So many people, clients, patients, co-workers over the years, have told me they’ve just given up trying to lose weight during the holidays – that food-festival parties, get-togethers, celebrations and general mayhem that spans the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.
What is about holidays that cause weight gain? If you know the contributing factors, you can make a plan. Here’s what you’re likely to deal with until New Years:
• Workplace food court: The constant brigade of popcorn bins, chocolates, homemade cookies, cakes and sweets, all available all day long.
• Drinking: We love eggnog, but it’s the most calorie-laden drink of any year – about 330 calories in a cup. Over-boozing has calories, too – and leads to mindless eating.
• Stress-eating: time is short, obligations are long, stress triggers eating whatever is within arm’s reach!
• More fooding, less moving: whenever you need a little more time to get things done, it’s easy to borrow from your workouts and walks. It’s also just when you need to burn some extra calories. Ow.
• Happiness can be depressing! Everyone seems to be happy but you’re so-so. You’re not alone, either. It’s easy to think food is your BFF during the holidays, and it can be – if you choose the right friends.
You probably won’t gain much weight during the holidays! This review published last year found that average holiday weight gain in adults ranged from about 1-2 pounds in various studies, not the 5-7 pounds you may have heard about.
But what about you? If holiday weight gain has been YOUR typical, changing that is easier than you think. Take it on as a project and like every project, it needs a good plan. Plans may take some of the spontaneity out of eating, but you’re trading up – for peace of mind and body. That’s totally worth it.
Planning means that you start every day assessing the meals and eating occasions you’ll have and the foods you’re likely to encounter. What does the “no holiday weight gain” plan look like? Here are 10 strategies that put you on a path to enjoying holidays without weight gain:
1. Eat modestly, but don’t skip meals. You’ll just end up being hungry and over-scarfing.
2. Weave in some fiber: Aim for 3 pieces of fresh fruit daily. Aim for 2 cups of veggies, raw or cooked. Think you can’t? You can – fill up one of those plastic take-out soup containers with cut veggies and it’s two cups right there.
3. Discriminate! Is it a regular store-bought something-or-other that’s loaded with empty calories or is it really tasty? Hold out for something really special. You’re worth it.
4. Never arrive hungry to a party:Eat some raw veggies or a piece of fruit before going to a party or social function. When the edge is off hunger, your focus is on social fun.
5. Go pro: Lean protein keeps you feeling satisfied, and helps prevent blood glucose levels from spiking then plummeting later. About 100-150 calories invested in options like turkey roll-ups, beef jerky, fat-free Greek yogurt, even a fat-free latte will pay off later.
6. Get functional: it’s a social function, so keep the priority on socializing rather than eating.
7. Be the last man (or woman) standing…in line: Always be among the last ones in line for the food. It’ll look a little less appetizing (probably a good thing) and there’s less time to have second portions.
8. Get out of Dodge: Lingering to the end encourages more nibbling. Be social, sample what you want, then move along.
9. ONE – a singular sensation! When you see something you want, have it. But one portion. One is the magic number, not a lonely number. But read #10.
10. Get “hospital-sized”: Not to eat, just to look at portion sizes. When you’re thinking of a high-calorie food, whether it’s mac and cheese or the Buche de Noel pictured at the top, it’s one “hospital-sized” portion. Keep it there and enjoy it. There will be another treat another day.