Between all the family dinners, holiday parties and special events, the 5 or so weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are prime time for holiday weight gain.
Surprisingly, most people gain only about a pound during the holiday season, which doesn’t sound like much but it can take until summer to shed the weight, a September 2016 study in The New England Journal of Medicine found.
What’s more, with all those kids’ birthday parties, other holidays, dinners with friends, and date nights with your spouse and it’s easy to see how many of us pack on the pounds.
I, for one, have a serious sweet tooth and consider myself an emotional eater, so if there are desserts in the house, I’m going to eat them.
Although I eat healthy and I’m in great shape, it takes only one heavy meal or extra dessert for me to gain weight.
As I stare down the season of sweets and holiday spreads, I’m determined not to pack on the pounds. That’s not to say I’m not going to enjoy myself—I’m Italian-American after all—but there are some strategies I’ll be using to avoid holiday weight gain.
1. Avoid bringing holiday treats home
When you walk into any grocery store, convenience story or big box store during the holidays, you know how tempting all the decadent desserts, perfectly packaged cookies and holiday-themed treats can be.
There are aisles upon aisles of eggnog, red and green confections and peppermint-flavored everything.
Maybe you tell yourself you’ll buy them for teachers’ gifts or to put in your kids’ stockings, but once you get them home, you find yourself halfway through the package in minutes flat.
I’ve found myself doing this too and I’m not going to fall into that trap again this year.
Although I anticipate my kids will beg me for sweets, I won’t be bringing them into my home.
2. Hit the gym first thing in the morning.
I already exercise 5 to 6 days a week but a holiday party or staying up late to scour Amazon for gifts could easily derail my normal workout routine.
Still, I know that hitting the gym first thing in the morning lowers my cortisol level, burns off adrenaline and sets the tone for the day.
Plus, when I leave BODYCOMBAT feeling like a rock star, I know I’m more likely to make healthy food choices throughout the day.
In fact, science backs it up.
According to an October 2012 study in the journal Medicine and Science In Sports and Exercise, women who exercise in the morning for 45 minutes are less motivated by food and are more active overall.
3. Avoid late night snacking
I’ve been trying my best to curb the night snacking for quite awhile, but with several holiday dinners already on the schedule, I’m determined to keep up the habit to prevent packing on the pounds.
4. Fill up on vegetables
Vegetables, particularly the green leafy types, are low in calories, high in fiber and take up space in your stomach which promotes satiety and prevents overeating.
When I’m at home, I’ll be sure to fill up my plate 50 percent worth of green leafy vegetables like salad, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.
5. Be a picky eater
When there are passed hors d’oeuvres or a buffet dinner at a holiday party, I tend to have a little bit of everything until my plate is way too full.
This season, I’m going to head into the holiday parties with a new mindset.
I’ll take stock of what’s being offered and then choose 1 or 2 foods I really love, I won’t eat any other time during the year or those I have never tried.
6. Send leftovers packing
Leftover vegetables are always great to have on hand, but I don’t want to things like stuffing, potatoes, and desserts in my house tempting me after the holidays.
Since we’ll be hosting all of the holidays this year, I’m asking my guests to bring to-go containers so they can take home the leftovers.
7. Drink plenty of water
With the busyness of the holiday season, it’s easy to forget to drink enough water. Not only can dehydration often be mistaken for hunger, but drinking water before a meal can prevent overeating.
To prevent holiday weight gain this season, I’m going to make it a point to drink plenty of water throughout the day and definitely before a holiday party.
8. Eat mindfully
Emotional eating and mindless eating go hand in hand, and often times the stress of the holidays leads me to overeat.
If I’m sitting at the dinner table after we’ve eaten and the food is still there, I often find myself going for seconds.
To curb mindless eating, I’ve been reading Dr. Susan Albers’ books. Implementing her tips such as eating slowly, putting my fork down in between bites and accessing whether I’m really hungry or just want another taste has really helped.
9. Eat before holiday parties
If you know there will be a large spread of food at the event, it might seem like a good idea to skip meals or starve yourself beforehand, but that can backfire and cause you to overeat.
This can be tough especially if dinner is served at 3pm, when you’re not hungry for dinner but will be extremely hungry if your last meal was breakfast.
When this is the case, I’ll continue to eat the same meals and at the same time, although I may cut back on my portions.
Or if there will be several hours between lunch and dinner for example, I’ll have a small snack like carrots and hummus or a handful of almonds, before I leave.
10. Get plenty of sleep
When I stay up too late doing something meaningful (writing this blog) or time-sucking and frivolous (scrolling through my Facebook feed), it completely throws me off the next day.
My workout suffers and because I’m tired, I’m much more likely to snack, even on healthy foods like fruit and nuts.
I’m also not a very happy mother or wife to be around.
Although there will probably be some late nights that will be unavoidable, my goal is to get to bed on time and clock at least 8 hours of shut-eye.