The holidays are fast approaching! They are a time when family and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company — and eat! Indulgent meals, bountiful buffets, cookie swaps, holiday parties… it’s no surprise that maintaining a healthy weight can present even more challenges during the holidays than throughout the rest of the year. Covid restrictions last year may encourage you to indulge twofold. But don’t let that pent-up need for celebrating sabotage your healthy eating and lead to weight gain. Surprisingly, average weight gain is only about a pound during the holidays. Unfortunately, most don’t lose that pound and continue to enter each subsequent holiday season heavier than the last. Fortunately, there are many strategies to avoid those unwanted pounds.
For Weight Maintenance Change your mindset
Think weight maintenance rather than weight loss. More diets are sabotaged during the holiday season than any other time. Give yourself a gift and let yourself maintain your weight rather than struggling to lose it.
Limit the Risk of temptation.
While you won’t be able to control all temptations or situations you can focus on the ones you can. Where do you keep all those holiday candies and cookies? Are they in high traffic areas such as the kitchen or on your desk at work? Make a note to store them in less accessible areas. If you make holiday goodies, keep some for yourself and your family and gift the rest.
Eat a healthy breakfast.
Studies show people who eat breakfast wind up eating fewer calories throughout the day. Breakfast revs up your metabolism and gets your brain fired up to tackle the tasks of the day.
Snack before parties.
Don’t go to gatherings hungry. Grab a snack full of protein and fruits or vegetables. Boosting your protein intake with lean meats, skinless poultry, low-fat dairy, seafood, and beans will keep you feeling satisfied longer. And the fruits or vegetables will add fiber and a nutrient rich boost. Try carrots and hummus, peanut butter and apple slices or low-fat cottage cheese.
Plate your food.
When you arrive at a party don’t immediately head for the buffet table and start grazing. Focus first on socializing and then grab a plate. Eating from a plate rather than mindlessly snacking helps you keep tabs on what you eat and the amount.
Studies show feeling hungry may actually just be a sign of dehydration. Drinking water can help you feel full as well. To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of fluids (plain old water is best) and eat foods high in water content such as fruits and vegetables.
Liquid calories can add up quickly. And consuming too much lessens impulse control which can lead to overeating. To keep calories at bay, limit how much alcohol you drink. Cut a drink’s sugar content by pouring half alcohol and half club soda or tonic water.
Get some sleep.
People who skimp on sleep may experience increases in the hormone ghrelin (associated with hunger) and decreases in the hormone leptin (which triggers feelings of fullness), affecting food choices the following day. That may explain why high-quality sleep is correlated with better weight maintenance.
Last but not least don’t let your exercise routine take a backseat during the holidays. Exercise is essential to keeping the weight off. And experts agree that exercise is essential in helping you cope with stress. Further, getting regular activity can actually give you more energy to tackle that long holiday “to-do” list. If you just can’t get to the gym, keep in mind that something is better than nothing. Do whatever you can to squeeze in 10-minute intervals of activity throughout the day.
Don’t beat yourself up if you indulge in your favorite goodies. Enjoying and treating yourself is part of what the holidays are all about. Tomorrow is another day — and another chance to focus on healthy behaviors.
Erika Niedernhofer, Registered Dietitian
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