How to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain

The holiday season is a time of celebration where families, loved ones and friends gather together to enjoy time spent with one another, reminisce on days gone by, and also create sweet memories. This fun and festive season however, is often marked with the spirit of over-indulgence. In the few weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, many people find it hard to stick to healthy eating. This by itself is no easy feat, especially when you have delectable sweet treats, rich food, and premium alcoholic beverages screaming at you from every angle. Before you know it Christmas has come and gone, and now you face the New Year with your clothes fitting a little snug.  You’ve done ‘it’ again and managed to put on a few pounds with ‘weight loss’ or ‘join a gym’ appearing at the top of your New Year’s Resolution list, just as it did last year, and the year before that.

If you fall into this category, you are not alone. Studies show that the average American gains between 1-2 pounds during the holiday season. Although this number does not seem significant, the pounds can add up over the years making it harder to get rid of, and may even lead to you becoming overweight.  With that being said, here are some tips for you to enjoy the holidays without adding on the dreaded holiday weight.

1.       Stay active.  If you are not expending energy but are eating calories in excess of your daily requirements, you are at risk for weight gain. Try to incorporate at least 30 minutes of physical activity 4-5 times a week.  Some examples including walking, biking, or even taking a dance class. Staying active will not only offset weight gain, but will boost your mood and help to relieve stress.

2.       Be mindful of your beverages. Alcohol can induce over-eating and can also pack a hefty amount of sugar and calories. This also goes for non-alcoholic drinks such as Punch and Egg Nog. Make water your beverage of choice primarily, as this does not contain any calories. You can also add lemon, lime, mint or cucumber to your water for added flavor. If you do decide to drink alcohol, limit yourself to one glass of wine or 1 bottle of beer per day.

3.       Modify holiday recipes. There are many substitutions that can be made to your favorite holiday dishes that reduce the fat and calories but still preserve the texture and flavor. Some examples would be using fat-free milk, yogurt or sour cream, in place of high-fat products such as whole milk. Apple sauce may also be substituted for oil in baked dishes.

4.       Do not skip meals. It may sound like a good idea to skip meals during the day to compensate for a big feast later on but this is actually self-sabotage. Skipping meals may lead to a slower metabolism which contributes to weight gain. It can also lead to low energy during the day, and overeating later on.

5.       Maintain healthy eating habits. This extends to eating at least 3 balanced meals, with the inclusion of healthy snacks such as yogurt with fruit, or raw vegetables with hummus in between meals. Also, strive to eat your heaviest meal during the day while you are still active, rather than at night as this can promote fat storage.

6.       Follow mindful eating practices. This means you should eat consciously. Eat until you are just satisfied, but not stuffed. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are full. Therefore, you should pace yourself and take mindful bites of your food.  It is also a good idea to load up on fruits and vegetables which are rich in nutrients and fiber, and will keep you fuller longer, so you are less likely to overeat.

7.       Indulge with purpose. You can still make room of your favorite holiday treats by choosing to have smaller portions. Since most desserts are high in sugar, fat and calories, staying mindful of your portion sizes allows you to control your caloric intake and curb weight gain. Better still, choose fruits often as they are nutritious and also make delicious desserts.

8.       Make realistic goals. The holidays are a time of celebration, and food is an essential part of that. Rather than trying to lose weight during the holidays, it is best to focus on maintaining your current weight and enjoying the company of your loved ones.

Although the holidays can also be a stressful time, it is important to manage your stress effectively, as this can trigger increased cravings. Instead of forgoing all healthy behaviors during this season, implement the aforementioned tips so that you will be able to enjoy the holiday season to its fullest, and start off the New Year with a bang.