After the long holiday haul of festive cocktails, heavy meals, and superrich desserts, I'm guessing your first priority of '09 is whittling away all that winter weight. If you practiced some restraint between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, that shouldn't be too hard. But if you're like a lot of women, you gave in to each and every impulse. Hey, Christmas only comes once a year! But don't panic now that the New Year is here. Try my four favorite slim-down tips.
1. Step away from the scale.
You know you were bad—you don't need a number to confirm it. If you gauge your diet success by the number on the scale, you'll only give yourself anxiety when you see it on the rise. If I want to assess what kind of damage I've done, I slip on my favorite pair of jeans. If they're snug, I know I need to lay off the sweets and do a little diet cleanup.
2. Be patient.
If it took you six weeks to pack on those extra pounds, chances are it will take you just as long to lose them. Remember that the weight won't come off tomorrow. Even extreme measures like juice fasts or cleanses will only keep it off for so long, and you'll only wind up disappointed and discouraged. In the meantime, there's a lot you can do to banish bloat and feel a little more like your slim, preholiday self. I start by doubling my water intake. Choose foods full of water—cucumbers, clear broths, asparagus, and melon are all great skinny-girl picks. And while foods full of fiber—think cauliflower, broccoli, and beans—will certainly fill you up, I try to avoid them in the first few days of my slim-down plan. Once I'm de-bloated, I can really focus on my shape-up plan.
3. Eat clean.
Once I've gotten rid of any remaining holiday bloat, I'm ready to get my diet back on track. I swear off anything processed in favor of more natural fare. But over the course of my holiday splurge, my body has gotten use to heavier foods, so a simple salad isn't going to stave off my hunger pains come January. I've learned to trick my body into feeling that same satisfaction by opting for healthy, filling low-cal favorites. A typical day starts with a steaming bowl of oatmeal. Lunch is a whole-wheat burrito filled with brown rice, spinach, and black beans—but make sure to keep portion sizes in check. For dinner I grill a flavorful piece of fish to have alongside a baked sweet potato. I avoid steak, cheese, and anything salty or creamy for the first two weeks while I get my body back in gear.
4. Stop hiding in your sweats.
It's easy to forget about a little extra tummy flab if you've buried yourself deep in your college hoodie. After a long day at work, it's tempting to reach for anything oversize and cotton. Instead, I slip on a pair of yoga pants and a slim top to remind myself that I want to whip my body into shape. I'm less likely to gorge on ice cream around midnight if I can see my tummy start to protrude.