By Hana A. Feeney, MS, RD, CSSD
The holiday season wreaks havoc on our bodies. Stress and irregular sleep messes with our workout routine. Plus there is tempting food everywhere beckoning us and calling our names. From Halloween to New Year's Day the average weight gain is about 5 to 7 pounds. Unfortunately that weight doesn't drop off come January. It's like a winter coat that we never shed.
Why do you struggle with weight gain though the holidays? Many challenges exist, such as office potlucks, family gatherings, once-a-year treats, and traditions of over-eating. Take time now to think about your challenges and create new approaches for this holiday season.
Here are the 10 best tips to beat holiday weight gain. Which tips work for you?
10. Prioritize exercise.Exercise in the morning so you start your day energized with a clear mind. Exercise gives you the mental reminder that you are living a healthy lifestyle, which keeps you on track and focused during the day. Can't swing a morning workout? Plan a lunch-hour workout with colleagues or buddy up to workout before leaving your worksite. Build exercise into your day; schedule it as you would any other commitment.
9. Don't be a caveperson.Cave people are programmed to eat. Avoid famine and feast cycles by eating regularly throughout the day. It's hard to turn down the extra treats that fill the office this time of year, and when you are tired and starving, they are nearly impossible to resist.
8. Plan ahead.Understand what food challenges you are facing so that you can make informed decisions. Call friends to see what healthy side dish you can bring to the dinner party. Look up restaurant information before going out to eat. Know when you need to pack a lunch or bring a healthy option to the office potluck.
7. Indulge with full awareness.If you decide to indulge, do so consciously; make that tasty treat a part of a planned meal or snack. Then you can savor each and every bite.
6. Enhance family favorites.As you plan your meals and treats for the holiday season, look for creative ways to cut calories and boost nutrients in your favorite recipes.
- Spice sweet potatoes with nutmeg and cinnamon rather than brown sugar.
- Make sure to prepare a few vegetable dishes, such as roasted Brussels sprouts, sautéed spinach and garlic or an arugula salad.
- Use dried fruit for half the chocolate chips in cookies and pumpkin or banana bread.
- Cut cookies and bars into smaller bite size pieces.
5. Honor your body's healthy limits.Honor your body by committing to NOT overeat. Commit to filling your plate full of colorful veggies and cutting back portions of high calorie sides, such as stuffing, buttery rolls, candied sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, savory appetizers, creamy dips, desserts and candies.
There's no need to eliminate these tasteful, traditional foods; just cut back your portions so that you finish the meal feeling satisfied, not stuffed.
- Save room for dessert so that it doesn't push you into a food coma.
- If you are tempted to overeat because many holiday foods are only served once a year, put away a plate of food to enjoy tomorrow. It will taste better when you are able to savor each bite, rather than stuffing extra bites into an already full stomach.
- Make one holiday favorite every month so that you are able to enjoy these favorites year round.
- Resist peer pressure to overeat. Talk to loved ones prior to meals and explain your personal goals.
- Eat slowly and savor each bite. You will be more satisfied and it will help limit comments such as, "you haven't eaten a thing" or "surely you will go back for more."
4. Eat breakfast every day.Include a bit of protein at this important meal. Start the day with protein rich foods to control your appetite and boost self-control. This will help you to "just say no" to all of the holiday treats that surround you.
3. Don't let holiday weight gain creep up on you.Weigh yourself once a week and make adjustments to your lifestyle as needed. If you gain a pound, reflect on your eating and exercise habits. Be curious not critical. Look for opportunities to make changes. Have you been stressed? Are you an emotional eater? Have been to more parties and social engagements? Eating out more often? These are factors that everyone faces more frequently this time of year, and they often lead to weight gain.
2. Keep alcohol consumption low.How easily alcohol calories add up. During this social holiday season, you could easily gain a pound or two through alcohol alone.
- Pint of beer = 150 calories
- Typical glass of wine = 200 calories
- Martini = 250 calories
- Margarita = 300-800 calories depending on who makes it!
- Spiked eggnog = 400 calories per cup
1. Get off the "See Food Diet"!We see it, we want to eat it. This time of year, the "See Food Diet" consists of cookies, pastries, candies and fudge. Not too mention all of the leftovers, gifts and party favors. Change what you see, and you will change your body.
- Bring a beautiful bowl of fruit into the office.
- Place a bowl of nuts in the shell on your desk. You'll eat fewer when you have to crack them open yourself.
- Put cut veggies front and center in the fridge; use hummus or herbed ricotta as a healthy dip.
- Always bring a healthy option to dinners, parties and potlucks.
- Gift your office or home with an opaque candy dish or cookie jar. When you don't see it, you're less likely to eat the treat.
- Get rid of leftovers. If you throw a party, clean out the house the next day. Host a dinner? Send everyone home with leftovers or have a "part 2 dinner" the next night.
Surround yourself with the healthy foods that you need to eat, and you will find it easier to maintain your weight--or even lose weight--during this holiday season.