chocolate around during the holidays, but you should concentrate on snacking on a little bit of the good and dark stuff. In a study by Swiss and German researchers, lucky participants ate about 1.5 ounces of dark chocolate daily for two weeks. Ultimately, these chocolate nibblers had lower stress-hormone levels and a more regulated metabolism than a control group. Scientists speculate that chemicals in cocoa, such as flavonoids, play a role in regulating metabolism by alleviating stress that can cause your fat-burning engines to go on the fritz. Should you think this is a license to go wild, take heed: We're talking small amounts of high-quality dark chocolate. Researchers say 1.5 ounces is enough. Not sure which brand to choose? Check out our report on the Best & Worst Dark Chocolates!

Obey the 80% Rule

Traditional Thanksgiving dinner served on white oval plate
iStock Photos

Holiday buffets make it easy to supplement the damage you did on Thanksgiving. Your move? Eat until you're 80% full, then stop. In Japan, this method is called hara hachi bun me, which roughly translates to "eat until you are eight parts (out of ten) full." Remember, you can always eat again later.

Make Detox Water

fruit water

You know that good ol' H2O can rev your metabolism, help you lose serious weight, and maintain a flat belly. Now take it to the next level. Combine plain water with proven fat-burning superfoods to create detox water, and you'll have an elixir that energizes you, fights bloating, and helps you achieve your weight loss goals.

After the Turkey, Switch to Salmon

wild salmon

Salmon may be the very best protein for your metabolism. That's because most cases of an underactive thyroid are due to inflammation of the gland, and salmon boasts significant anti-inflammatory properties, thanks to its rich omega-3 fatty acid content. In fact, one study of weight loss and seafood consumption showed salmon to be the most effective at reducing inflammation — better than cod, fish oil, or a no-fish diet! The fatty acids may also trigger cells in the liver to burn more fat, according to a recent study published in The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry.

Increase Fiber

high fiber foods

A Thanksgiving meal can really outstay its welcome. Send it on its way by increasing your fiber intake in the holiday's aftermath. Aim to consume more fiber from less processed sources, such as fresh fruits and vegetables. A good goal is 25 to 38 grams daily. It's easy to ensure you're getting enough. Just stock up on these The 43 Best Foods for Fiber.

Boost Your Metabolism with Coffee

cup of coffee

In addition to green tea, coffee is one of the best drinks for weight loss because it boosts your metabolism. According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the average metabolic rate of people who drank caffeinated coffee was 16% higher than that of those who drank decaf! A cup of black coffee is a good choice for a pre-workout beverage, too: Researchers found that cyclists who took a caffeine supplement were able to ride about a mile farther than those who took a placebo. Make yours a venti and skip the sweeteners.

Take Vitamin D


If there's one supplement most Americans should be taking, it's vitamin D. It's essential for preserving metabolism-revving muscle tissue, but researchers estimate that only 20% of Americans get enough in their diet. You can nail 90% of your recommended daily value (400 IU) in a 3.5-ounce serving of salmon, but taking a daily supplement makes a lot of sense. Other good dietary sources of D: tuna, fortified milk and cereal, and eggs.

Increase Fat Burn 73%

Men cheers with glasses of a whiskey soda alcohol cocktail drink

While drinking in moderation every so often won't do too much harm to your waistline, making it a habit can slow down your metabolic rate. Why? When your body has a cocktail to break down, it takes precedence over any food that you've already eaten that's waiting to be digested. This slows down the entire metabolic process. In fact, some researchers claim boozing can decrease the body's fat-burning ability by up to 73%! On the occasions that you decided to indulge, stick to low-calorie drinks. Alternate your alcohol with water to slow your pace, and cut yourself off after two drinks. Avoid eating high-cal typical bar food like fries and burgers.

Make Fat-burning Pasta

cooked and seasoned whole wheat pasta in pan

Yes, you can eat pasta and lose weight! If you've ever been to Italy, you may have marveled at how Italians maintain their slim figures when they consume carb-laden dishes on a daily basis. Here's the deal: They use simple, wholesome and fresh ingredients, and they keep things small.

Make Chia Seed Pudding

Chia seed pudding

That's right: We're telling you to eat pudding this holiday season. Chia seeds pack an impressive 11 grams of fiber in just two tablespoons, making it one of the most effective appetite suppressants for weight loss. And chia pudding? It's one of the tastiest ways to work the superfood into your daily diet. We've rounded up our favorite mouthwatering recipes—which range from dessert-inspired to tea-infused—and start eating your way toward a flat post-holiday belly. These are the 45 Best-Ever Chia Pudding Recipes for Weight Loss!

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