Beat the Bulge - Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Have you seen the statistics? Some fear-mongering reports project a weight gain of 7-10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. That is absolutely crazy! In reality, the average is more like 1-2 pounds.

Not that big of a deal.

Or is it?

The problem is that those pounds tend to hang around all year. They don’t disappear come January. So we tend to pack on 1-2 pounds a year – every year. You can see where this is headed.

Weight gain over time

But, there is no need to freak out. There are plenty of strategies that you – yes you! – can implement to help ward off weight gain during the holidays. Here are a few of my favorites to keep in mind.

Treat the holidays as a treat.

This means that not every day between Halloween and New Years Day is a reason to indulge. Think about it – this season lasts for 2 months! You can’t just write off 15% of the year as “oh well, it’s the holidays”. Look at what events and parties you have - and make those your treat days. Getting dessert or an extra cocktail on a random Tuesday because 'tis the season? Not ok! 

Enjoy the moment.

Many of us get so excited about our favorite holiday and comfort foods, that we have our whole plate consumed before we even realize we started eating. Stop for a minute. Use all your senses. Savor your meal. Enjoy every last bite. But also enjoy good conversation and laughing with people you love.

[Because let’s be honest - that conversation or laughter might only last a few minutes before things get flung across the room - be it food or dirty looks. When you have those sweet moments, make sure you notice!]

Calm the caffeine.

Or at least the specialty drinks. I get it. There’s a reason that pumpkin spice lattes and the peppermint mochas are so popular. I'm not saying never. I'm just saying be picky, and enjoy it when you get it. Try a small version with less flavored syrup, and consider it dessert not breakfast. Or make your own, like this homemade pumpkin spice latte or SHAPE magazine’s list of "skinny" versions of hot beverages.

Prioritize the healthy stuff.

Be sure to drink plenty of water, continue to fill half of your plate with fruits and veggies, and get your lean protein in. Many of the flavors of the holidays are based on fruits and vegetables. You can still enjoy the flavors of the season without all the calories. It might be pumpkin in soup form, not pie. And sweet potatoes don't need marshmallows on them. Try them roasted, instead. What about an alternative to that heavy green bean casserole? Got you covered. After you've gotten your nutrients in, move on to the treats.

Stick to your favorites.

We all have those things that DEFINE holidays for us, and those things that we eat because it’s tradition (not because we enjoy it). Don’t blindly go down the buffet line, filling your plate mindlessly. Enjoy your favorite items, but enjoy them in small portions. After all, if you've already had the nutritious stuff (see above), you don't have room to splurge on everything else!

Keep it moving!

With more events, and more on your to do list, it will get harder to get in your workout. So you might have to get creative. Google and Pinterest have resources a-plenty on Tabata and HIIT workouts - no equipment required. Find creative ways to keep your activity level up by parking at the back of the parking lot, taking the stairs, etc.

Competitive family? Challenge them to the turkey trot. More low-key? Encourage a family walk before or after dinner. My husband’s family always enjoys a game of touch football, which involves even the youngest and oldest members of the family. 

Start over.

Every meal is a chance to re-set. Every meal can be "Monday morning". Don't dwell on those moments that you overdid it. Don't skip meals to compensate. But do aim to get the most nutritional bang for your buck, and keep the meal on the lighter side.

What else? What are your tips or tricks to a healthier holiday season?

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Katie Goldberg

Katie Goldberg, MCN, RDN, LDN, has been a registered dietitian since 2013, but has always had a passion for good food and a healthy lifestyle. Katie earned her Master’s of Clinical Nutrition from the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and has worked in private practice, higher education, in a clinical setting, and as an in-house dietitian for a food company. Whether it's at through large groups or one-on-one, Katie enjoys connecting people with easy and practical solutions for better health.