Science says go for it.
Bigfoot. The deadly combo of Pop Rocks and cola. Uncontrollable holiday weight gain. Turns out, not even that last one was ever real.
When National Institutes of Health researchers looked into the oft-repeated claims that most people pack on five or more pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s (some estimates have gone as high as 10!), they found the actual average gain was less than a pound.
“The concerns are very exaggerated,” says Traci Mann, Ph.D., author of Secrets from the Eating Lab. “Yes, your scale might show a temporary blip, but it’s unlikely you’ll move up to a higher weight and stay there unless you start and maintain a new habit.”
Data published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology earlier this year found that designating a weekly cheat day (in science-speak, planned hedonic deviation) improves people’s ability to stick to a healthy eating regimen in the long run. (Sweat towards your weight-loss goals with these moves from Women’s Health’s Look Better Naked DVD.)
The key word here? Planned. Spur-of-the-moment splurges can set in motion what University of Toronto researcher Janet Polivy, Ph.D., has dubbed the “what-the-hell effect”: You feel like you’ve already blown it, so why not chow down?
“You don’t want to be heavily restrictive about what you eat during the holidays, nor do you want to go overboard to the point of discomfort,” says Mann.
Use the novel cooking tips that follow to make the feast less of a beast. (See ya, belly bloat.)
Get a head start on starch.
Cooking and then cooling potatoes, pasta, and rice converts some of their carbs into what’s known as resistant starch, a fiber-like substance that your body can’t digest. As it passes through your system, it occupies space in your stomach, filling you up. Besides helping you feel sated, one study showed that replacing just over 5 percent of a meal’s carbohydrates with resistant starch increases fat burning by about 20 percent. So at least 12 hours before the big meal, cook any potato, pasta, or rice dish you plan to serve. The effect persists even when you reheat, so you’ll save both time and calories at your dinner.
Make over your mash.
Once you’ve cooked the spuds ahead, lighten them more by using a contraption called the Smood ($25, dreamfarm.com). Its shape—a cross between a whisk and a plunger—is perfect for making fluffy potatoes without cream or butter. Other handheld mashers require a lot more elbow grease and still leave chunks behind, but this tool forces potato between gaps in the coil to iron out lumps.
Be a bread winner.
If you want to indulge in white bread on your cheat day rather than the more blood-sugar-friendly wheat, try this: Freeze it, then pop it in the toaster. That will lower its glycemic index (a measure of how quickly a food spikes blood glucose) by nearly 50 percent, according to a study in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Researchers suspect the two-step process changes the structure of the starch molecules in bread, leading it to behave more like a complex carb (those good-for-you whole grains) than a simple one (the nonfilling, fast-digesting, refined baddies). Result: fewer blood-sugar roller-coaster rides that promote cravings.
Canned food = processed food. And the more processed a food, the faster your body can turn it into glucose, a.k.a. sugar. Biologists at Pomona College served calorically identical meals, but gave one group food made with processed ingredients while the other group was served whole foods. When they measured diet-induced thermogenesis—the additional calories burned when eating and digesting—in the hours afterward, it was nearly 50 percent higher in the group that ate the unprocessed meal. Swap canned green beans for fresh, and store-bought fried onions for caramelized ones or toasted nuts, which provide the same crunch but have healthier fats. In sweet potato casserole, nix the marshmallows and top with a mixture of fat-free Greek yogurt, honey, chopped mint, toasted walnuts, and a pinch of salt, suggests chef Isaac Bancaco of the Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort in Hawaii.
This article was originally published in the November 2016 issue of Women’s Health, on newsstands now.
There are going to be days when you just don’t want to go to the gym. It might be raining, snowing or it might just be darn right cold. There are a lot of exercises that you can do at home to get an efficient and challenging workout on those days.
Here is a quick workout routine that targets your entire body in approximately 30 minutes without using weights or bulky machines. More
A real pain in the butt (hamstring, ankle, or shoulder) doesn’t have to put your workout routine on ice. Here are smarter ways to ease the aches. More
There’s no need to pack on pounds or fall ill this autumn. More
How difficult can running be? You just need to put on running shoes, clothes and then hit the road. But this seemingly simple exercise is more complicated than most people realize.
In fact, most beginners make mistakes that hinder them from seeing results or wanting to pursue the sport long-term—they only end up with injuries and frustrations. Today we’ll look into common running mistakes and how you can avoid them. More
With the weather cooling down for fall, there’s never been a better time to try out a new outdoor workout, like running outside! If you need a companion to keep you accountable, look no further than fido. With the right preparation and gear, dogs can make great running partners, not to mention it will benefit you both! If you’re both new to the sport, here are our tips to getting started. More
A Fall Wellness Routine To Boost Your Health
by: Dolores Baretta
The leaves are blowing in the wind. The sun is setting earlier, and the air has a certain crispness to it. The yang, or hot energy of summer has started to wane, and fall is in the air!
