How to Eat Healthy During the Holidays

Thanksgiving is less than 24 hours away, and we all know what that means: eating until you feel like you swallowed a bowling ball, then complaining about how much you ate until you fall asleep in the hopes that when you wake up the feeling will be gone. But you can keep your eating under control on Thanksgiving (if that's something you're interested in). While the amazingly American tradition is something to look forward to for most people, for those who are trying to eat healthily, it's a serious test of willpower. Thankfully (pun intended), I'm here to tell you that you can (and should) eat healthily and lose weight without counting calories.For decades, we've been told that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It doesn't matter what you eat as long as you consume less than what you expend — basically, as long as you're exercising more than you eat, you'll see the pounds melt off. While it's true that you will lose weight if you starve yourself, eating nothing but low-calorie chips and salad with nonfat dressing isn't healthy, and with most people gaining back the weight they lost within a few years, it's not sustainable either. A recent study review published in Public Health Nutrition argues that the idea of the body being a "balance sheet of calories" disregards the varied effects different foods have on the metabolism, the Huffington Post reports. In fact, eating nothing but low-calorie foods may backfire.

"Don't focus on calories," advised [study author James] DiNicolantonio. "A higher-fat, higher calorie food is generally going to promote more satiety, and you're going to eat less of it."

He goes on to point out that most adults die of the "chronic metabolic disease" that comes with obesity, not the actual state of being overweight. His review discusses a "reinforcing loop for overconsumption," which leads to weight gain because simple carbohydrates like sugar or corn syrup cause a sudden increase in blood sugar, which in turn leads to a spike in insulin. The high insulin levels cause an equally sudden drop in blood sugar, which makes you crave carbs. It's a vicious cycle — one that leads to overeating and, subsequently, obesity. This has been noted by other scientists as well, who have been warning us for a while now against the drawbacks of eating sugar. Fatty foods are higher in calories, so obsessing over low-calorie diets leads people to cut out options like eggs or nuts, replacing them with low-fat, low-calorie snacks that almost always have added sugar or salt. Recent research has shown that salt isn't as bad as it's been made out to be, but sugar has been linked to all kinds of health problems, including diabetes, heart disease, and memory problems.

So what are you supposed to do if you're trying to lose weight healthily this holiday season? Like I mentioned above, DiNicolantonio advises that you focus less on how many calories you're consuming and more on what you're putting in your body. Try to cut down on carbs in general, but especially stay away from simple carbohydrates (here's a list if you're interested). Incorporate more foods that are high in unsaturated fats, because they're going to keep you full longer, and as always, eat your damn fruits and vegetables.All this doesn't mean you can't have any dessert whatsoever tomorrow, but definitely try to restrain yourself to one (or two) portions. But hey, if you end up overeating a little bit, don't beat yourself up too much. You can always get back to eating healthy the next day — and I guarantee you'll be in good company.Image: Giphy