Find out how you can prevent weight gain over the holiday season
Just as the temperatures are dropping, the holiday parties are heating up, which leads to a perfect storm of weight gain. In fact, studies have shown that many Americans gain 1 to 2 permanent pounds this time of year. Over time, that can lead to obesity—and no one wants to be mistaken for Santa.
While now is not the time to start a diet, it is time to focus on healthy eating habits and avoid missing work outs. Consider these tips to help you navigate your holiday season without packing on extra weight.
Avoid unwanted health problems
Overeating leads to weight gain, which in turn, leads to numerous health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and depression. If you already have health issues or have a family history of health issues, you need to be particularly vigilant this time of year.
It’s never too late to start practicing a healthy lifestyle. The benefits not only include lowering your risk for many chronic diseases, but you could improve your mood, boost your energy levels, and possibly increase your longevity.
Bad eating habits
Can you polish off a bag of chips while watching tv? Do you get the large popcorn and drink at the movie theater? Our bad eating habits often sabotage our health. The good news is that you can change the way you eat. The Centers for Disease Control recommends having a thoughtful approach to food:
- Reflect on both good and bad habits. Do you always eat your breakfast (good)? Do you drink soda (bad)?
- Replace your unhealthy habits. Try starting with replacing one soda with water, or consider adding more vegetables to your plate.
- Reinforce your new habits. Making changes is not easy and will not happen overnight—chances are many of your bad eating habits came from childhood. Give yourself the ability to make mistakes and take it one day at a time.
What if you aren’t one of those people who eats a bag of chips without thinking about it? We all have plenty of other bad habits that lead to weight gain.
- Do you get enough sleep? Sleep loss increases fat storage in your body.
- Have you ever gone to the grocery store hungry? Then you know how you end up buying more unhealthy items.
- Can you pass up that candy bowl at work or school?
- Do you know what a normal portion size is? If you’re filling up a large dinner plate, you’re probably overeating.
- “Fat free” is not “calorie free.”
- What type of condiments do you use? Mayonnaise has 100 calories per 1 tablespoon while mustard has zero. You may want to rethink how you build your next sandwich.
Holiday food survival guide
So now that you’re more aware of your eating habits, you need to brace yourself for the unique challenges of the holiday season. It is possible to enjoy the holidays without waking up from a food coma on January 2. Try using the following tips:
- Weigh yourself twice a week. If you keep a close eye on your weight, you’ll know when you need to back off the egg nog.
- Exercise in the morning. Women who work out in the morning tend to move more throughout the day, resist tempting food better, and have fewer cravings, according to a 2012 study published in the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise.
- Check out the buffet first. If you’re at a holiday party with a buffet, do a couple of laps before you fill your plate. Figure out what you really want and eat it in moderation. If you completely avoid the food you really want, you cost yourself extra calories when you eventually give into your cravings, which most of us do. But make sure your plate includes fruits and vegetables that will help fill you up on healthy foods and not just the junk foods.
- Don’t starve yourself before parties or large holiday dinners. You may think you’re saving up your daily calories to blow at the party. However, you will be so hungry, chances are you will make unhealthy choices. Again, use fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein to fill you up and stay on track with your healthy lifestyle.
- You can have dessert. If you have a healthy meal, you can indulge occasionally. Just keep the portion size small.
- No leftovers. If you happen to host a party, pack up doggie bags for your guests. If the tempting food isn’t there, you won’t eat it.
- Don’t stress out. Practice breathing techniques and try to keep calm and relax this holiday season. Those who are less stressed tend to keep the weight gain at bay.
Never miss a workout
Although what you eat may be the biggest determinant of weight gain, exercise can help as well. You get busy this time of year, the days are shorter, and the temperature is colder. It is easy to skip a workout or stop altogether this time of year.
Try to sneak in workouts whenever you can. If you make exercise part of your daily routine, you will have an easier time sticking with it. Here are some easy ways to incorporate exercise into your day:
- Try the buddy system. If you team up with a friend to go on walks, you will be less likely to skip it because you don’t want to let that friend down.
- Make commercials count. If you can’t give up tv, use the commercial breaks to get in a quick workout. Try planks, wall squats, push-ups, or crunches.
- Housework and yardwork are exercise. If you need to rake up leaves, shovel snow, or clean your house, you are making your body work. If you try shoveling snow, make sure you brush up on how to do it correctly, especially if you have not been physically active, as you could end up injuring yourself.
- Plan active get-togethers. Instead of going out for a meal with friends, plan to meet at a park, schedule a game of touch football, or go for a bike ride.
- Always take the stairs. Whether you’re at school or the mall, skip the escalators and elevators and start climbing.
- Just dance. It doesn’t matter what you do if you are moving your body. Even playing with young children will keep you active. We all tend to stick with exercise if it doesn’t feel like we’re doing it!
This holiday, give yourself the gift of health. You’ve worked hard all year to start a healthy lifestyle, don’t blow it over eating too much junk food. If you do have a bad night, just remember, New Year’s resolutions are right around the corner and you can start fresh. We wish you a happy and healthy holiday season!
This post is part of The Salter School’s weekly blog where we provide lifestyle tips because we are committed to helping our students. If you are interested in our career training programs, please explore our options, request information, schedule a tour, or call a career advisor at our Malden, MA, campus at 781-324-5454 or our Fall River, MA, campus at 508-730-2740.