The holidays are an eating extravaganza full of sweet treats like cookies, cakes, pies, and candy. Hearty homestyle meals with extra helpings are also plentiful. And who can resist a steaming mug of hot chocolate or a glass of eggnog? With so many delicious temptations, it’s no wonder many people gain a little weight over the holidays.
Between navigating parties, managing stress, finding time for exercise, and avoiding tempting treats, the holiday season presents some unique obstacles when you’re trying to maintain your weight.
But don’t hang up your fitness goals just yet! With some smart strategies, you can enjoy all your favorite holiday flavors and festivities without derailing your health. This guide will equip you to stay on track through the feasting frenzy. Let’s dive in and make this your leanest, meanest holiday season yet!
Why We Gain Weight During the Holidays
Like many people, you may see the number on the scale creep up over the holidays. Research shows the average gain is about one pound. That might not seem concerning, but gaining year after year adds up.
What causes the gain? Two key culprits:
- Extra calories from tempting treats and drinks
- Less physical activity and exercise
To halt the climb, we’ve gathered some of our top tips on helping you stay on course this holiday season. Read on for strategies to keep your eating and exercise on track amid the festivities.
Stick to Your Meal Schedule
Amid the festive hustle and bustle, maintain your regular eating schedule. Consuming meals at steady intervals keeps your metabolism humming. Your body expects food at certain times and is primed to efficiently process nutrients and control hunger.
Studies confirm the perks of consistent meal timing. People who eat regularly take in fewer calories overall and make healthier choices.
So persist with your regimen. If you get thrown off, get back on track pronto. Consistency is key for maintaining your weight.
Walk Your Way to 10,000 Steps
No time for the gym? No prob! Incorporate activity throughout your day. Gradually build up to 10,000 steps daily. Studies show hitting this goal trims BMI and boosts health.
How to tally 10K:
- Walk briskly during lunch
- Take the stairs
- Park farther from entrances
- Stroll after dinner
Ramp up movement over the holidays, and you’ll reach your target in no time.
Snack Smart to Thwart Cravings
Hunger often leads to poor food choices. But smart snacking prevents cravings and overeating.
Swap sugary treats and salty snacks for fiber- and protein-packed options like nuts, seeds, Greek yogurt, fruits and vegetables. Research reveals protein-rich snacks are especially satiating and reduce overall calories.
Outsmart hunger by munching on wholesome foods when cravings strike. Your waistline will thank you.
Read Labels to Avoid Hidden Calories
‘Tis the season for decadent foods, but many treats pack hidden fat, sugar and sodium. Reading labels helps detect nutrients to limit.
Check serving sizes against calories, saturated fat, trans fat, sodium and sugar. Compare brands and select lighter options within categories.
A little label literacy goes far in dodging weight-promoting ingredients.
Strategize for Holiday Gatherings
When party season kicks off, having a plan is key. Holiday gatherings are rife with temptation, trying to derail your healthy habits. But going in with strategies under your belt means you can balance fun and fitness. Here is what I do:
Consume a light snack before arriving to take the edge off hunger. Offer to bring lighter dishes if you’re hosting. Incorporate active elements like walks and dancing into get-togethers.
Survey the spread of food when you arrive so you can plan what healthier options to fill up on first. Position yourself farther from the food table or buffet so you’re not as tempted to grab seconds. And most importantly, remember your “why”.
Whip Up Healthier Holiday Fare
You can slim down holiday dishes with simple preparation tweaks:
- Choose lean proteins like turkey, chicken or fish
- Roast, grill or steam instead of frying
- Use herbs and spices to boost flavor
- Go easy on sugar, salt and taste-testing
With a few easy kitchen shortcuts, you can serve up lighter, healthier holiday meals.
Build New, Active Traditions
Looking to start new traditions? Shift the focus from food to active fun!
After big meals, take family walks to see neighborhood light displays. Have dessert alongside dance-offs. Even volunteering counts as activity.
Create traditions centered on doing, not just eating. They’ll divert your mind from food and keep your body moving.
