A majority of us look forward to the holiday season—time spent with friends and family, delicious seasonal treats and meals, and chilly weather that inspires to stay in a reading a good book. The fall and winter months encourage indulging and often times our waistlines suffer as a result. It’s commonly believed that Americans gain, on average, 5-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. It turns out that the average weight gain is closer to 1 pound — but that, according to a study, is a pound you never lose. According to researchers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), most Americans never lose the weight they gain during the holiday season, making the pounds add up year-after-year, and contributing to obesity. Read on for a list of ways to limit holiday weight gain this season.
- Eat before you go. With the influx of holiday event invitations, you’ll be out and about more than usual during the celebration season. In an effort to limit overindulgence and eating unhealthy options when you’re attending a party, be sure to eat a meal or snack before you go. If you do end up arriving hungry to an event, try to drink water prior to eating. This will help fill you up and lessen the chances for overindulgence.
- Don’t let the buffet best you. Plan to use the smallest plate available when you go through a holiday buffet. Also be sure not to stack your food; limit it to one layer on the plate. Try to make healthy choices and go for fruits, veggies, and lean proteins. Limit sauces and dips, as they can secretly contain high levels of saturated fat, sodium, and calories. Once you’ve completed the items on your first plate, wait 15-20 minutes before going for seconds. It takes this long on average for your stomach to send signals of fullness to your brain.
- Limit your alcohol consumption. While many see the holiday season as a time for merriment and revelry, remember that alcohol is full of empty calories and inhibits your ability to make good choices. Overindulging in festive libations may lead to overeating and making poor food decisions that you may not generally make if you had been sober.
- Walking, the new holiday tradition. Start a new family and friend holiday tradition. When you get together for meals and celebrations, after dining include a group walk. Bundle up for the elements and head outdoors for a welcome diversion from the food and drinks inside the house. Walking will burn some of those holiday calories and gives you time to connect with each other beyond the confines of the kitchen and dining table.
- Exercise in the morning. Moving your exercise routine to the morning has been shown to improve behavior throughout the rest of the day. When you start your day off with exercise, you’re likely to move more throughout the day and have fewer cravings for high-fat, tempting foods.
- Go ahead and have that dessert. Indulging in dessert, while being conscious of portion control, will help keep you satisfied and keep your sweet tooth at bay. It will also help reduce your chance of indulging in treats excessively. Moderation is always key and it helps to have a plan in place to keep this in check. If you’re a big fan of dark chocolate, for example, tell yourself you will only eat dessert if it includes that ingredient. Consider the “three bite rule” where you only allow yourself to eat three bites of a dessert. This will ensure that those dessert calories you do consume will be of the utmost in flavor satisfaction and may help to curb your desire to eat treats simply because they’re there.
- Learn to say “no”, politely. Many of our poor diet choices during the holidays stem from our desire to please our hosts. Sometimes you may feel obligated to take that second serving of potatoes or eat that extra piece of pie, because someone you care about is offering it to you. Learn to say no politely, such as “No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious,” or “I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful.” You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.
- Don’t start a diet during the holiday season. Willpower can only get you so far. The last thing you want to do is turn into a Grinch during the holidays because you’re only allowing yourself to eat carrot sticks during festive soirees.
- Minimize stress. The holiday season is often rated as the most stressful time of the year for people. Financial issues are front and center, entertaining out of town guests and holiday preparations all add to your stress. And what do many people turn to when they’re stressed? When you start to feel stressed, try to exercise, listen to music, or talk to a friend. It’s important to try and deal with your feelings in a positive and healthy way.
- Focus on socializing. The holidays should be about spending quality time with your family and friends. Unfortunately, these social events have become food-centric and the emphasis is now placed on indulging in extravagant and caloric meals. Try to shift the focus back to socializing and stand away from the food tables. Remember—conversation is calorie free!
The holidays should be a time for fun, friends, and family. By using the tips presented in this list, you should be able to worry less about your waistline and spend more time enjoying the season. Northwest Primary Care offers a wide range of nutritional services. Contact us to learn more and to help us develop a nutritional plan that’s right for you.