Is holiday weight gain a myth?

holiday weight gainYou may have heard the statistic that the average American gains 5 to 10 pounds over the holiday season. The truth is that we actually gain closer to 1 pound between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, according to an often-cited article in the New England Journal of Medicine.

While this is great news, there is still cause for some concern. The problem is that we are more likely to keep that 1 extra pound of weight, which means we are slowly adding weight over the years.

It is also much harder to stick to our healthy eating and exercise routines during the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years. I know I find myself eating more and exercising less. I am busy shopping for gifts, planning parties, preparing for guests, cooking, cleaning – the list goes on. Then, I am stressed by the to-do list and possibly even losing out on much-needed sleep.

If we only indulged on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, we would probably avoid any weight gain. However, there are many parties and events to attend with more fattening foods. We eat on the go while shopping and running errands. Our exercise routines are pushed to the back-burner to get everything else done.

Here are some tips to help you avoid weight gain during the holidays:

Plan to maintain your current weight
The holiday season is probably not the best time to try to lose weight. It is a reasonable goal to simply plan to maintain your current weight. You can still indulge in small amounts of your favorite goodies at holiday events and parties. Then, keep to your usual eating habits during the rest of the season.

Make it a point to exercise
It is definitely more difficult to stick to your exercise routine with back-to-back holiday parties and family gatherings. So, start a new holiday tradition. Encourage friends and family to take a group walk after dinner. You can admire the fall leaves at Thanksgiving, or make a game of judging the neighbors’ light displays at Christmas. For the more adventurous, you can challenge the kids to a game of tag or hide-n-go-seek. They will be thrilled, and you will all make wonderful holiday memories.

Think about your feelings
For many of us, the holidays can be emotionally trying and can stir up old memories. You may have had unpleasant holiday experiences in the past. Or, you may be missing loved ones who are no longer with you. If you recognize that your feelings and emotions could lead you to overeat, you can be prepared to change this habit. You can start a tradition of everyone telling a happy or funny story from past holidays. You can also take a moment to remember loved ones.

Eat more slowly
By eating more slowly, you can enjoy the company and conversation of those around, and you are more likely to notice that feeling you get when you’re full. In addition, if everyone else is done eating, you are less likely to have the urge to go get more food.

Grab a smaller plate
It may seem silly, but if you use a smaller plate you are less likely to eat too much. First, you will have less room to load up your plate. And, if you go back for seconds, you typically don’t fill your plate as full as the first time. So, in the long run, you will end up eating less.

Just say no
You can say no to the food pushers. My mom is the culprit at our house. It makes her happy to see everyone eat. I know she has spent countless hours in the kitchen preparing the food. So, when she says, “Here, try this,” or “Have some more, there’s plenty of food left,” I feel obligated to eat it. You can say no. Just say you are too full to eat any more right now, but you will try it later. Or, offer to take some food home.

You can maintain your weight during the holidays and enjoy the great food. You will also feel good when you stick to your healthy eating habits. Do you have any tips for staying on track during the holiday season? We would love to hear from you!

For more information about balancing healthy eating, exercise, stress, sleep and good habits – even during the holidays, check out the book A Completely Balanced Life.

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