Enlist a Health-Focused Buddy
Facing the feasting frenzy solo can test your willpower. But having a health-motivated buddy amplifies drive and dedication.
Studies show that people with workout partners exercise more often. Team up to energize your efforts. Set fitness goals, swap healthy recipes, and cheer each other on. Better yet, get your friends to sign up with you for an online holiday challenge, like Maintain, Don’t Gain.
With a supportive partner in crime, you’ll stay focused when temptation strikes.
Practice Mindful Eating
This season, savor each delightful bite without overindulging. Mindful eating cultivates awareness of textures, flavors and aromas. Research confirms it also prevents overeating.
Mindful eating means listening to your body’s signals: Slow down, tune in, and stop when satisfied. You’ll relish each morsel more while consuming less.
Staying present balances holiday feasting with overall health objectives.
Prioritize Your Sleep
It’s not just calories that pack on pounds. Skimping on sleep disrupts appetite-regulating hormones, upping your risk of weight gain.
Shortchanging your sleep increases ghrelin, the “hunger hormone,” while decreasing leptin, the “fullness hormone.” This fuels overeating.
Aim for 7-9 hours nightly so your body maintains a healthy weight. Adequate sleep is as crucial as balanced eating. Scents and essential oils help me sleep are and if I’m still waking up I try these bedtime story podcasts.
Manage Stress for Success
The holidays can be the most stressful time of year. Unfortunately, stress stokes cravings for unhealthy comfort foods.
Combat tension with exercise, meditation, yoga, deep breathing and quality time with loved ones. If overwhelmed, seek counseling.
By keeping stress in check, you’ll avoid the mindless eating and weight gain it can trigger.
Weigh Yourself Regularly
Though not always pleasant, regular weigh-ins reinforce fitness goals amid feasting. Research correlates frequent monitoring with better weight management than avoidance. Whether you weigh daily to quickly catch small fluctuations or weekly to reliably benchmark, facing those objective numbers provides key feedback for diet and exercise adjustments. Daily weighers spot slight gains fast while weekly weighers have a reliable comparison point. However often you saddle up to the scale, letting the data anchor your goals prevents significant weight gain.
Keep Desserts Special
A few small bites of delectable desserts can satisfy your sweet tooth without sabotage. Here’s how to indulge intelligently:
- Be choosy. Select one or two favorites instead of sampling everything.
- Slow down. Savor each morsel so you need less to feel satisfied.
- Offer fruit alongside sweets. Reaching for an apple is an automatic calorie-saver!
You can sate your sweet tooth and maintain your lean physique. Just enjoy every decadent bite without going overboard.
Limit Liquid Calories
Ever notice how easy it is to mindlessly gulp down hundreds of “drinkable” calories in festive beverages? Watch your liquid calorie load from alcohol, eggnog and other sugary sips.
Research reveals that liquid calories don’t satisfy hunger as well as those from solid foods. To prevent overconsumption, opt for unsweetened drinks like water, seltzer or tea.
If you choose alcohol, limit intake and avoid high calorie mixers.
Downsize Portions with Smaller Plates
Here’s a simple mind trick to effortlessly downsize portions: Use smaller plates and bowls for meals.
A Cornell study found people served themselves 16% less when using compact dishware. The visual effect makes your brain think you’re getting more.
- Use salad plates for main meals.
- Fill half your plate with veggies first.
- Keep portions below the plate rim.
Now Go Slay Holiday Weight Gain!
By arming yourself with small yet mighty preparation power moves – from step tallies to lighter swaps – you can continue celebrating the season without sacrifice. Follow these tips to breeze through parties, meals and gatherings while dodging weight gain triggers. Stay consistent with eating schedules, choose lighter fare, increase your movement daily, snack strategically, and more to keep your goals on track. With awareness and planning as your health sentinels this season, you can harmoniously balance festivities and fitness. This year, get ready to emerge on January 1 just as vibrant, energized and lean as when the holidays began! You’ve got this.