Oh the holidays! Tis the season of endless Christmas baking and chocolate covered everything. At this point, you’ve probably already surpassed your share of shortbread cookies or even stole a piece or two from your gingerbread house. We all know those extra holiday pounds are knocking on our doorsteps.
How common is it for someone to gain weight over the holidays? It may not be as high as people perceive. The fact is, the media may over exaggerate this phenomenon as a recent study shows that the “average American” actually only gains 1 lb over the holidays. Needless to say, if this 1 lb is gained year after year, it can have an impact on someone’s health.
To answer your question before you ask it, yes, even “Mr. Health Nut” indulges in Christmas goodies. I’ve had a lot of people ask me as a Health and Fitness Professional how I cope with all the Christmas calories. Well, I’m sorry to disappoint you but we trainers aren’t as perfect as we may seem. The reality is that we’re not superheroes and we are victims of the “holiday binge” too. Let’s be real! If a client gives us Christmas baking as a gift, we’re not just going to throw it out the window… They are too yummy to let them go! However, we do have a few tricks up our sleeves that may help reduce or prevent the extra weight gain.
Here are my top 10 tips that can help you stay on track during the busy holiday times and avoid those nasty lbs.
- Drink plenty of water.
When the body is dehydrated it sends similar signals to the brain as when we are hungry. Therefore, hunger is often mistaken for dehydration. Drinking more water during the day can help reduce the amount of calories you eat. Being properly hydrated has many benefits such as reducing fatigue and increasing your immune system. Aim to drink 8-12 cups of water and try having water before and during big meals.
- Eat before going out.
I am sure you’ve all heard that you shouldn’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach. Well the same advice should be used when going to an event where food will be on hand. Eating a healthy meal prior to the event will reduce your urges to pig out and snack on all those treats.
- Eat protein and lots of veggies.
Research shows that eating quality protein sources at each meal makes you feel fuller for longer periods of time. This means less calories in. Veggies are full of vitamins and minerals that won’t be in that Christmas baking, so keep them coming.
- Use smaller plates and eat slower.
You’d be just as lucky to be hit by lightning as seeing someone with an empty plate at a buffet. This may seem a little obvious but is surprisingly very effective. The smaller your plate is, the less you can put on it! Try using the smallest plate. That way your mountain of food won’t be as big as your neighbors.
Slowing your eating time can also result in less calorie consumption. It takes the body an average of 20 minutes to realize that it is full. Thus when you slow down your eating, you may save yourself from having seconds. For starters, try putting your fork down between bites and socialize with others since we’ve all been taught not to talk with our mouths full!
- Watch out for alcohol.
Alcohol is the holiday’s secret weapon. Many people don’t realize how many calories are in alcoholic beverages and the calories add up fast if you binge drink! Alcohol also affects our thinking process, leading you to feel less guilty and more likely to eat that extra dessert. Now I’m not telling you not to drink! Even I enjoy a rum and eggnog or coffee and baileys in the morning! However, if you do decide to drink, try to pace yourself. Have a few, just not 20! For lower calorie intake, stick to clear alcohols and beverages such as vodka waters or gin and tonics!
- Out of sight, out of mind.
It is only human nature to eat as much as possible when food is in abundance. Try to separate yourself from the room that has all the food. If you don’t visually see the food, you will be less tempted to eat it! If you’re stuck socializing beside the table, try to place yourself so you can’t reach it without having to move. You will be less likely to give into temptation if you have to weasel your way to the table.
- Keep moving.
Trying to keep yourself active during the holidays will go a long way in your quest to avoid inches to your waist. Obviously, the holidays are a busy time of year so no expects you to stay on track with your exercise regime. That being said, even if you can’t keep up with your routine, take advantage of free time whether it be 1 hour or 15 minutes. Small bouts of intense exercise throughout the day can be just as effective as long bouts of moderate intensity. After all, a little exercise is better than no exercise!
- Eat last.
Ever look at a restaurant menu, notice a picture of a delicious burger and then crave it? Yet, when you receive the dish, it doesn’t look nearly as appetizing and then you regret your decision? The brain functions in funny ways and can be easily manipulated. Try placing yourself at the end of the buffet line. The people ahead of you will have picked through all the fresh dishes making them less appetizing as they once were. This is psychology 101. You’ll notice that you may no longer want to sample every dish!
- Share the leftovers.
If you’re hosting a holiday party, nine times out of ten, your guest will bring some kind of appetizer or snack out of courtesy. It is also proper etiquette for them to leave the leftovers as a way of saying thanks. Now, if you’re trying not stuff yourself over the holidays, this could be a problem. Even the willpower of Bruce Wayne wouldn’t be able to resist the urge to snack on those leftovers over time. The solution is simple. Make sure to share the leftovers with everyone and have guests take back what they brought.
- Indulge but don’t binge.
Now, it is the holidays after all and we know that you’ve been faithful with your healthy lifestyle all year. So why not indulge a bit and enjoy some of the delicious foods the holidays has to offer? Yet, don’t become the cookie monster and eat everything in sight. Focus on your favorite guilty pleasures and leave the “not so” tasty treats to the others. This will prevent you from pulling your hair out and leave you at peace with your inner demons.
So there you have it! 10 simple tips that can help you avoid those nasty holiday pounds.
Happy holidays and till next time,
Paul Bissonnette B. Kin, CEP, CSCS, FMSC, Pn1
- Berardi, J., & Andrews, R. (2015). The Essentials of Sport and Exercise Nutrition Certification Manual (Second ed.). Precision Nutrition Inc.
- Yanovski, J., Yanovski, S., Sovik, K., Nguyen, T., O’Neil, P., & Sebring, N. (2000). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weigght Gain. National Institue of Health, 342(12), 861-867.