The holiday season is in full force, so between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, my goal for you is to avoid holiday weight gain and start the New Year at your pre-holiday weight. Here’s how to do that.
Holiday celebrations in my household always include food and drinks. The whole time spent seems to be centered on food: planning, coordinating, preparing, and eating. With items like turkey, stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato pie, no wonder people are thrilled to enjoy this time of year.
I’m guessing that seems pretty familiar to a lot of you too. So how do you maintain weight during the holidays and avoid holiday weight gain? Here are a few key things to remember with my top 10 holiday weight management tips for weight maintenance and weight loss.
Average Weight Gain During the Holidays
So you may be wondering how much weight people actually gain during the holidays. Well according to the National Institutes of Health, this average weight gain is 1-2 pounds. And while that may not seem like a lot, this accounts for the whole US and is an average.
So there are people who are normal weight and can really see this difference in their waist, and people who are overweight or obese who could be gaining much more.
Holiday Weight Gain vs. Weight Maintenance vs. Weight Loss
Now, the question is: is it realistic to continue trying to lose weight during this time? This time of the year means that you have not only family gatherings but work gatherings, potlucks, and happy hours. You name it. I often have five holiday parties scheduled within a week. So how on earth can you manage your weight loss with all of the goodies around?
What I tell my clients in my office is, during this time, your goal should be maintaining your weight. If January 5th comes and you are at the same weight, you have succeeded! And if you weigh even less than you did before, even more power to you.
However, it’s important to know that you shouldn’t stress too much about your weight loss. This is the most wonderful time of the year and the time to relax with friends and family. The key is to be aware of some simple habits you can focus on during this time, and have a goal to prevent any holiday weight gain. Starting the new year at the same weight you were before the holidays is a big success!
10 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Here are my recommendations on how to keep your weight steady this holiday season, with more about each one below.
- Don’t save up your calories for a party.
- Eat a snack an hour before you go to a party.
- Don’t stand by the table of food during socializing.
- Set a limit for the number of drinks you’ll have.
- Treat the day or event like any other day.
- Bring a healthy version of your favorite dish.
- Fill up on veggies.
- Use the two-bite rule.
- Leave the leftovers with the host.
- Don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
1. Don’t Save Up Your Calories for a Party
Do not save up your calories for the party. Actually, have your normal day with breakfast, lunch, and snack. Remember, your hunger hormone ghrelin will act up during the holiday party if you wait too long to eat and you’ll likely end up with ten mushroom quiches in your mouth.
This is probably one of the most important tips for the holidays. Breakfast drives your entire day of eating by controlling your appetite and sugar cravings throughout the day. This should be a solid meal that includes carbohydrates and protein, and big enough to last 3-4 hours until your next meal. Your breakfast can include different foods such as scrambled eggs, toast, and fruit or oatmeal with fruit, nuts, and seeds with a hard-boiled egg.
This is the time to think light and consume a small meal. Think of your favorite meat or vegetarian meat and mix it with greens like roasted chicken breast with a mixed green salad or throw garbanzo beans into your favorite salad.
2. Eat a Snack an Hour Before You Go to a Party
Holiday parties are for socializing at the end of the day. Don’t expect to go there to eat your dinner. So, kill your hunger by eating something an hour before you go. It’s important not to think this will add more calories. Yes, initially you’ll be consuming more, but in the long run this will ensure you won’t binge on foods that are probably much less healthful.
Here are some recommendations:
- 2 cups of vegetable soup
- Fruit and Greek yogurt
- Hard-boiled egg and an apple
3. Don’t Stand By the Table of Food During Socializing
Don’t stand by the table of food during your socializing. Serve yourself a plate and move away. If you camp there, you may be putting things on your plate or in your mouth while you chat without being mindful of how much you’re eating.
4. Set a Limit for the Number of Drinks You’ll Have
Cocktails, cocktails, cocktails. Go with a plan in mind and set a number of how many drinks you’re going to have. Remember, you can fake it with seltzer or soda water if you need a drink in your hand for social reasons.
5. Treat the Day or Event Like Any Other Day
Keep all of this in mind as you navigate through the corporate Christmas parties and family potlucks. One part of living a healthy life is taking care of yourself, and this is definitely what the holidays are all about!
Treat the day or event like every other day and eat just 1 plate of food at the meal. I pick my favorite items and enjoy those most (I love mashed potatoes & stuffing). However, I know that I can get those items any day of the year, so I only eat an allocated portion and don’t stuff myself to the point of no return.
6. Bring a Healthy Version of Your Favorite Dish
Bring a healthy version of your favorite foods to the event. There are many alternative recipes out there to change a high-fat/high-calorie dish without compromising flavor.
7. Fill Up on Veggies!
Fill up on those veggies! I still make sure to fill half my plate with non-starchy vegetables (this does not include potatoes and yams) and to munch on the crudités platter when available.
8. Use the Two-Bite Rule
I love sampling and tasting all dishes at an event. In order to not go overboard and eat too much of the rich, buttery/oily/cheesy dishes, I follow the 2-bite rule. Put about 2 small bites of the exquisite dish on your plate. Only fill 1 plate of food. And take your time to eat those items and truly savor the flavor.
9. Leave the Leftovers with the Host
Leave the leftovers behind or send them along with the guests if you are hosting. This is the simplest, easiest way to not have tempting pies, cakes, and dishes lying around all week long.
10. Don’t Put Too Much Pressure on Yourself
With all of these things considered, one of the most important tips I can share is to not put too much stress or pressure on yourself. We’re all human, and will want to enjoy indulgent treats every once in a while – especially during the holidays. Remind yourself that you’re doing a great job, and try to enjoy the holidays as best you can.
Remember that the holidays are meant to be enjoyed with the company you keep (along with the food, of course). Spend quality time with your loved ones and have a safe, happy, and delicious holiday season!If you want a bit of extra guidance during the holidays beyond these holiday weight management tips, or want to hold yourself accountable in the New Year, explore my weight loss program.