5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

Do people gain 5 to 7 pounds over the holidays? Or is it just 1 to 2 pounds? It depends which expert you ask. Either way, many people will gain a few pounds over the next month, then spend several months trying to lose them.

Which comes as no surprise because, let’s face it, these are some of the toughest weeks of the year when it comes to eating well, controlling portions, avoiding mindless eating, and keeping emotional eating at bay.

Tough, but not impossible. I’ve found that it’s entirely possible to eat well and enjoy holiday foods, while avoiding weight gain, during this busy time of year. And it hinges on taking just five steps, none of which is difficult or complicated.

Are you looking for simple ways to prevent holiday weight gain as you navigate the minefield of holiday events and temptations? If so, begin taking these 5 steps now to manage your weight, take care of your health, and avoid food guilt over the next few weeks:

5 Ways to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

1. Don’t allow the holiday season to become month-long “eating season.” Yes, Thanksgiving, Chanukah and Christmas provide a lot of opportunities to eat — at family dinners, parties, office events, shopping trips, and more.

But those events don’t happen every day — many days between now and New Year’s Day are normal work, school and family days. And most days that include special events don’t require you to eat holiday foods all day long.

So don’t let every day become a “holiday eating event,” and don’t assume that the next few weeks are a total loss when it comes to weight management. Sure, you want to eat Christmas cookies at the neighborhood cookie exchange. But you don’t have to eat them the day before, and the day after…and the day after.

And you want to eat dressing and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and pie for Christmas dinner. But you don’t have to keep eating them in the days that follow — even if you have lots of leftovers.

And just because someone brings holiday treats to your house or office doesn’t mean you have to keep eating them.

Instead, make a plan for eating normal, healthy meals and snacks on most days, and do some simple food prep every week that will allow you to eat well in between the special meals and events.

2. Eat the holiday foods you really love, and avoid the ones you don’t. Everyone has favorite holiday foods. Two of mine are pumpkin pie and ginger cookies. (And dressing. And sweet potatoes.)

Maybe for you it’s your mother’s Christmas cookies, your neighbor’s homemade candy, or your special coconut cake. So enjoy those foods, the ones that make the holidays special for you. Eat them, savor them, and don’t feel guilty about them.

I, for example, will be enjoying dressing with gravy and pumpkin pie with real whipped cream on Christmas Day, and maybe for a couple of days after!

But many holiday foods don’t hold a special place in your heart. And some of them are worthless junk that doesn’t deserve to be eaten. You know, like the Thanksgiving “turkeys” made with Oreos, candy and icing that your kids bring home from school. Or the decorated cupcakes from a grocery store bakery. These things are cute, but they aren’t delicious — and we don’t need to be eating them.

Many holiday foods fall into this category — the packaged cookies at your child’s Christmas party, your aunt’s candy that you’ve never really liked, a tired buffet at a holiday party — stay away from them. Avoid them (get rid of them if possible) and save the calories for the foods you really love.

3. Plan for problems. Most women will be busier than usual over the next few weeks — shopping, cooking, cleaning, decorating, traveling and shuttling children to Christmas activities. Opportunities to eat well will go into hiding, while opportunities to eat poorly will run around all day, waving their arms at you.

So develop plans to address problems before they arise. If you’ll be out shopping for an entire day, how will you avoid the low blood sugar that sends you to the nearest drive-thru window?

If your family will be traveling by plane or car, how will you avoid relying on airport food or fast food restaurants for all of your meals and snacks? If you’ll be attending your neighbor’s dessert drop-in, how will you avoid eating an entire meal of desserts?

Use simple strategies that will make your life easier — stock up on healthy snacks, prep healthy foods before you need them, and pack a small cooler with fruit, snacks and water for trips and long days of shopping. And when you’re at home, rely on quick, simple and healthy meals.

4. Move your body every day. You need to move and be active almost every day throughout the year, but even more so during the holidays. Regular exercise helps you deal with some of the downsides of the holiday season, including worry, fatigue, the “blues,” and excess calories. It reduces stress, helps you feel energized, burns calories, and generally makes you feel great.

And it’s critical if you want to prevent holiday weight gain. At this busiest time of the year, you’ll think you don’t have time for it. But make time — it’s worth it. You don’t have to go to a gym or do anything complicated. Instead, fit movement into your day and combine it with other activities.

Walk for 30 minutes at the mall before shopping, walk with your spouse after dinner, or walk while your kids are at soccer or choir practice. Use a FitBit, pedometer, or other fitness tracker to track your steps.

Or work out with a DVD, ride bikes, or take a hike as a family on the weekend, or visit a walk-through holiday lights display. Schedule time for moving on your calendar — you deserve it, and you’re worth the effort it takes to make it happen!

5. Drink lots of water and eat real food most of the time. Stay hydrated — it keeps you feeling great and helps your body function well. (Sometimes when you feel tired or hungry, you’re actually dehydrated.)

So carry water with you wherever you go, and keep a bottle or glass handy at home or work. If you don’t like plain water, make fruit waters. I don’t enjoy drinking water, so I have to remind myself frequently that my body needs it.

And eat as much real food as possible. When you’re not enjoying your favorite holiday foods, eat primarily vegetables, fruits, lean protein, nuts, whole grains, and healthy fats.

You may not lose weight over the next few weeks, but you can holiday weight gain, stay healthy, and feel great — all while enjoying you favorite foods of the season.

Also published at CalmHealthySexy.

Gaye Groover Christmus, MPH

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