‘Tis the season to eat, drink, and be merry! From Thanksgiving Day to New Years Day, weekends are filled with family meals, holiday baking, and parties. It is no wonder to me why most people have to deal with holiday weight gain!
Would you believe me if I told you it doesn’t need to happen to you this year?
Although the average holiday weight gain is “only” between 1-5# (Parker-Pope, 2007), this is the weight that seems to stick on your hips and stays a while. I call this “solid” weight gain. This is opposed to the weight that fluctuates each day/week.
The trick is to practice a few super simple tips instead of trying to “diet” through the Holidays. You can have FUN, participate in ALL of your holiday activities, and NOT gain weight!!!
Here are my favorite Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain!
- DRINK MORE WATER. Drinking water is the easiest and most efficient way to avoid holiday weight gain. Many times we think we are hungry (or tired or crabby) when our bodies are actually dehydrated. Staying hydrated can help control those confusing body signals (Tomlinson, 2015). Drinking water may also help increase your metabolism (Ator, 2015) and help you feel more alert during the busy holiday season (Armstrong, et al., 2011). Try this:
- Drink a full glass of water before all meals
- Replace another beverage with a full glass of cold water at least 2x/day (even diet soda).
- Drink herbal tea instead of decaf coffee in the afternoon
- EAT SLOWLY. This simple tip has been proven to help people cut their calories up to 100 calories at each meal (Hodgekiss, 2013). I love this tip because you can still enjoy your favorite holiday meals and snacks! Slowing down while you eat also improves digestion and increases meal satisfaction (St.Pierre)! In addition, mindful eating is also an effective stress management strategy!
- DON’T “BANK” CALORIES. I understand how tempting it is to hoard your calories for a big dinner or holiday party. I have done it myself! Banking calories may work as a short-term solution for an occasional bout of holiday weight gain; however, just be aware that this strategy makes it more difficult to follow a balanced diet. When we limit our calories during the day, it can cause our energy to drop, which increases our cravings for sugar and simple carbs. In addition, frequent banking of calories can harm your metabolism that normally increases with small, frequent, healthy meals/snacks throughout the day (Paturel). So, this may be an effective strategy to use occasionally; however, try not to use it as a weight loss plan.
- LOVE TO BAKE? GIVE IT AWAY! Holiday baking is a tradition that many families enjoy. Don’t change your traditions! Invest in some disposable food containers and spread the joy (and the cookies)!
- DON’T DRINK YOUR CALORIES Most holiday drinks contain excess sugar and calories. A single cup of eggnog has over 300 calories! Drinking your holiday beverage from a tall, slim glass has been proven to reduce the amount you consume (Wansink, Dyson, & van Ittersom, 2005). Can you believe how super simple that tip is? Another tip that I follow is to alternate between drinking your holiday spirits and drinking a glass of cold water. This also helps keep me from getting too tipsy!
- STICK WITH A PLAN. Begin the Holiday season with a solid plan. Clear goals are easier to follow and will increase your chance for success! Make sure that your goals are SMART:
- FIND YOUR TRIBE. Creating a supportive “tribe” has been proven to help people successfully meet their goals (Swinburn, et al., 2015). So grab a few friends and help each other with accountability and support! It is nice to know that you are not the ONLY one using self-control during the Holidays!
- MANAGE YOUR STRESS! Stress is the factor in holiday weight gain that is difficult to manage. When the stress hormone, cortisol, rises during stressful times, it triggers higher insulin levels causing your blood sugar to drop (Breeze, 2016). When this happens ,we tend to crave sugary, fatty foods. What do we do? We grab our favorite comfort food instead of grabbing a banana and some nuts (because, after all, who wants a banana when you’re stressing out about work??). In addition, cortisol also encourages your body to hang on to the calories. Do you know where your body likes to store this added weight? In the abdomen. Ugh! Managing stress is important if you want to lose weight and improve your health! Unfortunately, the Holiday season can be an extra stressor for many folks.
- MOVE THAT BODY! Exercise is an excellent way to manage your stress and burn extra calories. Find a type of exercise/movement and do it every day! Dance, skip, jump, run… play! Exercise doesn’t need to be punishment for eating. It can be a reward for a healthy life! Just remember, you would have to jog for 21 minutes to burn off just one gingerbread man (based on 130 pound woman running a 10 min/mile). So don’t EVER let exercise be the only way to manage your weight loss.
- CATCH YOUR ZZZ’s. Believe it or not, skimping on sleep can affect your weight! Lack of sleep can impact your hunger and fullness hormones. When you are sleep-deprived, your body produces more Ghrelin. This is the hormone that signals your body that its time to eat! More Ghrelin = more hunger cues. Leptin signals your body that its time to stop eating. Guess what happens to this level when you lack sleep? It decreases! Less Leptin = less cues to stop eating.
There is a complex relationship that exists in many areas of your life that contribute to holiday weight gain or the inability to lose weight near the holidays.
If you are only focusing on diet and exercise, you may be missing some easy strategies to improve your health!
Do you have a tip? Please share in the comments below!
(Reference list available on request!)