By Michelle Sugar, PhD
There’s nothing better than getting together with family and friends over the holidays and sharing a big meal and a few drinks. Unfortunately, the seemingly endless string of dinners and parties can wreak havoc on your waistline. Studies show that the average person can gain approximately five to seven pounds during the holidays. Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2016 recorded the daily weight change of almost 3,000 participants from three different countries for one year. The results showed that every participant experienced weight gain within ten days after Christmas, and that half of this weight increase could remain until the summer months.
Although the holiday season may be brief, the extra food you eat and the extended relaxation time both have the potential to affect your healthy lifestyle and fitness goals in the long-term. Following these simple tips will help you beat the holiday bulge and make sure you stay on track.
Eat Normally During The Day
It is a common misstep to limit your food intake during the day because you know you’re going to have a big dinner. This is a mistake, though, because when you finally get to dinner, you’ll be so hungry that you become ravenous and eat anything in sight without really thinking about it. Don’t skip breakfast and have a filling and healthy lunch to avoid overeating at night.
Bring Something You Made With You
This is a great idea because it not only allows you to contribute something and help the host out, but it also guarantees that you’ll have at least one healthy alternative to the other dishes that are available. Showing up with something you prepared at home is a great way to keep you within your daily calorie and macro goals because you know exactly what’s in it, so you can track it and make sure that it isn’t full of extra calories from things like cheese, butter, or sugar.
Avoid Eating More Than You Would Otherwise
Don’t feel like you have to try every single dish at the dinner table (even though you might be tempted to). If you do, then you will end up eating way more than you normally would have. Remember that portion control is everything and you don’t have to try every single dish that is available. Also, try to avoid the common mistake of piling food onto your plate until there is absolutely no more space left. Take a little bit of each food group and then, if you are still hungry (which you probably won’t be), go back for more. Just remember, on any other day, you wouldn’t normally be eating three servings of dinner, so try to bring the healthy eating habits you have during the rest of the year with you to your holiday dinner or party.
Don’t Skip Dessert
Yes, you read that right. There’s nothing better than holiday cookies, cakes, and pies. You can still enjoy these things, but just do so in moderation. Grab a sliver of cake, one or two small cookies, or a bit of something else you find appealing, just don’t go crazy. Also, pass on additional toppings, like whipped cream and chocolate sauce, because they’re unnecessary and will simply add extra sugar and calories.
Pass On The Leftovers
If the host asks you to take some leftovers home with you, politely say no. This will help you avoid overeating again the next day and ensure that there are no lingering temptations calling to you from inside your fridge.
Limit Your Alcohol Intake
Alcohol can contribute to weight gain just as much as gravy-smothered mashed potatoes and unlimited cookies and slices of cake. The best things to keep in mind for alcohol consumption are quantity and type. Try to have only one or two small glasses of low-calorie, low-sugar alcoholic beverages. Skip the boozy eggnog and peppermint coffee and have a glass of white wine or vodka soda instead. Sip slow to make your drinks last longer so you don’t need to go back for more. After your drink is gone, stick to water or a calorie-free drink.
This one might seem somewhat obvious, but it really is important. On the day of your Christmas gathering, hit the gym and do a mix of cardio and weights to blast calories and help your body keep burning throughout the day. The next day, get to the gym again to offset any extra calories you may have consumed the night before.
This tip isn’t just for the holidays, but for all year-round. If you find yourself overindulging and eating more than you should, don’t just simply say “f&^$ it” and continue overeating because you feel like you have already sabotaged your goals anyway. The holidays are to be enjoyed and it is okay to treat yourself, so if you fall off the horse, don’t continue to be dragged behind it. Just dust yourself off, don’t beat yourself up for falling, and get back on it again.