32 Ways to Reverse Holiday Weight Gain in 1 Week
Lose 1 pound this week
If you're emerging from the holidays having put on a little weight, you're not alone: the average person gains about a pound between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, according to the New England Journal of Medicine. But the good news is that a few simple changes to your routine can help you shed the weight quickly. "After the holidays, it's smart to get back on track by making small, realistic changes, instead of setting yourself up for failure by being overly drastic," says Keri Gans, RDN, a New York City-based nutrition consultant and author of The Small Change Diet.
To lose one pound in seven days, you'll need to eliminate a minimum of 500 calories each day through diet or exercise. These tips from trainers and nutritionists will help you work off at least that many calories a day (if not more) and lose weight fast. Aim to follow seven of the suggestions on this list over the course of a week, and you'll be well on your way to reclaiming your waistline before you've even had a chance to pack up the holiday decorations.
Ready to get healthy long term? Start here, with the Cooking Light Diet.
Lighten up your coffee order
If you typically begin the day with a 16-ounce latte with 2% milk, Health's contributing nutrition editor Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD, recommends making the switch to a 12-ounce cup with coconut milk instead. Not only will this swap cut calories, but coconut milk also contains a type of saturated fat that could help raise your "good" (HDL) cholesterol, but not the "bad" (LDL) kind. Stick with this modified order every day for a week, and you'll slash 560 calories by day seven.
Dilute your OJ
Having a glass of orange juice in the morning is a great way to load up on vitamin C, which can help reduce the severity of cold symptoms. To continue reaping those benefits with fewer calories, Gans suggests pouring four ounces into your cup instead of eight and replacing the lost juice with seltzer. This will save you 61 calories a day, or a little under 500 in a week.
Try an at-home HIIT workout
Agostina Laneri, a trainer from wellness website TrainersVault, recommends this 25-minute HIIT workout to torch 500 calories: 1 minute, 30 seconds of burpees; 1 minute, 30 seconds of squat jumps; 1 minute, 30 seconds of pendulums; 1 minute, 30 seconds of band jumps; and 1 minute, 30 seconds of bicep curls with bands. Repeat three times with a minute of rest in between. "This sequence hits your whole body and the fast transitions keep your heart going," she says. "That way, even when the workout is over, you'll still be burning calories."
Sweet tooth? Sass suggests skipping your afternoon pick-me-up of a handful of M&M's for two individually wrapped squares of dark chocolate. Do this five times a week and you'll cut 600 calories. Also good: dark chocolate boasts some serious health benefits, helping to keep your heart healthy and even boosting your mood.
Spin it off
Sign up for an indoor cycling class. A vigorous 45-minute spin session at your local gym or boutique studio is a great workout and can help you burn around 500 calories. If you're competitive, you may find that you push yourself harder at a studio that tracks performance on a leader board, such as Flywheel Sports or The Pursuit by Equinox.
Get fit with baby
If you have a little one, put her in the stroller for a walk around the neighborhood or mall (hey, you have gifts to return, right?). A brisk 60-minute walk while pushing a stroller will burn 180 calories. Do this three times a week, and you'll work off more than 500 calories.
Opt for a low-calorie breakfast
Swap out your regular morning bagel (or try one of these best breakfast foods) for an English muffin to immediately slash 240 calories from your breakfast. And instead of flavoring it with butter, Sass recommends spreading some ripe avocado on the bread. You'll save yourself another 25 calories and benefit from the "good" monounsaturated fats in avocados, which can help reduce your risk of heart disease. Do this twice a week to cut 530 calories.
Don't just sit there
The average person burns 100 calories per hour sitting and 140 per hour standing. Make a point of being on your feet for at least two hours every day, and you could slash an extra 560 calories by the end of the week. Bonus: Taking frequent breaks can help prevent your risk of developing anxiety, heart disease, or certain cancers—all potential side effects of a sedentary lifestyle.
