By Adam Pounds, EIM Owner
The holiday season may have arrived, but that doesn’t mean you have to kiss your weight goals goodbye. Yes, I know, treats and seasonal drinks are in abundance, and it may seem hard not to over-indulge, but with the right mindset, you can stay on track right through the New Year!
With these tips and tricks, you can still savor the season without gaining the Festive Fifteen.
My Best Tips to Get Through the Holidays without Gaining Weight
Tip #1 Stay Active with Family and Friends
It is all too easy to become more sedentary during the holiday season. Between the sun setting in the early evening and icy-cold weather, your couch may be calling your name after a long workday. Resist the urge to migrate from your desk to your couch and take some time to get moving instead.
Some ideas to stay active: take a brisk walk around the neighborhood to check out the holiday lights, play a quick game of basketball, or throw the ball to your dog before you kick back and relax on the couch. A little bit of physical activity outdoors with friends or loved ones is a great way to get your heart rate up and boost your mood.
Tip #2 Control Your Portion Size
Overloading your plate with carb-heavy casseroles and decadent desserts is part of the holiday experience, right? Wrong! If you learn to control your portion size, you’ll stay satisfied without missing out on your favorite holiday treats.
One way to eat less is to use a smaller plate. Smaller plates give the illusion of more food without the extra calories. Give this trick a try and see if you feel satisfied rather than stuffed.
Tip #3 Snack Healthily
With neighbors and friends exchanging delicious treats throughout the season, it can be easy to snack on a few too many treats throughout the day.
Avoid the temptation by keeping treats out of sight at home. While this may be easy, it is often more difficult to avoid treats at the workplace.
Keep hunger at bay by always having a healthy snack option around. Whole fruits and vegetables or even nuts and seeds will always be a better alternative to delicious, but not nearly as nutritious, baked goods.
Tip #4 Be Mindful When Eating
With our already busy schedules on overdrive during the holiday season, we tend to be in a rush, often causing us to multitask during meals. Try to minimize distractions during meals.
Chew slowly—this helps your brain recognize the signals that your body is full, and you’ll consume fewer calories as a result.
Tip #5 Control Your Stress Levels
The holidays can certainly be a stressful time. With so much activity, you may find it hard to relax. Stressed individuals commonly have higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol is the stress hormone that can contribute to greater food intake and, ultimately, weight gain. People with higher levels of cortisol eat more and sleep less.
Try to carve out time each day to relax and unwind. Exercise, meditation, yoga and deep breathing are great practices you can do daily to help reduce your stress during the holidays.
Tip #6 Get Plenty of Sleep
A lesser-known common cause of holiday weight gain is sleep deprivation. With parties and activities at their peak, it’s easy to stay out more and sleep less. Lack of sleep makes us hungrier, increases hormone levels, and ultimately leads to a higher caloric intake.
Try to get your eight hours, your body will thank you.
Tip #7 Base Your Meals Around Protein Sources
Holiday meals are typically rich in carbohydrates but low in protein, but protein is an essential macronutrient to include in each meal. Protein works to keep your body feeling fuller for longer, which is key in maintaining a healthy weight. It is also the last macronutrient that stores as fat within the body.
Aim to consume four to eight ounces of protein each meal, such as meat, poultry, fish, beans and legumes.
Tip #8 Focus on Fiber
Fiber is your friend during the festive season. Fiber can help you curb sweet cravings so you can maintain your weight. It keeps you full, normalizes bowel movements, helps control blood sugar levels, keeps your metabolism regular and much more.
Get your daily fiber intake from vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
Tip #9 Limit Dessert Intake
An increase in the amount of desserts we eat during the holidays is the most common cause of weight gain. Limiting your dessert intake is crucial for you to reach or maintain your weight goals during the festive season. Excessive sugar consumption is easy to achieve when treats and candies are seemingly everywhere you turn.
Instead of eating every treat in sight, focus on your favorites and ditch the rest. Savor the desserts you indulge in by taking the time to eat them slowly. This will leave you more satisfied and less likely to over consume.
Tip #10 Cut Back on Taste Testing
Many of us spend a lot of time cooking and baking during the holiday season. Whether you’re cooking a meal for your family or baking treats for friends, it’s easy to taste test too much, leading to weight gain. Even the tiniest of bites add up in calories!
My advice is to never cook on an empty stomach. It’s easier to go overboard with the taste testing when your stomach is growling.
Tip #11 Limit Liquid Consumption
During the holidays, alcohol, soda, punch, eggnog, and other festive drinks are flowing at parties and gatherings. Alcohol is linked to an increase in appetite, and festive cocktails tend to pack a lot of sugar. It’s especially easy to overindulge when you are enjoying your time with family and friends.
If you want to control your weight during the season, do your best to limit your intake.
Tip #12 Avoid Processed Foods
Boxed mashed potatoes, premade stuffing and canned cranberry sauce may seem like no-brainers when cooking for a large crowd. However, these processed foods contain unnecessary sugar and unhealthy fats, taking a toll on your weight management.
If you can, try to cook meals with whole foods, and less casseroles. Preparing dishes with just one or two ingredients is a good swap for heavy casseroles. Instead of green bean casserole, try sautéed French green beans, or rosemary roasted potatoes instead of boxed mashed potatoes. Pinterest is a great resource for healthy holiday recipes.
Tip #13 Modify Your Recipes
High-calorie homemade goods are a primary cause of weight gain during the holidays, but they don’t have to be. There are healthier options of most of our favorite sweet treats.
When baking, consider replacing:
- Butter with applesauce or pumpkin puree
- Sugar with a low or no calorie substitute like stevia or monk fruit
- Chocolate chips or candy with dried fruit
- Butter or margarine with herbs and spices
- Cream cheese with sour cream and Greek yogurt
- Heavy cream with low fat or skim milk
- Frying with baking or grilling
You don’t need to implement all of these changes, but playing around and modifying your favorite recipes can be a fun and healthy way to enjoy more of the treats you love.
Tip #14 Plan Ahead
If you are heading to a party where you know the healthy options will be limited, offer to bring your own healthy dish or snack. This guarantees you will have at least one nutritious option that aligns with your goals. If you can’t bring something, try to plan what and how much you will eat before you arrive at the event.
Tip #15 Skip Seconds
Holiday meals are often served buffet style, with several options to choose from in unlimited amounts.
Try to limit yourself to just one plate. Fill up on the healthy items you enjoy but allow yourself to savor your favorite sweet or savory treat.
Just as with any other time of year, it’s important to get plenty of exercise during the festive season. But at the same time, it’s more important than ever to limit your intake of sweets, draw the line, and set limits for yourself. Remember, it’s ok to say no to foods that don’t align with your weight goals.
If you’re diligent, you may even find that you lose weight during the celebratory season. And that’s one less New Year’s Resolution on your list.