Most people think the average American gains about 5 pounds over the holidays. In actuality, most of us gain an average of 1 pound (5 pounds for overweight people) between Thanksgiving Day and New Year’s Day.1 The problem is, we fail to lose that 1 pound of holiday weight gain, which adds up to many excess pounds over the years.
Why Do So Many of Us Gain Weight over the Holidays?
When you think about it, the holidays really boil down to just three days: Thanksgiving, Christmas (or Chanukah), and New Year’s. If you gorge only on those three days, you probably wouldn’t cause too much damage. However, many of us take on that holiday mentality of six weeks of nonstop feasting and putting our regular exercise routine on the back burner. Plus, let’s face it, this time of year is very hectic and stress filled—many commitments compete for our precious time. So start now to strategize how you’ll move yourself to the top of your Christmas gift list by making you and your fitness and healthy eating habits a priority.
Five Tips for Fending Off Holiday Weight Gain
1. Get off the “I’m on a diet” mindset. Now is no time to diet—in fact, a wonderful goal for the next six weeks is to simply maintain your current body weight so that the number on the scale reads the same on New Year’s Day as it does on Thanksgiving. You can accomplish this by allowing yourself (and planning ahead for) indulging in small amounts of your favorite holiday treats. But be sure to make sensible eating choices the rest of the time.
2.Exercise more to offset holiday overeating. Don’t let your shopping and party commitments squeeze out your workouts. Now more than ever is when you need to up your physical activity so that you can balance out the extra holiday splurges. If you have an exercise partner or a personal trainer, make a “contract”
3.Follow good eating guidelines: Eat breakfast, don’t skip meals, drink all your calorie-free liquid, and eat small, frequent, lighter meals at home. Carry healthy snacks like fruits and veggies and light yogurt, and never, ever arrive HUNGRY at an event where holiday treats are being served. These yummy delights are impossible to resist when one is famished. Before you go, appease your appetite with some light snacks such as whole-grain crackers and string cheese, veggies and hummus dip, or a glass of tomato juice. And don’t forget to bring your own “lighter” holiday makeover dish to the party.
4.Use only small plates and load up on salad first if you attend a buffet.
Take small tastes of the food and eat only what you love.
5.Limit alcohol consumption (liquid calories.)
Alcohol is highly caloric, plus it can sabotage your best laid plans by affecting your judgment. After a few drinks it’s much harder to refrain from eating all those rich gooey desserts. If you do drink, stick with the lighter choices: A 4-ounce wine or champagne weighs in at just 80 calories versus a 5-ounce cocktail, a heavy 300 calories. Try alternating an alcoholic drink with a sparkling water and lime.
The Gift of Health
Remember what the holidays are all about. Focus less on the food and drinks and more on celebrating the beauty of the season and the company of the people you love—your family and friends. Give yourself the gift of health this holiday season by sticking with your fitness routine and planning ahead to curb excessive overeating.
1. J. A. Yanovski et al., “A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain,” New England Journal of Medicine 342 (2000): 861–867.
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