Holiday weight gain is a common concern for many adults. Various seasonal holidays may encourage overeating, sedentary behavior, and consumption of calorie-rich foods.
The Christmas holidays may be one of the biggest contributors to your total annual weight gain but holiday weight gain is not inevitable.
Here are tips to help you avoid weight gain during the holiday season:
Be active with family and friends
Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch watching TV, are common holiday traditions for many families. Inactivity may contribute to weight gain, especially if accompanied by overeating. Doing some type of physical activity with your family may prove beneficial for weight control. Even something as simple as a family walk can get your mind off food and allow you to bond with your loved ones. You can also stay active during the holidays by signing up for a workplace or community fitness event.
During the holiday season, unhealthy snacks like cookies and other goodies tend to be available for you to take as you please. When treats are easy to access, you are more likely to snack unnecessarily.
At home, this problem can be solved by keeping treats out of sight. However, that strategy is more difficult to avoid in situations that you cannot control, such as at your family party. Try to be mindful of your snacking habits. If you find yourself munching just because there’s food around and not because you are hungry, it’s best to avoid snacking altogether.
However, if you are hungry and need a snack, opt for real foods. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are filling snacks that don’t contain added sugars or unhealthy fats both of which can lead to weight gain.
Watch your portion sizes
When the holidays arrive, it can be easy to overload your plate. Those who eat larger portions tend to gain weight more easily than those who don’t. The best way to overcome this is to control portion sizes or use smaller plates. To determine an appropriate portion size, read food labels and the recommended serving sizes listed on recipes. If you can’t do either, use your best judgment to fill your plate with a reasonable amount of food.
Planning ahead can go a long way towards preventing holiday weight gain. If you have parties on the calendar, ask what foods will be served or bring your own dish. Decide what and how much you will eat ahead of time. It can also be helpful to gather a list of healthy holiday recipes so that you don’t run out of ideas when you need to cook for your family.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep deprivation, which is quite common during the holidays, may cause weight gain. This is because those who do not sleep enough tend to be hungrier, consume more calories, and exercise less. Sleep restriction may increase your hunger hormone levels, ultimately leading to higher calorie intake.
Additionally, inadequate sleep has been linked to lower metabolism. This may be caused by alterations in your circadian rhythm — a biological clock that regulates many of your bodily functions.
Control your stress levels
Keeping up with the demands of the holidays can be stressful. Stressed individuals commonly have high levels of cortisol, a hormone that’s released in response to stress. Chronically high cortisol levels may cause weight gain, as they have been linked to greater food intake. Additionally, a stressful lifestyle may cause more cravings for junk food. For these reasons, it’s important to keep stress levels under control in general but especially during the holidays, when you might be busy and surrounded by unhealthy foods. Plenty of techniques can help you reduce stress. Some options include exercise, meditation, yoga, and deep breathing.
Keep meals balanced with protein
Holiday meals are typically rich in carbohydrates but low in protein. However, it’s important to include some protein with every meal, as it promotes fullness and may be useful for weight maintenance. In fact, eating protein with meals may automatically reduce calorie intake by reducing hunger and appetite. Protein is also beneficial for weight control because it increases your metabolism and levels of appetite-reducing hormones. Good sources of protein include meat, poultry, fish, and some plant foods like beans and quinoa.
Cut back on taste-testing
Many people spend a lot of time cooking and baking during the holiday season.
Unsurprisingly, this can lead to weight gain because it’s easy to taste-test your dishes. Even small bites of holiday dishes can add up in calories. Tasting your dishes can be important, especially if you are cooking for others but a tiny bite is probably more than enough. You should also make sure that you aren’t hungry while cooking, as it’s much easier to go overboard on taste-testing when your stomach is growling.
Limit your dessert intake
Dessert is everywhere during the holiday season. This often leads to excessive sugar consumption, a common cause of weight gain. Instead of eating every treat in sight, just focus on your favorites and ditch the rest. 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.
Limit liquid calories
During the holidays, alcohol, soda, and other calorie-rich beverages are prevalent. These drinks can contribute a significant amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, which can cause weight gain. Additionally, alcohol consumption is often linked to increased appetite and is a risk factor for weight gain. If you are trying to control your weight, it’s best to limit your intake of high-calorie beverages.
Weigh yourself regularly
Stepping on the scale regularly during the holidays can remind you of your weight goals, allowing you to take action before significant weight gain sets in. Studies suggest that people who weigh themselves regularly maintain or lose weight better than those who don’t weigh themselves. Find a routine that works best for you. Some find it beneficial to check their weight daily, while others prefer once or twice a week.
Avoid processed foods
Processed holiday foods are more available than ever. While they are quick and easy to prepare, these foods often contain excess sugar and unhealthy fats that take a toll on your weight. To prevent weight gain, opt for whole foods and cook your meals from scratch. That way, you can monitor your diet and stay on top of your weight.
Draw the line
During the holiday season, many people have an “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality, which can end up prolonging unhealthy habits. If you are serious about controlling your weight, it may be helpful to draw the line, set limits for yourself, and stick to your goals regarding food intake. It’s okay to say no to certain foods and habits that don’t align with your goals.
It’s also important to be aware that you might have a slip-up or two. People often abandon their goals after this happens. However, it’s best to simply move on and make a healthier choice the next time you eat.