As we move closer to the holidays, weight gain increases—with the greatest gain occurring in the 10 days after Christmas.
As the weather gets cooler and daylight hours become shorter, people spend more time indoors. This can pose challenges, when “comfort food” may seem like the only bright spot on long, dreary days. This can lead to weight gain, which can be hard to avoid as we move deeper into the holiday season. Beginning in October and continuing into the New Year, weight gain increases, with the greatest gain occurring in the 10 days after Christmas. Many folks think weight gain is unavoidable during “the holidays” or “the holiday season”. Sure there is a span of time that we refer to, and it brings joy to prepare to celebrate, see family and friends, decorate the house, move the elf.. But let’s try to look at it as really only a day or so. There will be cookies, candy and all sorts of treats around at work for weeks on end, but you don’t have to let yourself indulge.
Fortunately, there is still time to work on developing a plan to deal with holiday temptations. Deprivation doesn’t work, as is consistently evidenced by the poor outcomes of fad diets that rely heavily on this strategy (ie. absolutely no sugar, no white foods, etc). A more sensible — and achievable — approach is to plan ahead for the food challenges that will certainly arise and to figure out a way to enjoy the merriment while limiting weight gain. Moderation in consumption and prevention of gain are the goals.
- It’s hard to avoid a feast on most holidays (Thanksgiving comes to mind..), so this is an occasion where maintaining and not overdoing it are the goals. Increasing activity on the days before and after the holiday can help, as will committing to water consumption, since drinking 16 ounces of water before eating can help suppress appetite. There also are many ways to cut back on calories and fat without sacrificing flavor: Combine root vegetables such as parsnips or turnips with mashed potatoes to add flavor and nutritional value. Add broth to gravy to reduce fat, and many pies can be made crustless. There are tons of online resources to “skinny up” your foods!
- Hanukkah and Christmas: Religious holidays can be especially challenging because they often are associated with family traditions that focus on foods. Again, planning is critical. If you’re going to cook, be sure to eat a healthy meal first. Many foods freeze well, and out of sight can mean out of mind. Hosting a holiday usually leaves huge amounts of leftovers; purchase reusable to-go boxes to hand out (and insist!) to your guests as they leave. If you’re a guest, take the opportunity to catch up with others and enjoy their company — away from the buffet table — and alternate any alcohol drinks with glasses of water or seltzer. Don’t deprive yourself of the once-a-year delicacies, but don’t go overboard either.
- Holiday parties- try to always eat a small meal or snack, high in protein, before going out. It’s a common misconception that skimping or not eating at all during the day will “make up for” what you’ll indulge in at a party. The problem is, that you’ll eat faster and twice as much if you arrive hungry! It takes about 20 minutes for our brain to signal that we are full, so if you hit that appetizer buffet with a growling stomach (we’ve all been there) you will definitely eat more than you need to.
- Maybe skip that weight loss goal (for now) and just maintain. It’s very easy to go in the entirely other direction if you are striving for weight loss and trying to stick to a very strict plan during this time. You may be around others who are not trying to lose, which makes the whole thing that much harder. Maybe allow yourself a week or so of a bit of mindful enjoyment, with the goal of watching your weight and keeping it stable.
- Don’t dwell. If you know you overindulged, just move on from it. There are worse things. Mind you, try not to allow this for a long span of time.. I’ve heard people say they’ll just eat whatever they want and start fresh in the new year. This will almost ensure a significant weight gain. Eating those excess calories day after day even for only a couple weeks will land you several steps back. If you let yourself go at the office holiday party, just get back on track the next day and don’t feel that you’ve completely blown your plan.