Fall is an important transitional time from summer, the most yang time of the year, to the densest yin season of winter. Everything starts to slow down and turn inward and descend. Nature is consolidating and disintegrating, returning to the soil so as to nourish the earth and allow it time to become fertile again. The yang energy of summer still hangs in the wind, though, as the harvest begins. More
Meet Jennifer T.
Fit Radio is EXACTLY what I have been looking for. I love that I have the ability to let the app detect my pace for my “jogging” days and generate my BPM target rate to help me maintain my pace on “running” days. The controls are really intuitive and easy to set up by target pace and genre.
I saw a Facebook Ad for Fit Radio. I just completed a great 10K race, but I was frustrated with the playlists I had cobbled together on Apple Music. Not being a big Trance or EDM music fan, I wasn’t crazy about the few 170 BPM running albums I found in my search either. In the past, I tried a couple different music apps that claimed to work with my playlists and music library, but they didn’t sync correctly with my Apple Music subscription and they didn’t offer their own mixes.
The ad for Fit Radio popped up in my feed and I figured, “It’s worth a shot,” but I never expected to be “wowed” by it. I’m so glad I clicked! The different genres make it so easy to quickly choose music that fits my mood. Being able to choose mixes based on my BPM helps me keep a steady running pace. I love the integrated timing, distance, and cadence features too. (Which also save me from draining battery life by opening other fitness apps.) I have a feeling my next races will have much better soundtracks!
1. YOU’LL BE MORE MOTIVATED.
Don’t feel like working out after work? It’s one thing to cancel plans with yourself—it’s another to cancel on a friend or partner who’s counting on you. “No one wants to be Debbie Downer by bailing and letting down your friend,” says Steve Stonehouse, personal training manager at Crunch in New YorkCity. You’re much more likely to meet your friend for a planned workout session at 6 p.m. compared to tentative plans you made with yourself for, say, sometime after lunch.
“After three or four weeks, once you’re in the habit, you won’t even think about canceling on your friend,” adds Stonehouse. (But if your main man keeps bailing on you, then you might be better off picking a new gym partner.)
2. YOUR WORKOUTS CAN BE MORE FUN.
News flash: The treadmill and the bench press aren’t the most exciting ways to pass the time. With a partner, though, you can get your heart racing with some one-on-one basketball, racquetball, or even just a partner workout like the ones in our three-day program for training partners.
“You can also take turns leading new exercises and switching up the routine,” suggests Stonehouse. Maybe you know a brutal leg lunge that you used to do on your own? Teach it to your buddy one day, and the next, let him teach you something new. “Your body adapts and becomes efficient at moves that you’ve done again and again,” says Stonehouse. “The more you change up your workout, the better your body is going to respond.”
3. YOU’LL WORK OUT HARDER.
“Whenever you’re working out with someone else, the intensity is always going to be greater than when you’re alone,” points out Stonehouse. (You don’t want to be the wimp who can’t keep up with a seven-minutes mile.) One key tip when picking your partner: Your athletic abilities should be in the same ballpark. A more seasoned gym-goer won’t get as much out of working out with a newbie, while a beginner can find it frustrating if he’s only doing a third of what his partner can do.
“If you’re on the same level, you can push each other,” Stonehouse says. Odds are, you’ll both want to quit around the same time but you’ll go a little longer if your friend is still at it.
4. YOU’LL FINALLY BE ABLE TO AFFORD A PERSONAL TRAINER.
Sharing a cheeseburger is cheaper than buying one yourself (and fewer calories). The same math applies when it comes to a personal trainer. At Crunch, for example, a one-on-one session costs about $85, but a partner training session runs around $50 per person. “One-on-one training is still the bulk of my day, but I’m seeing more and more partner training for financial reasons alone,” says Stonehouse.
5. YOU’LL ALWAYS HAVE A SPOTTER.
Never again will you have to approach a random meathead and ask him to spot you. Never again will you have to count your own reps.
It’ll also save you from forced reps: “Let’s say you’re on the bench press and you want to stop at 10 because you’re not sure you can make it to 11,” Stonehouse says. “If you have a spotter, you don’t have to worry as much. You’re more likely to power through the 11th, 12th, and 13th reps—and each of those little lifts will add up and make a difference.” Use your spotter to keep an eye on your form as you work, too.
6. YOUR FRIENDS WILL BE THINNER.
Before you judge us, we’re not being totally shallow here—having thin friends is for your own good. Researchers at Harvard University found that you can “catch” obesity (along with smoking habits and happiness) because it spreads like an infectious disease. The experts found that a person’s risk of becoming obese rises by two percent for every five obese social contacts they have.
Fortunately, the reverse is true, too. Overweight people tend to lose more weight if they spend time with their fit friends—and the more time they spend together, the more weight they lose, according to a 2016 study published in the journal Obesity. “If you’re surrounded by people who are active and eat well, there’s a good chance you’re going to do the same,” Stonehouse says.