Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
'Tis the season, right?! The season for #winterbod.
We're all trying to avoid holiday weight gain this time of year. Lots of relatives = lots of drinking, lots of yummy food, etc. However, many of us end up doing exactly what we shouldn't: overly restricting. It is a festive time of year, after all. While our intentions to prevent weight gain are obviously good, being overly restrictive with food will almost always backfire, but especially during the holidays when yummy food and high stress levels are so prevalent.
The ultimate key to avoiding a large unwanted weight gain this time of year is moderation. We know, we know, you hear that word all the time. But it's true. Also balance. The more you can stick with the healthy habits you've created all year, the better. You've worked too hard all year to give up now and start over in 2018. However, let's also acknowledge that between Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas, New Year's Eve, and New Year's Day, that's five days. You're not going to undo a year of hard work in five days.
That's not me giving you permission to completely let loose this holiday season (clients, I'm speaking to you!). Here's a list of simple strategies to make the hectic holiday months a little more balanced:
1. Stick with your healthy habits during the week.
Don’t get caught up in the holiday craziness and let your meal prep regimen or workout routine fall by the wayside. Choose the days to indulge and the days to stick to your plan. Continue to incorporate nutritious meals and exercise into your usual workweek, when your schedule is more structured. Whenever there is structure, lean into that. This will give you a little more wiggle room for indulging or kicking back and relaxing a bit on the weekend.
2. On that note, try to go booze-free Sun-Thurs.
If a glass of wine, craft beer, or cocktail is part of your evening ritual, consider going without your nightly drink during the holiday season. Like soda, alcohol is a source of empty calories and, over the course of a month or so, those nightcap calories really add up. If you want to avoid holiday weight gain, save your alcohol calories for festivities with friends or family on the weekend or at holiday parties only.
3. On that note, don't drink your calories.
With pumpkin spice lattes, warm apple ciders, creamy eggnogs, mulled wines and more all around us, we tend to forget that these drinks often boast as many calories as two full meals. They may seem like innocent drinks, but the sugar from these drinks is turned into fat and stored in our bodies. Whenever you can, opt for coffee drinks without additional sugars, herbal teas, carbonated waters, golden milk lattes, and alcoholic beverages without cream or sugar (i.e. hot toddy beats eggnog).
4. Choose the smaller plate.
Research shows that the bigger the plate we take, the more food we put onto it (duh). If you're at the office holiday party and you notice huge plates by the meat, cheese, and pigs-in-a-blanket and smaller plates by the desserts, use the tiny plates for both. Though, be aware that if the plate is too small, you may be more inclined to go back for seconds... or thirds...
5. On that note, always use a plate.
We all know eating directly from the package is an invitation to over-consume, but the same goes for oversized bowls of chips, dips, and appetizer platters at parties. Instead of grabbing directly from the table at a holiday gathering, take one of those smaller dessert plates mentioned above and serve yourself a moderate-sized portion of a few of your favorite party foods.
6. Eat only what you love.
You’ve only got so much space on your plate, so don’t fill it with foods you feel lukewarm about. If you’re going to indulge in one serving of high-calorie finger foods at a party, go for the ones that will bring you the most enjoyment; just strive to keep the amount modest. And if you know Christina will be making her epic warm pecan pie for the office party this evening, maybe try to make the rest of your day totally free of refined sugar and lower in carbs. Adjust and adapt.
Seasonal treats — such as homemade holiday meals, decadent desserts, and cocktails — aren’t truly enjoyable if they just leave you feeling regretful afterwards. So, if you’re going to torture yourself after you eat a treat, maybe reconsider it. But, if you’re going to allow yourself a cheat, savor it, accept it, and then move on.
7. Say no to happy hour.
Not only is alcohol a sneaky source of empty calories, but research also suggests it makes us more inclined to overeat. Alcohol appears to sensitize the brain’s response to food aromas, which can lead us to eat more. This study suggests that having just a couple of drinks before a meal will likely increase your food consumption, so, if you’ve got a party to go to, opt for one or two after-dinner drinks instead. By doing so, you’ll be less likely to overeat, and get the added benefit of having some food in your stomach to slow the absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream.
8. Schedule one active event for every holiday celebration on your calendar.
Participate in a holiday race, coordinate a family hike, or call your Weighted Plate trainer to fit in a session before the party begins. New Year’s Day races are a great way to stay motivated since you’ll have to train during the hectic holiday season. Plus, you’re less likely to blow it out at a party the night before! Encourage friends and family members to get involved for added fun and motivation. If that's a little ambitious, simply go for a walk around the block before hopping into the shower to get ready for your holiday event. If you need some motivation to get outside in colder weather, invest in one or two new pieces of athletic wear to keep you warm.
Sleep deprivation not only messes with your mind, but it also makes you feel hungrier, too. When deprived of sleep, the body produces more ghrelin, the "hunger hormone" that increases your desire to eat. It’s not always easy to do but, by getting enough sleep, your body will be better at regulating hunger and you’ll be less likely to overeat.
10. Make something yourself and bring it to the party.
To make sure you’ll have a healthier option you enjoy at holiday gatherings, bring your own dish to share. There are so many healthier holiday treat recipes online these days-- why not ensure that at least one option on the buffet table doesn't have a cup of sugar or 4 sticks of butter in it. We're not advocating bringing carrot sticks, but we're also not advocating eating all of Grandma Jean's pumpkin cheesecake bars.
11. Manage your stress.
This time of year it seems like you're always on the go; you're traveling more, visiting family, eating airport food, sleeping less, and this can all take a toll on your body. Because of this, it's extra important to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Make lists, plan your meetings in advance, and try not to overcommit yourself. Schedule a massage or take a yoga class. Try meditation. Remember that sometimes being happy is more important than being right when dealing with your family. Opt for staying in with a good book and movie instead of rushing to go somewhere after work. Studies show you're more likely to hold on to weight if your cortisol levels are high.
12. Get a jump start on next year’s health goals.
To achieve and maintain a healthy weight, you need to make sustainable, healthy choices so frequently that they turn into habits. The sooner you get started, the better off you’ll be — and the less overwhelming those New Year’s resolutions to slim down and shape up will feel.
The key here is not meeting the goal weight loss during the holidays, but rather making small, specific changes that can have a big impact over time. A lot of our clients come back to us very excited when they say that they're now making better choices at restaurants (ordering a protein and a veg at an Italian restaurant with a SMALL SIDE of penne instead of getting the huge spaghetti bolognese portion is one of the most common victories that becomes a habit). Try little things like that-- try replacing soda with water or seltzer, planning two healthy meals for the week every Sunday, talking to your Weighted Plate trainer about getting on our prepped meals program come January 1 and kicking your training program up from 2x/week to 3x/week.
In sum, avoiding holiday weight gain isn’t easy, but it’s also not as hard as you may think. By eating mindfully, controlling your stress levels, and moving your body often, you can enjoy the holiday season while also maintaining the weight that makes you feel energized and healthy. Put these strategies into practice and remember to ENJOY the holidays with friends and family. It's a very special time of year to feel grateful for all that we have. And, if come January 1 you’re still hovering around your current weight, consider that a huge win! Then call Weighted Plate to make sure you don't plateau for too long.