It may seem as if the words holiday and weight gain are practically synonymous. But that doesnt have to be the case.
Katherine McManus, MS, RD, LDN, of Brigham and Womens Hospital in Boston, says that people tend to gain a pound a year. Most of that weight is gained over the holiday season, she notes.
It doesnt sound like much until 10 or 20 (or more) years roll by. Ouch.
The good news, according to McManus, is that deliberate attempts to avoid that extra annual pound can be successful: She cites a study in which people who went into the holiday season armed with a plan actually lost weight. If they did it, so can you.
1. Plan Your Eating
McManus suggests marking all holiday events on your calendar so youll remember to plan ahead. For evening events, she advises eating a healthy breakfast and lunch, then having a light snack before you head out. Whole fruit (not compotes or canned fruit), nuts, seeds, carrot sticks and the like make suitable snacks.
Staying on a regular eating plan is important because its easy to not only overeat if you go to a party hungry but to also eat the wrong things. When you enter a party starving, do you make a beeline for the crudité? I dont! says nutritionist Samantha Cassetty, RD.
2. Find a Buddy
Find a friend or family member who is also committed to keeping his or her weight in check during the holidays, and tag-team each other. Having someone else to motivate (and sometimes challenge) you can help you stick with it when youre feeling stressed or otherwise vulnerable to slip-ups.
3. Stay Active
One thing you and your buddy can do for each other is to send daily get your exercise reminders. Exercise needs to be a key component of your plan if youre going to be successful.
For example, instead of spending a whole day on the couch, suggest to the fam that a friendly game of flag football or backyard basketballor simply going for a walk togethermight be a better way to enjoy each others company. (The extra bonding wont hurt, either.)
Actually, walking is an easy way of making yourself move. Aim for 10,000 steps a day, advises McManus; a pedometer can help you keep track. She also suggests standing for 10 minutes each hour.
Do what you can when you can, even if thats just a quick routine in your living room, adds Cassetty. According to her, research indicates that exercise can counter some of the metabolic effects of overeating.
4. Focus on Protein and Fiber
Its not likely that youll be eating party fare every day during the holiday season. Base all those meals in between on the winning combo of protein and fiberthe nutrient duo that helps tame hunger, says Cassetty. Her suggestions include salads that include roasted veggies, canned tuna and a small amount of dressing as well as chicken or turkey grain bowls in which the vegetables, not the grain (always whole instead of refined), predominate.
No matter what meal youre eating, avoid processed foodsbasically, anything out of a box or a canas much as possible. Most processed foods contain excess amounts of sugar and/or salt.
Dont forget planning for the workplace, which can become a carbohydrate minefield when people start bringing in platters of cookies, cakes, etc.; McManus suggests moving such treats to a high-traffic area to spread the goodies around. Keep high protein- and/or fiber-rich snacks, such as roasted chickpeas, in your area so youll have healthy alternatives.
5. Splurge Carefully
That being said, trying to avoid each and every treat offered to you will become frustrating and ultimately self-defeating. The idea is to pick your splurges wisely.
Its fine to have a food thrill or two, says Cassetty; just dont reserve a spot on your plate for the stuff that doesnt totally wow you. Prefer the stuffing? Have somebut avoid piling the mashed potatoes and dinner rolls on top of it.
The fave-only approach is especially applicable to desserts, which tend to be high in calories pretty much by design. And when you do indulge, eat slowly; you are less likely to overdo it that way.
6. Practice Portion Control
Another way to slow your eating roll is to manage your portions.
One easy way to do this is to use a smaller plate; studies show that the bigger the plate, the more you are likely to eat. It should also be your policy to skip seconds or (heaven forbid) thirds. Fill your smaller plate with a reasonable amount of food and then youre done.
7. Watch What You Drink
As tempting as the spiked eggnog might be, youll want to pass it upalong with alcohol in general. Alcohol can weaken your inhibitions so while you might have intended to skip the baked brie, a couple of drinks might spur you to change your mind, notes Cassetty. If you do indulge, she suggests sticking to the generally recommended two drinks a day for men and one for women. Cassetty also proposes that you avoid sugary mix-ins, which can worsen the impact of alcohol.
In addition, avoid colas and similar drinks, even the sugar-free versions. Stick with water or club soda instead; for flavor, add a lemon or lime slice.
8. Eat Mindfully
Often we eat mindlessly while doing something else (like being the life of the holiday party). That practically guarantees weight gain.
Eating mindfully involves staying tuned to when youre feeling content, says Cassetty, which she explains as the state when youve satisfied your physical hunger and youve shown your taste buds some love. To assess your contentment level, Cassetty recommends checking in with yourself about midway through your meal to make a mental note of how youre feeling.
Other ways to eat mindfully, whether its the holiday season or not, are to not eat in front of the TV or on the go, adds McManus.
9. Weigh Yourself Regularly
It isnt always easy to discern if your weight is slowly creeping upward, especially if your clothing still fits. Thats why weight monitoring can be such an effective way to prevent weight gain, says Cassetty.
So get on the scale regularly. However, note that this method may not work if seeing those numbers stresses you out too much.
10. Fight Stress, Find Sleep
Speaking of stress: Research suggests that stress can lead to less-healthy food choices, says Cassetty (in addition to playing havoc with your hormones). That makes practicing a consistent form of stress reliefmeditation, yoga, whatever works for youan important part of your plan. Whats more, stress reduction will also help you sleep better, which also makes it easier to control cravings and stay motivated.
The information provided is not an endorsement of any product, and is intended for educational purposes only. NaturesPlus does not provide medical advice and does not offer diagnosis of any conditions. Current research on this topic is not conclusive and further research may be needed in order to prove the benefits described.
The conditions and symptoms described may be indicative of serious health problems, and therefore should be brought to the attention of a qualified healthcare practitioner.
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