5 Strategies to Avoid the Dreaded Holiday Weight Gain
I guess the snow we received lately is telling me the holidays are here. While I don't love the snow, I do love the holidays. But the holidays can wreak havoc on our healthy habits. Holiday parties, family gatherings, cookie baking and, in my neck of the woods, even the cold weather can all come together to enable the holiday weight gain that many of us endure and, in January, regret. I've already seen several Facebook and Instagram posts warning that the average person gains between 7-15 pounds from November to New Year's. If you never experienced this phenomenon, then consider yourself one of the lucky ones! And if you have experienced it, consider yourself normal. But what if I told you with a few simple tips you could enjoy the holidays, but not have the holiday weight gain or January regret? Now before you stop reading because you think I'm going to tell you to never touch your favorite holiday cookie or to isolate yourself from holiday parties or family gatherings, give me a chance. Just try the following strategies and when January gets here you'll feel great and you won't have to undo all the holiday damage!
1. Bring a healthy dish
Have you ever gone into a party (holiday or otherwise) with the mindset that you aren't going to over do it and next thing you know you've over done it? You can't see me, but I'm raising my hand right now. Failing to plan is planning to fail. These few words of wisdom by Ben Franklin can apply to many things in life, and I think they apply pretty well here too. One way you can plan what you are going to eat at a party to prevent overdoing it is to bring a healthy dish. That way when you are staring all the unhealthy options in the face, you know you have at least one healthy dish to fall back on. Eat your healthy dish first, and then chose a small portion of just a couple indulgences to enjoy.
2. Eat a large salad before heading to the party/gathering
So what do you do when bringing a healthy dish to share isn't an option? Try eating a large salad before going to the party. Make sure you include some protein and healthy fat in the salad. The salad will fill you up so you won't be starving when you get to the party and eat everything in site. When you are there, choose a small portion of a few of your favorite things to enjoy. This allows you to still enjoy the things you love over the holidays without going overboard.
3. Limit sugary alcoholic drinks & alternate alcohol with sparkling water (same goes for sugary coffee drinks)
One of the easiest ways to overdo it at any party is to overindulge in decadent, sugary, high-calorie alcoholic drinks. If you are saying right now, come on Michelle...they are what I love about the holidays, then by all means have ONE! Note I said one. Enjoy it and then after, drink some water. If you want to keep feeling fancy, drink sparkling water in a wine or champagne glass. Then after you've had water, if you want another drink, try sticking to a light beer or vodka with club soda and lime. And alternate alcoholic drinks with water. Not only will this keep you from over-consuming calories and sugar, but it will help to keep you hydrated. These same rules apply to the fancy Starbucks type holiday drinks like salted caramel hot chocolate or peppermint mocha. If you enjoy these drinks, have one once a week during the holidays, but try not to get into the habit of having one every day. The sugar and calories in these drinks add up fast which can add up to holiday weight gain quick.
4. Distance yourself from the food table at parties/gatherings
Okay, this one may seem too simple, but it truly can make a difference. How many times have you been at a party and found yourself mindlessly eating for no other reason than because the food was there? Good chance you weren't even hungry nor did you really enjoy the food you were munching on. I'm raising my hand again here. I've done this more times than I can count and I've been annoyed with myself for it more times than I can count too. Solution? Get away from the food table. Hit the dance floor if there is one, or catch up with family and friends out of reach of the food. If you have to walk over and fill up your plate, there's a better chance you'll only eat until you are full rather then just eating because you can reach it.
5. Stay active
I'm going to admit that with the hustle of the holidays, this may be the most difficult tip I've given you here, but committing to stay active over the holidays will help you in more ways then one. Of course staying active burns calories and helps you continue to build muscle. Both great things for avoiding weight gain, but being active can also help manage stress. And stress can be a catalyst to weight gain all by itself. I don't know about you, but when I'm stressed my food choices aren't always the best. Stress can cause me to stress eat like nobody's business. Keeping active has also been proven to help with sleep quality. Better sleep can help you avoid weight gain as well. Like stress, when I'm tired I don't eat as well as I do when I'm well rested. Make a goal for the holiday to stay active, and then do it. Committing to do 30-minutes of exercise 4 times a week is an attainable goal over the holidays. You'll be less stressed, better rested and your family will be thankful because you'll be happier too! Save the lofty exercise goals for January, and pick a goal that will keep you active, but that you will also be able to maintain through the hustle of the season.
Enjoying the holidays and maintaining a healthy lifestyle can be tough during this time of year, but it's not impossible. With a little thinking ahead and a commitment to stay active, you can enjoy the holidays without regretting all of your decisions once you hop on the scale January 1st. Need help with fitness or nutrition? Contact me at email@example.com to find out how I can help. Happy Holidays!!