Have a healthier taco Tuesday
A few changes to your family's Taco Tuesday menu can make a big difference, says Sass. Instead of corn tortillas, serve tacos in three outer Romaine leaves to cut 145 calories. In lieu of white rice, whip up a batch of cauliflower 'rice' by grating the veggie, then pulsing it in a food processor, to slash another 180 calories. Forgo richer toppings such as cheese or sour cream in favor of fresh cilantro, homemade salsa, or purple cabbage to bring that total number to about 500 calories.
Dress your salad with a fork
Prefer your salad dressing on the side? Lightly dip your fork into the dressing before stabbing your greens instead of plunging an already-loaded fork into the condiment (which picks up more) or drizzling it on top. You'll get just enough to flavor each bite and will cut about 500 calories. Another tip: Always opt for balsamic instead of Caesar to save yourself another 70 calories per tablespoon, says Gans.
Update your plate
Switch out your 12-inch dinner plate for a slightly smaller 10-inch one. Research suggests that this will encourage you to serve yourself a smaller portion of food, and you'll consume up to 22% fewer calories as a result. If you do this for every meal of the day, you'll slash around 500 calories.
Build a better sandwich
Next time you're in the sandwich line, consider making a few swaps to your order. To start, go open-faced: one slice of bread instead of two will save about 75 calories. For protein, choose chicken breast, which has about 40 fewer calories than processed meats like pastrami, pepperoni, or salami (as well as significantly less sodium). Make the switch from mayo to horseradish mustard to save 150 calories. Skip the imitation cheese to cut another 100 calories. And just say no to starchy sides like chips or pretzels to slash another 100 calories, bringing your total to over 500 calories saved.
Rearrange a room
January is a great time to give your house a new look. One of the easiest ways to freshen things up is by rearranging the furniture in spaces you spend lots of time in, such as the living room or bedroom. You might be surprised to learn that moving furniture is a great source of exercise, too; rearranging for 60 minutes can burn about 500 calories.
Skinny up your cocktails
Many people participate in "Dry January" to jump-start their weight loss goals, but it's not necessary to completely eliminate alcohol to get back to your pre-holiday weight. Just be smart about what you order: Syrups, sour mix, and sugary fruit juices can quickly turn a drink into a dessert (a Mudslide, for example, can pack more than 800 caloriesyikes!). Instead, opt for a beverage that's mixed with club soda, tonic water, cranberry juice, or a slice of lemon to save up to 800 calories.
Say goodbye to soda
There are plenty of reasons to give up your soda habit once and for all. Studies have linked consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages to tooth decay, diabetes, and poor bone health. And diet soda doesn't fare much better—artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose trigger insulin, which could cause you to gain weight. Start by replacing your daily 12-ounce can with a glass of water for a week, and you'll cut 980 calories. "This is probably one of the easiest and best swaps you can make," says Sass.
Choose the right soup
That lunchtime soup-and-salad combo may not be as virtuous as you think. Because they're prepared with heavy cream, thicker soups like tomato and broccoli-cheddar are deceptively high in calories. Instead, Gans suggests reaching for a broth-based variety such as vegetable soup to cut about 180 calories. Do this five times a week to save 900 calories in total.
It's one of the more dreaded household tasks, but shoveling snow can burn nearly 500 calories (this will come as no surprise to anyone who's ever struggled to clear their driveway after a big storm). To protect your back and ensure you're shoveling safely, look for one that has an ergonomic handle.
Cook at home
Dining out is already hard enough when you're on a diet, and even the healthiest-seeming restaurant meals can be sneaky calorie bombs (such as vegetable side dishes, which are often sautéed in butter). Another reason to stay in? Cooking in your own kitchen for 60 minutes burns 180 calories. Make dinner at home three times a week, and you'll slash 540 calories.
Certified personal trainer and ISSA director of wellness John Rowley recommends this full-body exercise that utilizes just one prop: a chair! To start, place the chair behind you as if you're about to take a seat, and do one jumping jack facing away from it. When you bring your feet back together, sit down upright in the chair. Stand and repeat 25 times. "This workout is so simple to do at home," Rowley says. Do it every day, and you'll burn 500 calories over the course of the week.
