An Elf’s Guide to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain!
Gaining weight is a common concern for many adults especially around the holidays. Along with the quarantine, the pounds may be adding up even faster. Here are 15 tips to help you avoid weight gain and feel healthier during the holiday season.
During the holidays, we are tempted to overeat and indulge in excessive calorie-rich foods. Americans will gain an average of 1-2 lbs. between mid-November and mid-January. This may not seem like a lot, but the problem is, this weight usually doesn’t come off and it accumulates over the years’ time.
Therefore, no matter the time of year, the holiday binging may be one of the biggest contributors to your total annual weight gain. As we try to be in the holiday spirit, let’s fit in our holiday clothes!
If actual holiday weight gain is not as great as we may think, what are some of the reasons why we feel bloated, get indigestion, and feel more fatigued than usual? When we try to fit into our beautiful holiday heels, why are our feet achy and swollen? Does the food we eat change our bodies from a few holiday indulgences?
- Stay Active
In between those holiday meals, or on commercial breaks from watching holiday TV programs, get your body moving. Along with our usual holiday sedentary activities, and with COVID-19 virus restrictions, we are all sitting longer than normal. Many of us are not burning those calories fast enough. Inactivity and overeating are double trouble for weight gain.
Try to take a movement break and get the wiggles out by going for a brisk walk, get the whole family to play a game like Charades, or even play some music to dance to! Some people sign up for holiday races or charity walks and/or participate in community volunteer events that get them out of their chairs to help others. Doing some type of physical activity with your family can divert your attention away from food and allow you to have some fun with your loved ones in a new way.
- Practice Self Control
People are sometimes doing too many things at a time and are in a rush to eat. Be mindful and cognizant of each bite you take. Eat in a pleasant environment and take your time. Gratitude will allow you to savor every bite. Pay attention to when your body says to stop eating. You do not have to finish the whole plate! Avoid going back for second servings, too! Stay away from your phone while eating and turn your television off. Be in the moment with the company you are with and even if you are alone, enjoy pleasant music or nature sounds that slow you down. Take time to breathe between each bite. Relax your body so it can digest the food properly.
- Get Rest
Losing sleep is a common issue over the holidays. Sleep deprivation can cause weight gain. The body is not repairing at night and the metabolic system cannot break down and utilize the nutrients. Poor sleep can cause (or even be caused) by hormones imbalances which slows down the metabolism. Additionally, inadequate sleep has been linked to cortisol and melatonin dysregulation. This alteration in your circadian rhythm, which is a biological clock that regulates many of your physiological functions. It can disrupt, not only sleep, but also digestion, inflammation, moods and bodily aches and pains.
- Avoid the Snacks and Desserts
Visibly seeing those the extra snacks such as cookies or leftovers on the counter or filling the shelves in the refrigerator may be alluring you to have one little bite or one extra plate. Seeing the treats will tempt you. Keep them out of sight or give them as gifts to others. Often, the thought of the food going to waste, means it’s being eaten instead. Remember, it’s better to portion control than the extra calories go on your waist! When you see the treats at a party or at work, stay in a conversation out of the eating area. Stay mindful to not munch or drink extra calories. Remind yourself that you are not hungry. Boredom or depression can tempt you to overindulge. So, if you really want a snack, what are better options? Enjoy the “real foods”. Have accessible lots of crudité (celery, carrot, cucumber sticks, etc) in a container or Ziploc bag. Nuts and seeds are a great choice because they are super healthy. They can be filling, but remember they are also high in calories and fats, so a small handful is plenty. Fruits are still a sugar but have fiber, vitamins and minerals too so have a couple per day. The point is to avoid all foods that contain extra sugar (no fake sugars either) or unhealthy fats because both can lead to weight gain.
- Use smaller plates
Keep your portions small and don’t overload your plate. Try to not pile up the food high or cramped on your plate. Controlling your portions will surprise you that you’ll still feel full. Slow down, take small bites and chew your food well. You may be shocked when you look at the serving size on a label. Follow the guidelines. Use good judgement to have a reasonable size portion.
- Don’t Forget your Protein
Most big holiday meals are overly rich in carbohydrates and low in protein. Include 3-4 oz. of protein with each meal. Proteins have amino acids, and they are the building blocks for muscles. It is helpful for weight maintenance and help you reduce hunger and feel full. It has appetite-reducing hormones. Try fish, poultry, nuts/seeds and if tolerated beans and cultured dairy (yogurt, kefir, feta cheese). Avocadoes and quinoa are also protein sources.
- Increase Fiber Rich Foods
Many common holiday foods are low in fiber. Fiber rich foods help the body absorb unhealthy fats and burns calories. Fiber rich foods include vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. Most holiday treats are starchy and include floured products like, cakes, cookies, breads, crackers, and pasta. Most floured products have little fiber and are high in calories. Try a small portion (½ cooked cup) of non-floured fiber rich grains such as quinoa, rice, or millet verses wheat. Fiber induces fullness and helps also keep the bowels regular. The bowel flora improves the immune system as well. When eating fiber, be sure to include fluids such as water before or after your meals.
