Brace yourselves, it’s the holidays again, and with all the parties and celebrations, there will be food, drinks and more food. In fact, 51% of yearly weight gain in Americans happens during the 6-week holiday period.
Popular belief is that people expect to gain 5 to 10 pounds over the holidays, and research suggests that if you’re already overweight, the strikes are against you. One study followed 195 adults from September through March, finding that the average weight gain was approximately 1 lb (0.37 kg).
However, in adults that were already overweight or obese weight gain was greater, with 14% averaging a weight gain of 5 lbs. The same was found to be true for elementary-aged children. Those overweight or obese prior to the holidays were most at risk for gaining weight during the holidays.
The good news is you can prep yourself for all the food with these healthy tips to maintain your weight and avoid the holiday waist bulge.
8 Steps to Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain:
- Get that body moving! One of the most effective ways to maintain weight is to exercise. Whether it’s the treadmill, the stationary bike or the spin class, your cardio exercise should last at least 30 minutes three times a week. Bump this up during the holiday season to 45 min to 1 hour to make up for the extra calories.
- Prep-Snack. Pack your refrigerator with whole fruits and ready-to-go bags of cut-up vegetables. The fiber in these foods fills you up quickly, and having the grab bags makes it easy to run and go in the morning. When temptation arises, reach for your sweet fruit snack, instead.
- Keep temptation away. Tempting cookies and treats will be everywhere during the holidays, but they shouldn’t be within easy reach. They pack on a ton of calories, with little nutrition. Keep them away from your desk or kitchen. However, if you feel the urge, allow yourself one small serving of a holiday candy or goody when the desire arises to keep you from feeling deprived, which can lead to overindulging.
- Beware of the bread basket effect. When attending holiday parties, expect the bread and hors d’oeuvres to be among the most fattening items on the menu. Bread converts to a simple sugar, which leads to weight gain around the waist. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. Eat a healthy snack, such as a fruit, low-fat yoghurt or a handful of nuts before the party, so you don’t arrive hungry. This way you’ll be able to make better choices, skipping the less healthy options. The WebMD Food-o-meter a great is a great tool for helping you calculate how many calories you have eaten.
- The One Rule = one plate or one bite. When at a holiday party, limit those items that seem to be the richest, creamiest and most tempting to one bite or one spoonful. When it comes to the dinner plate, limit to one plate, not allowing the food to touch the corners of the plate. Don’t gulp down the food, but savor and enjoy all the flavors and textures as you chew it slowly. Eating slowly will allow time for your brain to sense that you are full.
- Watch the tap. I’m talking about beer and cocktails here. Alcohol is full of empty calories that have a particular affection for the belly fat. Remember, beer will bloat, and liquor will make you bigger. For a lower calorie beverage, try a wine spritzer with club soda.
- Hydrate. If you are well-hydrated, you will feel less hungry. The body often confuses dehydration for hunger. Make sure you’re getting at least eight 8 ounce glasses of water daily, but drink even more water if you consume dehydrating beverages, such as coffee, tea or alcohol. If you’re still hungry while eating, check in with your daily water consumption and make sure it has been enough.
- Focus on being social. The holidays are all about conversation and connecting with family, friends and peers. Focusing your energies on being in the calorie-free moment will keep you from focusing only on the calorie-dense food. Make it as much about the gathering as it is about sharing food together.
When all else fails, you can always make up for it in the New Year with a Doctor-supervised Weight Loss Program or Detox to set your body back to where it was before the holidays. Most people do not lose the weight they put on over the holidays, packing on weight year after year, so getting a head start right after the holidays is the best way to prevent the seemingly inevitable inches.
-  Branscum P, et al. An Evaluation of Holiday Weight Gain Among Elementary-aged Children. The University of Cincinnati, Health Promotion and Education. J Clin Med Res. 2010 Aug 18;2(4):167-71.