How to fight holiday weight gain
The sounds of the holiday season: jingle bells, carolers…and buttons popping off your pants!
For many, the holiday season is synonymous with holiday weight gain. From work parties to family gatherings, the season is not only ripe with good tidings and cheer, but extra pounds. It doesn’t have to be! Here are a few tips that will keep you from having to make a New Years resolution of “Lose all of the weight I just gained over the past month.”
Holiday weight gain is not inevitable
Yes, rule number one is to actually keep eating. There is no greater sabotage for holiday weight gain than to restrict food throughout the day so you can indulge at an event. If you starve yourself all day, you are likely to fill up on the first food you can get your hands on – which usually isn’t a healthy option. Eating three meals a day that are filled with vegetables, whole grains and protein will help you from devouring the entire buffet the moment you walk into the party.
After sticking to a normal eating routine throughout the day, you’ll want to make smart food and drink choices at your event. Focus on proteins to fill you up, crudités to help with noshing, and be aware of mindless eating. Do you just love chocolate mousse? Great, identify if it as your indulgence and enjoy it! Just don’t fill up on stale cookies and handfuls of M&Ms first.
As for libations? Again, your choices count. Although nothing sounds more seasonal than eggnog and spiced rum, these drinks pack more calorie punch than more traditional options of beer and wine. It’s also always a good bet to match each glass of alcohol with a glass of water. Not only will this help reduce calories, it helps keep you hydrated, which reduces your chances of a hangover the next day.
Eating wisely during the holiday season is key, because research consistently shows that consuming wisely is more important to staving off weight gain than is upping physical activity. So does this mean you can just scrap your regular workout? No, it does not, and that brings us to our next piece of advice:
If you don’t own a scale, buy yourself an early holiday present. While it may not be the most glamorous gift, studies consistently show that people who weigh themselves regularly are more successful at both weight loss and maintenance. Although many people shudder at the idea of weighing themselves during the holiday season, stepping on the scale weekly can be a literal system of checks and balances. It is much easier to take off two pounds that it is to take off eight. Can’t decide what day to step on the scale? Try Wednesday. Most people weigh the least midweek and tend to gain on the weekends.
Don’t turn into a couch potato
This may be shocking, but a marathon of holiday movies on television doesn’t actually count as a marathon.
Sticking to your workout routine is a key element off fighting off holiday weight gain. Having a hard time making it to the gym between work and your nighttime events? Try getting to the gym before your workday starts. Exercising first thing in the morning not only guarantees that you won’t skip out on the gym later in the day, but also helps enforce healthy behaviors. Research has shown that 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous exercise in the morning actually reduces a person’s motivation for food the rest of the day.
And if you can’t fit in a workout at the gym, at the very least, park in the farthest spot from the mall, take the stairs instead of the elevator, or start a good, old-fashioned game of flag football in your backyard.
Remember what this season is truly about
Whether you celebrate Christmas, Hanukah, or simply enjoy marveling at the twinkling holiday decorations, the spirit of the season should not be focused on solely on food, but people. Savoring friends and family as much as you do pumpkin pie can help save your waistline and fill you with memories that can be far more satisfying that a bite of food.
Dr. Alexandra Sowa is a practicing internist in New York City and a Clinical Instructor in Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College. She has a passion for preventive health, specializing in nutrition and obesity medicine.