- Avoid Taste-testing
A taste of this and a taste of that adds up the calories. A party full of appetizers and a smorgasbord potluck meal can sneak up the portion sizes without you knowing it. And the extra time cooking and baking, include a spoonful more than you really need. Also, if you have children at home who do not finish their plateful of food, avoid finishing it. If they ate a satisfactory amount, save it, or throw it away instead of gobbling it down yourself. Though tasting your dishes can be important, especially if you’re cooking for others, limit it to one tiny bite to be sure it tastes perfect! Never cook while hungry. Never shop for groceries when hungry. And never skip a meal so you can eat more at an event. It’s easy to overeat when your stomach is growling.
- Bring a healthy dish to share
Show others that there are healthier and tasty options that don’t add the pounds on your waist. Be the person who shares the healthy foods. Prepare dishes that you know are healthier and lower in calories. It can be easy to overeat all those high-calorie foods at holiday parties if there are limited healthy choices. Plan your meals ahead and remember, you have control over what you consume. By bringing your own healthy dish to share, you will guarantee you’ll have something to eat that supports with your weight goals. Another trick is to savor the desserts you do indulge in, simply taking the time to eat them slowly — which may leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to overdo it.
- Liquid Calories Add Up
Excess alcohol, soda, juices, hot chocolate, and other calorie-rich beverages are the predominant holiday favorites. These drinks can add a considerable amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, which can cause you to easily go over your daily caloric level and cause weight gain. Many alcoholic drinks are linked to increased appetite and can be another weight gain risk. Enjoy water, seltzers, sparkling waters, herbal teas and avoid the sugary additions to an alcoholic beverage. In between every alcoholic drink have a seltzer with lime to hydrate. Remember, this safety rule that every alcoholic drink requires a one hour wait time to be able to drive.
- Modify your recipes
There are some sneaky ways to cut calories out of a favorite recipe. Some ideas can be to replace butter with applesauce, mashed banana, or a pumpkin puree. Use natural sugar-free substitutes such as stevia, Lo Han, or monk fruit. Instead of candies, try dried fruit. Increase herbs and spices for flavorings instead of sauces. Instead of frying, try to grill, steam, bake or roast. Try coconut, almond milk, or Greek yogurt instead of heavy creams. Instead of butter and sugar, add vanilla or almond extracts and add cinnamon or nutmeg. Avoid all processed foods because they generally have high salt, sugar, and chemicals in them.
- Weigh Yourself and Keep the Buttons Buttoned
Though it can worry you to step on the scale regularly, it can remind you of your goals, and allow you to respond quickly. People who weigh themselves regularly, maintain or lose weight more effectively than those who don’t weigh themselves. When the pants you comfortably wore two weeks ago are tight today, you will know the pounds are adding on. Increase the exercise, decrease the calories, and stay busy are to keep that weight down. Find a friend and partner with them to hold each other accountable. Keep each other motivated. Connect with someone who has similar goals and stick together in daily conversations and activities that help you both reach your goals.
- Manage Your Stress
Thinking about the holidays can be stressful. All the demands create tension and anxiety that can increase the cortisol hormone. This consequentially, increases fatigue, causes puffiness or inflammation of the eyes, hands and/or feet, increase blood pressure, make mood swings, and affect weight management. Obviously, chronic stress can cause multiple health issues. Healthier lifestyle changes decrease stress, develops better dietary and exercise habits, and improves the emotional well-being of the work and home environments. When people are stressed out and continue their erratic schedules, they tend to reach for the “crutches” such as junk foods and have more inner conflicts. Some addictive behaviors such as drug use are also a part of this, as well. Keeping stress under control is a choice. Some ideas to reduce stress include not only mindful eating, but includes exercise, meditation, prayer time, yoga, creative hobbies, and deep breathing. Engaging in activities that are fulfilling and bring value to your life can decrease the pressures of life. This can build the confidence and self-esteem to continue forward on this health journey.
- Don’t Wait Until Tomorrow
The idea, “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality, can cause a lot of anxiety. It delays setting up healthy habits. Procrastination can cause denial and in the long run be more frustrating. Allow your self esteem to grow by getting yourself geared up to do this once and for all. If you know it is time to make some changes and you are serious about controlling your weight, get your mindset ready. Set your goals about your food intake, activities, and attitude. Though an occasional slip-up can occur, do not surrender yourself to your old habits. Don’t discontinue your goals, pick yourself up and set your sights on the new path. Though the holidays seem like a difficult time to start new habits, there are many tricks and ideas that can help keep you healthy and happy during this time of year. If you do it right now, then you can get through any holiday, any vacation and any event that serves abundant food. If you’re conscientious of this, you may find prevented unnecessary weight gain but even took pounds off during this festive season.
- Final Note
The Weddington Wellness Center helps you learn how your system personally works. Dr. Merritt provides customized plan for your health needs on losing weight, balance your hormones, improve digestion, control mood swings, sleep better and age gracefully. Learn from Dr. Merritt how you can adopt healthy habits so you can lose weight and keep it off. The Weddington Wellness Center program is designed to meet your goals and fitness needs. Begin by taking a quick assessment and get started today.