Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Holiday weight gain is a valid concern for many adults; in fact, it’s not uncommon for many people to gain around 1-2 lbs. between mid-November and mid-January. On average, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with all the fixings contains as much as 3,000 and 229 grams of fat per serving—more calories and fat than adults should eat in an entire day. Combine that with various other holiday get-togethers, busy schedules, overeating calorie-rich foods, colder temperatures, and more sedentary behavior, and it’s easy to see why holiday weight gain is a common issue.

Although 1-2 lbs. may not seem like a lot, most people who gain weight around the holidays never lose it in the new year. This means the holidays can cause an accumulation of weight year after year. Over time, holiday weight gain can be a contributing factor to obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and other chronic health issues. Fortunately, you don’t have to skip your favorite foods to stay on track with your weight. Here are some simple steps you can take to avoid gaining weight this holiday season.

Set Some Health Goals

Before enjoying the festivities, take some time to reflect on your holiday behaviors, like how much you typically eat and drink. Then, set some measurable goals to help you improve.

Weigh Yourself Daily

Daily weigh-ins have been shown to aid weight loss and help maintain a healthy weight. Being aware of fluctuations in your weight can increase your motivation to eat healthier and exercise more.

Track Your Exercise and What You Eat

Those who consistently track what they eat and their activity levels are less likely to gain weight during the holidays. For example, if you notice that you’ve eaten more calories than usual during a party, it can give you more motivation to eat healthier the next day. Likewise, monitoring your exercise can be a good way to remind yourself to stay active.

Eat Before Attending Parties

It can be hard to resist overeating at parties when you attend them on an empty stomach. Make sure to eat a healthy, filling snack before you go.

Stay Active with Your Friends and Family

After enjoying a holiday meal, many families do sedentary activities together, like watching TV on the couch. Instead, try to do some type of physical activity with your family, like taking a walk or shooting some hoops. You can also stay active during the holidays by participating in a workplace or community fitness event.

Make Healthy Modifications to Traditional Recipes

If you’re doing the cooking, switch out higher-calorie ingredients for healthier options. For example, replace the butter in baked goods with applesauce, mashed banana, or pumpkin puree and use dried fruit instead of chocolate chips or candies. While cooking, use herbs and spices to flavor dishes and utilize healthy methods like baking, steaming, or grilling instead of frying. You can also flavor your beverages with fresh-squeezed lemon or lime juice, or extracts like vanilla, almond, and peppermint.

Don’t Over-Do the Taste Tests

If you’re cooking for others, it’s always a good idea to taste your dishes—but all you need is a tiny bite. Although taste testing may not seem like a big deal, even small bites of holiday dishes can add up. It’s also a good idea to make sure you’re not hungry while preparing meals because it’s much easier to go overboard with taste testing.

Make Healthy Selections

When faced with a big holiday spread, opt for healthy choices. Fill half of a small plate with vegetables, a quarter of the plate with lean protein (like turkey or chicken), and the remaining quarter with starches or grains. If you have the option, choose whole grains. Avoid eating things that are smothered in a heavy cream sauce or fried.

Choose Healthy Beverages

High-calorie beverages such as punch, eggnog, and alcohol can be contributing factors to weight gain during the holidays. Alcohol, in particular, can increase your appetite and cause you to take in more calories than you typically would. Choose healthy low-calorie drinks instead, like sparkling water.

Eat Mindfully and Skip Seconds

The sights and smells of holiday foods can make it easy to overeat—especially when you’re distracted. To prevent this, avoid eating when you’re in the middle of a conversation or watching TV. Be mindful while eating and allow yourself to truly taste and savor the foods. Avoid grabbing seconds and remember that it takes 25 minutes for your brain to register you’re full. If you want to have dessert, choose a single dessert item (rather than sampling everything on the dessert tray) and reduce the amount you eat during the main meal.

Get Support from Friends and Family

Research has shown that having someone to provide encouragement and accountability can help prevent holiday weight gain. Ask a friend or family member to send you a reminder about tracking your food intake and activity levels or tell them how they can help support your holiday health goals. Keep in mind that there are plenty of ways to enjoy the holidays that don’t involve food, like taking a walk to look at holiday lights, ice skating, taking an art class, a game night, or local community events.

Get Plenty of Sleep

Sleep deprivation is very common around the holiday season. When you don’t get enough sleep, it can make you feel hungrier, consume more calories, and be more sedentary. Sleep deprivation has also been linked to lower metabolism.

Control Your Stress Levels

Let’s face it; the holidays can be stressful. High stress levels can lead to chronically high cortisol, which can cause you to crave higher-calorie foods and contribute to weight gain. For this reason, it’s important to control your stress levels—especially during the holidays when there’s usually an abundance of unhealthy foods. Find a stress-relieving activity you enjoy and can stick with, such as exercise, yoga, meditation, or deep breathing.

Make Every Day Count

It’s easy to adopt an “I’ll start eating healthy tomorrow” mentality around the holidays, but this only prolongs unhealthy habits. Instead of procrastinating on your weight goals, make a decision to set limits for yourself, and don’t feel uncomfortable or guilty for saying no to unhealthy foods or habits. Keep in mind that you might also slip up a couple of times—and that’s ok. Simply pick up where you left off and make healthier choices at your next meal.

Get Additional Support for Your Weight Goals

Although it can feel daunting to maintain a healthy weight during the holidays, it’s not impossible. Following the above tips can help you stay weight conscious throughout the holiday season—they might even help you lose weight! If you feel you could use additional support, Dr. Jennifer Hubert offers holistic medical weight loss programs that have helped countless patients lose weight and lead healthier lives. Schedule a consultation today at (707) 575-THIN (8446).