While delicious, pasta can pack on the caloriesa typical restaurant meal could have up to 480% more noodles on the plate than the recommended serving size of one cup. Make it at home and measure out no more than two cups of pasta to save over 600 calories. Or better yet, switch to cooked spaghetti squash, which Sass says will save you another 200 calories. And remember that when indulging in pasta, the sauce makes a difference, too. Avoid creamier varieties (such as Alfredo) for basic marinara sauce, a great source of antioxidant-rich lycopene.
Go for a run
Running may be one of the most efficient workouts when it comes to blasting fat. Lace up your sneakers and go for a 60-minute run at a 10-minute-per-mile pace to burn about 600 calories.
Hit the stairs
Not a fan of long runs? Work off nearly the same amount of calories in half the time by running up and down the stairs in your home. Do this for 15 minutes, and you'll lose 270 calories. Repeat twice a week to torch over 500.
Pick the perfect pizza
You can still participate in Friday pizza night, but choose a few slices of thin-crust veggie pizza instead of a deep-dish pie or one with heavier toppings like pepperoni or Italian sausage, or even try a pizza crust with quinoa. This simple (yet still satisfying) swap will save more than 500 calories.
Take the family bowling
For a fun-filled weekend activity that burns calories, too, head to your local bowling alley. A two-hour bowling session with your family will work off about 500 calories.
Grab a jump rope
We know, we knowit gives you flashbacks to elementary school gym class. But jumping rope is a serious calorie-burner that strengthens your quads, calves, core, and shoulders. Spend 20 minutes jumping rope and you'll burn 240 calories; do this twice in a week to torch nearly 500.
You may think of it as a health food, but one serving of pita bread contains about 13% of your recommended daily sodium. For a healthier fix, pair hummus with crunchy red pepper slices. This fiber-filled veggie is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, and will save you 135 calories. Do this four times a week to burn 540 calories in total.
BYOP (bring your own popcorn)
Headed to the movie theater? If you can manage to smuggle in your own air- or microwave-popped, 94% fat-free popcorn, you'll save yourself about 900 calories. Thanks to all the added salt and butter, movie theater popcorn can contain more than 1,000 calories.
Have a swim session
Time to put on your one-piece and head to your local swimming pool: One hour of light to moderate freestyle swimming laps can burn tons of caloriesnearly 600! To get the most benefit from your pool time, follow these pointers from Olympic gold medalist Amanda Beard.
Dance the night away
Rather than just sitting at a bar, suggest that your group of friends hit the town for a night of dancing. Two hours of boogying can tone your abs and thighs and burn 650 calories. Just remember to stay hydrated while you're getting your groove on: aim to consume six to eight ounces of water for every 20 minutes of activity.
DIY kale chips
Resist the temptation to visit the vending machine for an afternoon snack. A bag of potato chips can set you back more than 200 calories (not to mention all the added salt that's typically in packaged varieties). Bring your own kale chips from home instead (or whip a healthy side of kale). One serving of this cruciferous veggie is a great source of calcium, folate, and vitamins A and C—and only 84 calories. Do this for five days to bring the total calories saved to more than 500.
Deep clean your own, but not all at once
When your holiday guests depart, it can be tempting to roll up your sleeves and give your home a serious deep cleaning right away. But you might burn more calories over time by breaking your to-do list off into smaller sessions that require moderate effort. Spend 30 minutes a day focusing on a specific task (such as thoroughly cleaning the bathroom, kitchen, dusting, or vacuuming). In four days, you'll have burned 500 calories.
Work out for just 10 more minutes
Whether you're on the treadmill, walking around your neighborhood, or swimming laps, tell yourself to continue on for another ten minutes after you're ready to end your workout. Those extra minutes could help you shed an additional 100 calories. Repeat for five of your weekly workouts to burn 500.
To get our top stories delivered to your inbox, sign up for the Healthy Living newsletter