10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

If you’re not worried about gaining holiday weight, perhaps you should be. Despite the popularity of New Year’s weight loss resolutions, research shows that most people who tend to gain weight during the holidays, don’t lose it once they’re over.
  • A study funded by the National Institute of Health, and conducted by a team at the Medical University of South Carolina, found the average American adult gains at least five pounds during the months of November and December.
  • Another finding that is of concern is most adults who gain weight during the holiday season rarely lose the extra pounds during the spring and summer months, leading the researchers to speculate that a portion of the Americans who have fallen prey to the epidemic of obesity might have fallen into this pattern of seasonal weight gain.
Do not despair, because a 2008 study published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology provides some insight as to why this weight gain occurs and how people avoid having the extra pounds creep onto their waistlines during the holiday season.

The factors they found that led to holiday weight gain include:

  • Increased availability of high-calorie high-fat foods along with treats filled with refined sugar, which often take the place of healthy nutrient rich foods.
  • Increased demands on time mean people tend to opt for fast foods and spend less time exercising.
  • As much as time with family and friends can be enjoyable, sometimes there are conflicts, which cause stress and can trigger eating for comfort and stress relief.
So the trick is to avoid weight gain this year and simply go into maintenance mode, enjoy the holidays, and come out the other side the way you went in. Believe it or not, you can actually get more fit over the holidays, if you are willing to put in a little effort.

Here are some can’t fail tips to get you through the holiday temptation:

1. Stay Active

There are tremendous benefits associated with regular exercise, not the least of which is it generally keeps you more health-minded and making better food choices. If you are exercising regularly, stay on your schedule through the holidays and if not, get started on a program before Thanksgiving!

 2. Keep a Food Journal

If you are really serious about avoiding weight gain over the holidays, you will keep a food journal to keep yourself accountable. MyFitnessPal.com is a free online nutrition journal that will make you aware of how many calories and what types of foods you are eating. You will think twice before making poor food choices, or at least several of them, if you know you have to write them down.

 3. Don’t Skip Meals or Arrive at Parties Hungry

Remember to eat something every few hours to keep your metabolism hummin’ along and to prevent the holiday binge that often follows a missed meal or two. If you go to a party or sit down for a holiday meal when you are famished, you are likely to overdo it and make up for everything you didn’t eat earlier in the day…and then some!

 4. Use Small Plates

Using a smaller plate limits how much you can load up on at one time, even if you stack it full. Remember to eat more slowly and thoroughly enjoy everything you are eating.

 5. Wait At Least 30-minutes Between Meals or Snacks

It takes some time for your brain to let you know you are full so give it a while before deciding whether or not to go back for another plate full.

 6. Limit Alcohol Consumption

While alcohol consumption is certainly part of the holiday season for some, keep in mind it provides lots of empty calories and often leads to less control over what you eat. Remember, all things in moderation and watch out for those super high-calorie holiday drinks.

 7. Take it One Day at a Time

Take each day individually and do the best you can to stay on track with your exercise and better food choices. As mentioned above, try not to skip meals, but if you know you will be eating more later on in the day, try to go a bit lighter on the calories earlier. You can’t go wrong with lean protein, fruits, and vegetables.

 8. Avoid the Party Snacks and Calorie Culprits

Don’t waste calories on salty and sugary snack foods, dips, cream sauces, rich fillings, or lots of cheese. Wouldn’t you rather enjoy more for dinner and perhaps a nice piece of dessert to top it off?

 9. Plan for Indulgence

Okay, so there may be a little overindulgence going on, but ask yourself what you’re willing to sacrifice in exchange for that freedom. Perhaps spend a little more time exercising that day or give up your breads or some of the other unnecessary carbohydrates from the meals or snacks earlier in the day.

 10. Focus on Family, Friends, and Fun…Not Food!

Spending time with family and friends is one of the greatest things about the holidays. Try not to place too much emphasis on what you eat and drink, but rather the quality time you spend with those you care about most.

These tips are not meant to deprive you of anything or prevent you from enjoying the holidays. However, if weight gain is hard on you, use them to keep you feeling better over the next two months and get you off to a great start in 2013!