Welcome to the holiday season! We are currently in it’s full swing.
Media outlets would have us believe the average person gains 5 to 10 pounds over the holidays which then have to be battled off in the new year.
Science tells us this does not have to be a self-fulfilling prophecy. In fact, most adults only gain an average of one-half to one pound of body weight between the six weeks from mid-November to January.
That’s not so terrible.
The problem is, according to this study about holiday weight gain, once the decorations are put away, this extra pound will likely still be with you when the season rolls around again next year. Year after year, this adds up. According to the study conclusions, this pound likely contributes “to the increase in body weight that frequently occurs during adulthood.”
Fabulous parties, extravagant desserts, less time for exercise, and oppressive stress all contribute to that extra pound but you can keep it away without crimping your holiday style. Not starting a pound heavier this time next year seems worth the effort, don’t you think?
There are ways to keep control while all those around you are loosening their waistbands. It doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. It just takes a little prioritizing, planning and tenacity. Here are some tips for avoiding that extra pound this year:
Don’t say “I’ll start tomorrow.”
It gives you permission to overeat today and if tomorrow you say the same thing, you’ll never reach your goal. You will encounter the celebratory indulgence cycle again and again so learn how to navigate it now. It’s up to you to decide to end a cycle of unhealthy eating habits and lack of exercise. It’s all about priorities. You have to power. If you are serious about controlling your weight, set goals, create a plan, and say no to foods or activities that don’t align with those goals.
Don’t wait for January 1st. Start now.
If you slip up, don’t give up.
It’s okay to let go of your goal for a meal and indulge in foods that aren’t normally on your list. It’s not okay to do it meal after meal for 6 weeks. Same thing with exercise. Skipping one workout is not a big deal. Not exercising at all between November and January is another story. In fact, a better approach is to incorporate these “slips” into your goal plan making them not “slips” at all.
If your normal plan is to hit the gym Friday night but this week you have a holiday party, that’s fine. Skip the workout but adjust your plan. You might have to wake up Saturday morning to exercise instead. Try to stay consistent. If it’s important, you will find a way to make it work.
Plan your diet “slips”.
As you plan what you’re willing to give in to on occasion for your diet – be very picky about what is worth the calories. Inhaling a bag of Doritos because it’s within arm’s reach and you’re stressed because you have last minute gifts to buy: not worth the calories. There is no joy here. A company holiday party that ends with a warm piece of chocolate lava cake that delights to the last swipe of ganache on the plate: totally worthwhile.
What is worth the indulgence is up to you. Make a rule for yourself. My personal rule is this: if it’s not chocolate, it’s not worth the calories. I can turn down a buttercream frosted vanilla cupcake without blinking an eye. It might be your kryptonite.
Pick your poison. Figure out what is your worthwhile indulgence, create a rule around it and stick to it. If gingerbread cookies don’t make the cut, don’t pick one up at the family gathering and eat it just because it’s there. Once you’ve planned to indulge and kryptonite is on your fork, eat it slowly and with no guilt: Savor. Every. Last. Bite.
Don’t bank your calories.
Make steady meals part of your plan. Skipping all your meals so you can stuff yourself at the party that night likely means you will go completely off the rails and sabotage your goals. And it’s not fair to your metabolism. Showing up to an event starving sends discipline running for the doors. Life got busy and you didn’t plan on arriving with an empty stomach? Have a glass of water to take the edge off before you dive in.
Don’t let food be the focus.
Parties aren’t just about food. Focus on the other benefits in front of you like connecting with friends in conversation, enjoying your family’s company (during a long walk after dinner maybe?) or if the music is good, dancing off a few of those extra calories you’ve consumed.
Mind your liquids.
Limit your liquid calories and watch your alcohol intake. Soda, egg nog, rich hot chocolate are all calorie dense beverages that can seriously up your calorie count. Alcohol too is a calories dense item that can also lead to reduced inhibitions around food consumption.
Feel conspicuous with a drink? No problem! Go to the bar and order a club soda with a splash of cranberry juice and a lime in a cocktail or champagne glass. No one will be the wiser and with one less hand free, it might cut down on how many of those little quiches end up in your mouth.
Get back on track.
If despite all your attempts, someone flipped your switch to full consumption and you went ham anyway, keep in mind, that does not make you a bad person and trying to lose or maintain your weight is not pointless. One “bad” meal or missed workout is not the end of the world. It is an opportunity to eat 2 good meals or go hit the gym.
Your body doesn’t know last night was New Year’s Eve. All it knows is you shoved an unusually large amount of fat, sugar and alcohol into it and sat on the couch. Help your body process this. If you do go off the deep end, take the day after to move your body, hydrate it and get back to its normal intake levels. Flip your switch back to normal and carry on. Keep it in perspective and let go of the guilt. If you are conscientious about exercising and what you put in your body the rest of the time, one night in full consumption mode will not result in ten extra pounds on your frame.
Holiday weight gain is not inevitable. You can choose to lose weight this holiday season.
It’s all about priorities: plan ahead, make good choices and don’t let bad choices derail your focus.
You can do this.
Never give up.