Holiday weight gain is a common concern for many adults and can only add to those January blues if your jeans are left feeling a bit tight. Whether you’re meeting it excitedly or begrudgingly we’re on the run up to the seasonal holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas are around the corner and these holidays often go hand in hand with overeating, sedentary behaviour, and consumption of calorie-rich foods and drinks. In fact, between mid-November and mid-January, adults in Western societies gain an average of 1 pound.
This might not seem like a lot, but it’s extra baggage to lose, a further step back from your goals and it is also usually enabled by eating the foods that can make you feel bloated, oily, sluggish and even heavier than your weight. But holiday weight gain is not inevitable.
Here are tips to help you avoid weight gain during the holiday season.
1. Be active with your family and friends.
Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch watching TV, are common holiday traditions for many families.
Inactivity contributes to weight gain, especially if it is accompanied by overeating. Does anyone else have the quality street at their feet while watching Christmas special number 6?
Instead 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. So how about stopping at Christmas special number 3 and offering to take the kids/dog/Mrs out for a walk? Not only will it get you moving but it may also have the added benefit of making you a bit more popular if you’re getting yourself and others out from under everyones feet for half an hour! And no, we don’t just mean walk to the pub for one.
2. Snack Wisely and mindfully.
During the holiday season, unhealthy snacks like chocolates and crackers tend to be on tap.
When treats are easy to access, you’re more likely to snack unnecessarily. In your own home, this problem can be solved by keeping treats out of sight and by buying smaller packs. However, that strategy is more difficult to avoid if you’re at a work or family party. In these situations try to be actively mindful of your snacking habits. Don’t hover by the buffet table to chat, it’ll leave you snacking mindlessly while you catch up and you won’t realise how much you’re eating. Before going make sure you eat a healthy meal so you don’t fall on the buffet table hungrily and fill yourself on the bad foods. Not going to the snack table hungrily will also mean you will eat more slowly and notice when you are full better, eating fast and not paying attention is a recipe for overeating. By all means you can still enjoy picking bits, but there’s no need to use calorific snacks as meals. Paying attention to what you’re eating rather than doing it mindlessly can make a difference.
3. Watch your portion sizes.
When the holidays arrive, it can be easy to overload your plate. Use smaller portion sizes or if you’re someone that loves to overload their plate consider using smaller plates. To determine appropriate portion sizes have a read of the label or give it a quick google, it will soon also have the added benefit of making you aware of what’s in the product. Sometimes realising the levels of salt, sugar and similar in these festive products can sometimes make big portions of them seem less appealing! You can 100% still enjoy your favourite festive sides and foods, you just don’t have to over do them.
4. 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. Pause that late night Christmas film instead wake up to finish it in the morning, that’s always a good way to start the day during the holiday period! Being overtired can leave you reaching for the sugary foods for an energy boost, or rich comfort foods and certainly no-one feels like being active when they’re overtired.
5. Keep meals balanced with protein and focus on veggies.
Holiday meals are typically rich in carbs and fats but low in protein. It's important to include some protein with every meal, as it promotes fullness and is 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. Your veggies are also the greatest contributor to your fibre intake. fibre is another important nutrient that induces fullness. Some studies show that increased dietary fibre can reduce total calorie intake, which may help prevent weight gain over the holidays. Unfortunately, many common holiday foods lack adequate amounts of fibre, so do your best and reach for extra portions of your roasted Christmas veggies. We suggest putting the appropriate size portion of protein on your plate, then opting for a moderate sized portion of the high carb/high fat foods and then eating your veggie based sides until you’re full!
6. Limit your dessert intake.
Dessert is everywhere during the holiday season, pumpkin pie, Christmas pudding, cookies, chocolates, Yule log, the list of classic treats is endless. But unfortunately consuming too much of our favourites can lead to excessive sugar consumption, a common cause of weight gain. Instead of eating every treat in sight, just focus on your one or two favourites and ditch the rest. Really savour your favourites too, take your time and eat them slowly. This may leave you feeling more satisfied and less likely to over do it. If you’re someone who is still likely to over do it even though they have tried the above, consider logging what you’re eating. It’ll soon make you aware of when enough is enough when you realise what you’re consuming in vast quantities.
7. Get ahead of the game.
Whether you’re worried about your weight, focussing on a specific fitness goal, or if you know you’re prone to festive over indulgence consider getting ahead of the game and preparing for that. To compensate you could add another training session a week, or do a gym class every weekend in the run up to Christmas, or plan to have one or two of your meals as a less calorific option, or you could also get yourself onto a programme like Shreddin8. Whatever suits you best there are lots of different options to prepare or motivate you in avoiding that festive weight gain. It’s not inevitable, you can still reach your goals and enjoy Christmas! It will just involve an easy bit of pre thought and planning.