The holidays– a time for celebrations! Unfortunately, it’s also a time when we’re more likely to gain weight. Food is often a very important part of celebrations and traditions, and rightfully so. Colder weather discourages outdoor workouts (not to mention making you want to lay on the couch with a blanket after work instead of bundling back up to go to the gym). Stress levels tend to be higher this time of year and you may be getting less sleep than usual. With all of those factors combined, it’s a surprise we don’t all turn out looking like snowmen come January.
In a study of 195 adults, 14% gained over 5 pounds in the six-week period from Thanksgiving to New Years day. Many participants gained one pound or less during the study but the problem is that for most, this weight is never lost and continues to accumulate year after year.
One easy way to avoid gaining weight this year is to indulge in your favorites and skip the rest. If one of your favorite parts of the holiday season are your grandmother’s famous chocolate chip cookies, don’t put them off limits. Allow yourself to have a cookie, enjoy it, and move on. But don’t feel bad about skipping Aunt Betty’s fruitcake that you never really liked anyway and don’t have 5 of grandma’s chocolate chip cookies either. Have a game plan in place before you are faced with temptation. When you are at a dinner party or buffet, survey the entire table before making a plate. Decide on one or two dishes that are worth indulging in and eat in moderation. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables, fruits or lean protein.
If you’re gearing up for a holiday party and think that skipping breakfast or lunch will save you calories, think again. When you skip a meal, you are more likely to overeat twofold at your next meal. It’s especially important to not skip breakfast because if you don’t eat within a few hours of waking, your body will hold on to and store fat for energy when you do finally eat as a survival mechanism.
Easier said than done when there is a sheet of ice two inches thick on the sidewalk, right? If your normal exercise routine involved outdoor activities that don’t agree with the winter weather, now is the time to find a new activity you enjoy indoors. Contact gyms in your area (or where you are traveling) and see if they offer a week-long free trial. Try new classes like cycling, hot yoga or aqua sculpt. Keep trying until you find an instructor or class structure that you enjoy. Find a friend to play racquetball or join an indoor basketball or volleyball league. Sign up for a spring 10K, triathlon, or adventure race that requires you to train through the winter. The key is to find an activity that you look forward to. If you don’t enjoy running on a treadmill, don’t! Maybe you would enjoy a Zumba or hip-hop dance class instead.
Adjust Your Focus
Focus on maintaining your weight and not gaining during the holidays instead of losing. Count it as a victory if you’re still fitting into your favorite jeans by February!
Don’t be afraid to make new traditions.
If most of your current traditions focus around food, make new ones! Round up the family and go sledding, ice skating or skiing. Take dance lessons or get crafty and make your own holiday decorations. Have a gift wrapping party with your friends. Take old family recipes and revamp them to make them healthier. Replace white flour with whole grain or replace oil and lard with applesauce and Greek yogurt. At gatherings, take advantage of seeing those you don’t get to see often; talk more and eat less!
More quick holiday tips:
- When eating out at a restaurant, decide ahead of time whether you will treat yourself to an appetizer, an alcoholic beverage or dessert. Allow yourself to have one, but not all three.
- If your dinner party or reservation is later than you would normally eat dinner, make sure to have a small snack with protein and fiber before leaving the house so you are less likely to overindulge when you get there. An apple and 2 tablespoons of peanut butter or a string cheese and a few whole grain crackers would be good choices. Never go to a party feeling hungry!
- Sip a glass of water in between every glass of wine, eggnog or other alcoholic beverages.
- If you are worried that there won’t be any healthy options available, make sure to bring your own healthy dish that you (and everyone else) will enjoy.
- Keep a food diary. If you have a smartphone, use an app like My Fitness Pal to stay on track of your intake. This will help you to stay realistic. Keep in mind the amount of exercise needed to burn off your indulgences. One 300-calorie cookie takes 60 minutes of walking for a 150-pound person to burn off!
And as always, if you need more personalized nutrition advice or help with setting goals in the new year, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.