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How to Avoid Weight Gain This Holiday Season

The holidays are a time when family friends and co-workers gather to enjoy each other’s company – and eat! Everywhere we turn there are indulgent meals, cookie exchanges, holiday parties and family gatherings that encourage overeating, sedentary behavior and the consumption of calorie-rich foods.

It’s no surprise that maintaining a healthy weight is a challenge during the holiday season! Holiday weight gain is a common concern for many adults. In fact, it is one of the biggest contributors to our total annual weight gain. If we gain an average of 1 pound each year and can’t lose it, it all adds up!

Study suggests you can control holiday weight gain

Is it inevitable? Are we destined to see a bigger number when we step on the scale in January?

A study published in The BMJ sought to find out. Researchers examined the effectiveness of a brief (four to eight week) behavioral intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period. The researchers randomized two hundred and seventy-two adults into one of two groups. The intervention group was given a behavioral intervention intended to increase their restraint of food and beverage consumption. The intervention involved three components: encouraging participants to regularly weigh themselves and record their weight; providing specific weight-management strategies; and providing information on how much physical activity would be needed to burn off the calories consumed in typical holiday foods and drinks. The control group received information on healthy living.

Results showed that the intervention group lost an average of 0.3 pounds, while the control group gained 0.8 pounds. This may not seem like much, but research shows that weight gains are not fully lost in the months following the holidays. Although the yearly gain is small, it can add up to an increase of 10 pounds over 10 years!

How much activity would it take to burn off this eggnog?

If you want to lose or maintain your weight during the holidays, it can be helpful to know the rough number of calories in your favorite indulgences and, in turn, how to tweak your gym sessions to balance things out. Calories aren’t the only important nutritional factor in a food, but they do matter.

Understanding how much physical activity it would take to burn off calories, and possibly considering that information when making choices about what to eat, also played a role in preventing weight gain. In the study, the researchers provided the intervention group with a chart that showed the approximate amount of activity it would take to burn the calories found in a given number of festive foods. For example, you would need to spend about forty minutes walking to burn all the calories in plain eggnog; one hour for spiked. It would take approximately eight minutes of walking or four minutes of running to burn off the calories in five tablespoons of gravy.

Here are a few strategies to help you keep your weight in check with- out foregoing your holiday traditions.

  • Mark all of the holiday events you’ll be attending on your calendar so that you’ll remember to plan ahead. If the meal is not at your home, eat lighter the day of the event to make up for the extra calories you will consume at the party. This will help you avoid overindulging later.
  • If you struggle with tasting while cooking, try chewing sugar-free gum while preparing the meal, or have a small snack before you start cooking. After the meal, send leftovers home with family and friends.
  • Weigh yourself regularly. Stepping on the scale once or twice a week during the holiday season can help keep your weight in check. If you see things moving in the wrong direction you can take action before significant weight gain sets in. Bring a healthy dish to share with others. Holiday parties can be a common setback in the battle against holiday weight gain. In these instances, you often have little or no control over the food that’s served. The good news is, you can have control over what you eat.
  • Get plenty of rest. Sleep deprivation, which is quite common during the holidays, can contribute to weight gain. This is because those who do not sleep enough tend to be hungrier, consume more calories and exercise less.
  • Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol can increase your appetite and lower your resolve to resist overeating. Many holiday drinks have as many or more calories than a dessert.
  • Stay active with family and friends. Sedentary activities, such as sitting on the couch and watching TV, are common holiday traditions for many families. When this is accompanied by the consumption of excessive amounts of food it’s a recipe for disaster. Make sure you set aside time each day to do seasonal activities the whole family can enjoy even if it is only for twenty minutes.
  • Learn to manage stress. Stress associated with the holidays can be a huge trigger for people with little or no self-control. Make sure you set aside some time each day for activities that help you relax.
  • The workplace can be hazardous around the holidays; holiday lunches and office parties can make it difficult for even the most health-conscious employee to make smart choices. Try to choose lower-calorie items when you are able and move holiday cookies and candy to a high-traffic area.
  • Start new holiday traditions that don’t revolve around food. Attend a holiday concert, or take a drive or walk to see holiday lights. Catch up with a friend over a yoga or Zumba class instead of meeting for a peppermint mocha latte.

In Conclusion:

Let’s end this article with an important reminder. There’s no need to feel guilty about eating holiday foods. Food is meant to be enjoyed, especially this time of year!

Preventing weight gain over the holidays can be a challenge, but it is possible! You just need to have a plan, stay focused and keep moving.

Keep your eating to the holiday, not to the holiday season. Wishing you peace, joy, and good health always. Good luck to you.

Jennifer Nastasi Guzelak
I have been a personal trainer for over seventeen years and I absolutely love what I do. I honestly feel that I have one of the best jobs out there! The most rewarding part of my profession is helping one of my clients succeed at reaching their personal fitness goals. Making a difference in someone’s life makes it all worthwhile. I am currently certified by the National Sports Conditioning Association, Apex Fitness Group, and the International Sports Science Association.