So it’s that time of year again. The time where comfort food and cookies are plentiful. How many holiday parties are on your calendar? So we can’t forget about the cocktails. This makes maintaining a healthy lifestyle particularly hard as the temptation to indulge and gorge is always around.
Let’s talk statistics. It has been reported that the average person gains between 5-10 lbs from Thanksgiving to the New Year. This number somewhat exaggerated because there are no studies that support this claim. Fortunately, the number of pounds gained is actually slightly lower, around 1-2 lbs for the average person. However, the problem becomes that most don’t actually lose this weight. Over the years, these extra pound or two add up and ten years later you could be carrying an extra 10-20 lbs (now this might not all be a result of the holidays, but it certainly contributes to it). The news is a little worse if you are overweight or obese. One study found that a percentage of the overweight and obese subjects gained 5 lbs on average from Thanksgiving to the New Year.
So how can you stay on track throughout the holiday season? It starts with a change to your mindset. Go into the holidays with the expectation to not gain weight as opposed to losing weight. It’s a slight change to your approach but it will do wonders for your confidence, stress level and allow you to actually enjoy your holidays.
Here are six action based tips, things you can actually do, to get you through your next holiday party/gathering without gaining weight. And by the way, these tips are coming from someone that’s been there before. Read about my weight loss story here and here.
Action #1. Move you body every single day. No exceptions. If you’re accustomed to your regular exercise routine, do your best to stick with it! I tell every class I teach during December that the gym is still open this month. Make your fitness a priority even when your life gets hectic. This is especially important on days you know you’ll be attending a holiday party and eating/drinking things you don’t normally eat. On the days you’ve stretched yourself too thin and you can’t manage a workout, just move your body somehow. Find ways to add activity as even small bouts add up. Park further away (sometimes you have no choice with how crowded the mall is right now). Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Stand instead of sit. Take a walk. Anything, just move.
Action #2. Follow a sensible eating pattern prior to your holiday party/family gathering. In other words, don’t skip breakfast and/or lunch in order to save space for more food. This just sets you up for overindulgence. Also, consider eating a healthful snack or small meal prior to going to your party. Pick something that is low in calories yet high in volume. Possibly a small salad with lean protein. Or a piece of fruit with a cheese stick.
Action #3. Survey the food table. Identify those offerings that are your absolute favorite. The 2- 3 food items that your holiday wouldn’t be complete without. Take a portion that’s equivalent to 3-4 normal sized bites. Enjoy them without guilt and fill the rest of your plate with sensible choices (assuming they are available). When in doubt, go for the vegetables.
Action #4. Slim your cocktail. Most holiday cocktails are full of calorie dense mixers and/or specialty liquors; egg nog, Baileys Irish Cream to name a few. Find ways to cut calories by eliminating or modifying your drink. Eliminating is easy (in theory 🙂 ). Have one of the high calorie drinks and then stick to water the rest of the night. Modify by choosing lower calorie mixers like seltzer water or diet soda. Can’t party without a glass of wine in your hand? Order a wine spritzer. It’s bubbly and the calories from the wine are diluted with seltzer water. Or alternate cocktail, then water for the entire evening.
Action #5. Stay away from the food pusher and plate police. Every family has them and they are likely the host or hostess that is so incredibly proud of the meal they’ve prepared that they will make sure everyone tries everything there is to offer. Discretely take a seat that’s furthest from this person to avoid unwanted food showing up on your plate and feeling obligated to eat something you don’t want to.
Action #6. Make the party about the people and not the food. Don’t park yourself near the food table as that’s just setting you up to graze. Fill your mouth with words instead of food. Strike up a conversation with someone new at your work’s holiday party or visit with your cousin you hardly get to see. And when you do eat, eat mindfully. Eat until you’re full and not stuffed.
And in the end, if you do overindulge one day out the year, it’s not the end of the world. It’s important to allow yourself to enjoy the holidays and eating good food is apart of the joy. So eat (sensibly), drink (an occasional cocktail) and be merry!