Avoiding holiday weight gain may seem like a Christmas miracle, but with just a few simple and smart strategies in place, you really CAN avoid packing on the extra pounds this holiday season!
Don’t get me wrong, I believe the holidays should be celebrated. Everything–including holiday indulgences–can be enjoyed in moderation. But if you’re looking for some simple ways to manage the feasting season, food-focused parties, and hectic schedules, the following tips and tricks are for YOU!
Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain: Exercise Tips
- Move when you can. One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose weight is to engage in regular activity. And moving doesn’t just mean hitting the weights or getting a scheduled workout in. Make a conscious decision to get more steps into your day by taking the stairs or parking the car far away from the grocery store entrance. I’m not a fan of encouraging women to increase exercise in order to burn off those extra calories.F Food guilt and “paying” for what you eat can be a harmful mental and emotional habit, after all. But it is important to stick to your regular exercise routine as much as possible. Look for ways to move when you can. In addition to your regular weight training workouts (2-3 times per week), try these additional ways to get yourself moving:
- Add an extra walk or sprint session. 30 minutes a day, can easily be increased to 45 minutes. Increase sprints from once to twice a week.
- If you have a stationary bicycle or treadmill at home, listen to your favorite podcast or watch some Netflix while you do a leisurely walk or ride your bike.
- Go for a morning or evening walk with family or friends–bundle up and check out Christmas lights or take a walk in the mall before or after Christmas shopping!
- Find a partner. Research shows we are more likely to complete a workout and perform better when exercising with a partner. If you’re home for the holidays, call up a friend or family member for a workout date. Online accountability works wonders as well! Join the BeyondFit Life Club for support and motivation.
- Muscle matters. Finally, research also shows workouts that build muscle lead to to increased strength and balance. They also reduce risk of injury. BeyondFit Life Club workouts achieve all of these benefits while working multiple muscle groups at the same time. This means you can squeeze in an effective workout in a shorter amount of time and reap the benefits even after the workout is over. Any movement that promotes muscle gain will, over time, increase your metabolism and help your body burn more calories and fat even when you are at rest. Check out 5 Reasons You Need Total Body Workouts.
Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain: Nutrition Tips
- Deal with emotional eating. The holidays can be a stressful time. Many women fall into emotional eating patterns during times of stress, so manage your emotions and put strategies into place to help yourself become aware of if or how you turn to food to deal with your emotions. This proves especially important at parties where there’s always a ton of food on display. (Note: see some food freedom blogs here!)
- Eat before a party. Many women think that skipping breakfast or lunch in order to “save up” for indulgences later in the day is a good idea. But the truth is most studies show that this behavior actually leads to binging later on. Instead, focus on having a reasonably sized breakfast and lunch meals comprised of the 2 P’s (protein + produce). This strategy keeps you feeling fuller longer. Additionally it balances blood sugar and cravings, which makes it easier to avoid the urge to overeat at holiday parties.
- Slow down. Eating slowly proves a challenge for many women (especially moms who often eat on the run in between errands, carpool, etc.). It may not be easy with hectic holiday schedules or when you’re at a party where food seems to be endlessly available, but it’s important to pace yourself. When you think of food this holiday season, remember to PACE not RACE. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness. So slow down and take a second to savor each bite of your holiday favorites. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the signal that it’s full, so it’s also important to slow down and wait before grabbing a second helping.
- Focus on produce. Studies show that women who eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day exhibit less likelihood of weight gain. Focusing on produce is a great way to help fill up your stomach while keeping calorie intake minimal. Gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and many more nutrients and fiber than other holiday snacks. Stock your fridge with pre-cut vegetables and fruits. Fill your holiday party plate with produce first. You can even mix puréed veggies into baked goods or casseroles, or sneak them into other holiday dishes by swapping them for pasta or potatoes!
- Focus on protein. In addition to produce, protein can help maintain a healthy weight and help you avoid holiday weight gain. High-protein diets are associated with greater feelings of fullness, decreased cravings, and increased energy. Have one serving of protein at each meal!
- Watch sugar intake. While simple carbs (bread, cookies, cake, etc) do provide energy, they generally lack the nutrients, vitamins and minerals found in many complex carbohydrates (sweet potatoes, legumes, and whole grains). In general, your body breaks down simple carbs more quickly than complex carbs. This quick breakdown creates a spike in blood sugar (insulin) that leaves you feeling more hunger more quickly. Insulin spikes also lead to increased cravings and drops in energy. Rather than loading up on lots of sugar, focus on the 2 P’s (produce+protein) as mentioned above to balance hunger, energy and cravings. Finally, savor small tastes of the desserts you’re truly craving.
- Drink water. Drinking water helps you feel full. Many women think they’re hungry when, in fact, they’re just dehydrated. Drinking water also helps you consume fewer calories. Trade calorie and sugar-filled beverages for water or other calorie-free drinks such as unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee. Make it your goal to drink ½ your bodyweight in oz daily. Limit your alcohol intake to to one or two servings, and, when possible, restrict the type of alcohol you drink. For example, instead of high-fat and sugar-filled eggnog, enjoy a light beer or glass of wine. Not only does alcohol add extra calories, but drinking too much can cause you to lose your inhibitions around food and overeat in a way that you may not normally.
Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain: Some final tricks
- Prioritize sleep. If you’re a mom of little ones, there’s no stopping the early Christmas morning wake up routine. But at other times throughout the holidays, it’s important to prioritize sleep. Decreased sleep links to changes in appetite as well as weight gain and increased stress hormones. Getting enough rest and do what you can to sleep solidly each night. Find a few more sleep tips here!
- Manage stress. The holiday season is said to be full of cheer, but it can definitely be stressful with hectic schedules and trying to keep up with the hustle & bustle of the season. As many women know, increased stress leads to increased cortisol levels. As mentioned above, stress often triggers emotional eating. What you may not know, however, is that it’s also linked to cravings–especially for simple sugary carbohydrates. If family time (or being away from family during the holidays) has you feeling overwhelmed, try to reduce stress and balance cortisol as effectively as possible. Start by reading this post: Fix Your Fat Fighting Hormones Day 6: Cortisol.
- Say no politely. I’ll admit that proves very difficult. Many times we feel forced to eat foods to avoid being offensive or because people keep serving us seconds. I definitely encourage you to put your love for others above your desire to stick to a certain nutrition plan. But, when appropriate, it’s good to learn how to say no politely. Examples include saying things like: “No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious!” or “I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful.” Though your loved ones may encourage overeating by piling seconds onto your plate, it really is ok to respectfully decline. With practice you’ll find it easier to say no to that second serving without being offensive to the ones who so loving prepared the holiday feast.
- Use smaller plates. Over the years, plate sizes have expanded significantly. One tip to help with holiday portion control is to use a smaller plate. Studies show that your brain associates a big empty space on your plate with less food. If you use a smaller plate, it will fill up faster and signal fullness to your brain. So, salad plates (8-10 inches) rather than larger tray-like plates (12+ inches) can actually help you feel fuller even with less food on your plate!
The holidays mean celebrating with family and friends. Planning and implementing a few of the simple tips & tricks above to help avoid holiday weight can be done without sacrificing the joy that comes with the season!
The holidays can be hard in so many ways–keeping weight off during them is just the beginning! Find a supportive group of women who are working hard and supporting each other. The BeyondFit Life Club is not just for the holidays, but the whole year through!