Every year we are bombarded with articles and news stories warning of the dangers of ‘holiday weight gain.’ The holidays certainly pose a unique opportunity to over-indulge and break routine exercise plans, but what is the reality and what is myth? And, just as important, what can we do to avoid the dreaded pounds most of us anticipate packing on before the New Year?
The traditional American Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner packs an average of 3000 calories. Considering that the recommended daily caloric intake for women is, give or take, 2000 calories, this puts one meal at approximately a third more than a full day’s requirement. And that’s just one meal.
Then there are those scary statistics about the average weight gain over the holidays, which is often put at between 7 and 10 pounds, though one study found that that’s largely a myth. The true average weight gain over the holidays is 1 to 3 pounds. This certainly doesn’t sound like much BUT this is over a four week period – almost a pound per week! Roughly 75% of the average American’s annual weight gain takes place during this time. Also, research shows people who are already overweight gain considerably more, on average 5 pounds. The other problem, the CCC says, is that most people fail to get those pounds off after the holidays.
“You’ve got the stress of the holidays, along with a lack of sleep, and, for many, a cauldron of bubbling emotions coming to the surface — and you’ve got all this food beckoning you at every turn,” says Warren Huberman, PhD, a clinical psychologist specializing in weight control at New York University Medical Center. “It can be a dangerous combination for those who have problems controlling what they eat.”
Downsize your sweets
Just got a box of chocolates? Put some in the freezer, store four or five pieces for yourself, and give away the rest. Not only will you save calories, you will spread good will!
Use a plate
Don’t nibble while standing up at a party or decorating the tree. Sit down at a table with your plate so you can see what you are eating and how much.
Protein is the most appetite-suppressing of all the macronutrients and will give you energy for hours while keeping you sated. Great snack ideas include hard-boiled eggs, jerky, cheese, and canned tuna.
Enjoy your food
Changing the way you eat, in addition to what you eat, is one of the best ways to increase your odds of maintaining or losing weight. Instead of going for volume, eat smaller portions and truly indulge in the experience. Mindful eating gives you permission to eat the foods you love, eating them slowly while tasting and enjoying every bite.
Work off the extra calories
Calories in, calories out. This is so basic and yet so easy to ignore, especially during the holidays.
Increase time in the gym to counterbalance increased caloric intake. If you’re really too busy to get to the gym or down to the track, then get physical while getting ready. Clearing the dead leaves from the garden, vacuuming the living room, and cleaning out the garage all burn calories. Shopping? Opt for an out-of-the way parking space and take the stairs.
Don’t Punish Yourself
If you do overindulge, let it go. Focus on what you did right, and compliment yourself. Then, move on to the ways you are going to take care of yourself tomorrow. Don’t want to wait? Grab the dog and take a brisk walk around the neighborhood.
Go to bed on time
Regular sleep patterns are often disrupted during holidays – travel, preparations, cleaning, all take time out of your schedule. Recent research ties weight loss to keeping a regular sleep schedule, showing that those who go to sleep and wake up at regular hours have lower body fat than those who don’t.
How do you plan to deal with holiday temptations? Please share in the comments below so others can benefit.