It’s hard to believe that the holidays are basically here! Chances are, the invitations to cocktail parties, happy hours, friendsgivings, and work events, are already pouring in. You may have been doing really well with your healthy eating and exercise regimen all summer and fall, and you may be concerned about those dreaded holiday pounds. While you may hear that average weight gain over the holidays is 5-10 pounds, there haven’t actually been any studies to show this is true. Most studies have shown weight gain of 1-2 pounds. The trouble, however, is that it’s difficult to shed those pounds after the holidays, especially as we age and our metabolisms slow down.
But don’t worry. I am here to help. Sustaining a healthy lifestyle may seem daunting with cocktails, desserts, and treats constantly coming your way, but maintaining your routine and staying consistent can help keep you on track.
Here are 8 of my favorite tips to help you keep that holiday weight gain at bay.
1. Get up and get moving.
If there were ever a time to stick to your exercise schedule, the holiday season is it! Building or maintaining muscle will help prevent unwanted weight gain. Pro tip: Schedule your workouts like you would a social event and make it non-negotiable. It may help to find a workout buddy to hold you accountable. Since many of your engagements may be in the evening, it may be a good time to get your workouts in first thing in the morning; that way you have no excuse to skip it later.
2. Eat your plants first.
Don’t let your vegetable intake fall by the wayside. Aim to consume at least 3-4 servings of non-starchy vegetables per day. Not only will this aid in digestion, but it also ensures that you are continuing to get a healthy dose of vitamins and minerals in each day. Pro tip: Start each meal with a salad or veggie soup, leaving less room in your stomach for those less nutritious treats.
3. Drink “clean”.
Sugary holiday cocktails are often calorie bombs, especially if you are having more than one. Not to mention, the more you booze, the more likely you are to wake up craving a bacon, egg and cheese. Pro tip: Stick to clear liquors mixed with club soda and fresh lime/lemon or wine. Make sure to stay hydrated by consuming at least 1-2 glasses of water between each one.
4. Don’t wait for the New Year.
Every meal is an opportunity to make an empowered and healthy decision. Just because you might have had one piece of pie at your Thanksgiving dinner, does not mean you are derailed for the rest of the holiday season. Treat each meal like it’s a Monday morning; an opportunity to start fresh and make a healthy choice. Pro tip: For the meals you can control, stick to plant-based, vegetable forward dishes, allowing for wiggle room for those treats.
5. Stress less.
The holidays can be hectic, but on the days you have off, try to build in some self care and relaxation. Perhaps it’s treating yourself to a massage or your favorite yoga class. It’s easy to put others ahead of yourself around this time, but don’t forget you can’t be fully there for others, unless you are taking care of yourself. Pro tip: Practice mindfulness while spending time with friends and family and be sure to carve out some alone time.
6. Do a gut check.
Healthy digestion is important for nutrient absorption and overall health. You might experience bloating, discomfort, or changes in your digestion if you’re drinking more frequently and/or eating more indulgently. It’s a good time to make sure that you’re staying hydrated and getting in those probiotics. Pro tip: Consume at least one probiotic-rich food per day (yogurt, kefir, miso, fermented or pickled vegetables, kombucha) to promote regularity and reduce bloating.
7. Eat before you go.
Don’t try to skip meals during the day so you can eat more later. In fact, have a healthy snack (veggies + hummus, fruit + nut butter) before you head to your holiday party so you are less likely to find yourself hanging by the chip and dip table and overeating. Pro tip: Make sure your pre-party snack contains fiber, protein, + healthy fats.
8. Most importantly, indulge consciously.
Don’t forget to have fun! The holidays, after all, are meant to be a joyful and happy time with friends and family; not a time for guilt, deprivation, or stress. Pro tip: If you find yourself at a holiday dinner, pick one of your favorite treats, close your eyes, chew slowly, and enjoy each bite, guilt free.
What are your favorite ways to stay healthy during the holidays?
Yanovski JA, Yanovski SZ, Sovik KN, et al. A prospective study of holiday weight gain. N Engl J Med. 2000; 342:861-867.
By Reena Panjwani, M.S., R.D. - Expert Dietician