How to avoid holiday weight gain
It seems to happen every holiday season.
You attend parties and office gatherings to share a few festive moments with family, friends, colleagues and lots and lots of food. But when the holiday season is finally over, the bathroom scale reveals that you’ve gained some weight again, much to your chagrin.
Research studies show most adults gain some weight over the holidays. But don’t despair because this year can be different.
“I recommend to my patients that they just try to keep their current weight, as opposed to focusing on losing weight,” says Julia Renee Zumpano, RD, LD, registered dietitian, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation. “Even though it’s hard to resist temptations all around you, there are simple steps you can take that can keep the extra holiday pounds off.”
How can you try to maintain your weight and heart-health during such a tempting time? We’ve conjured up these tips to surviving the holiday hoop-la that is sure-fire success – this season and in the future ones to come.
1. Get moving
One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity (*).To burn off those extra calories, kick up your exercise. If you exercise for 30 minutes a day, increase it to 45 minutes. If you exercise three times a week, move it up to five times a week.
Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year (remember those iced reindeer cookies you had with lunch?). Here are some ideas to get you moving:
- If you have a stationery bicycle or treadmill at home, dust it off and put it in front of the television or radio for some background entertainment while you’re exercising. Why not watch your favorite television show and exercise at the same time?
- Go to the library and get a book on tape or CD, listen to it and read (so-to-speak) as you exercise.
- Haven’t used your gym-pass in awhile? Hire a personal trainer to teach you effective calorie-burning techniques, or join that kick boxing class you’ve always wanted to try.
- Go for a morning or evening walk alone or with a friend.
- Put a little kick in your cleaning technique. Fire up some music and dance while you clean. Who ever knew cleaning could be so fun?
- Have bad knees or other joints? Don’t worry – water aerobics or swimming is your answer! The water prevents your weight bearing down on the joints and is an effective way to burn calories.
(*) If you haven’t exercised in at least 6-months, check with your doctor first before starting.
2. Aim for seven-a-day
Making sure you eat seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. When compared to other snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies, gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and tons more nutrients. What’s more – the fiber in fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than traditional snack foods. Pack your refrigerator with bags of cut-up vegetables and whole or cut-up fruits. Grab a bag while on the go or at work. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll eat your five-a-day before you snack on any cookies or other holiday treats. You’re sure to take in fewer calories overall.
3. Control the risk for temptation
Controlling even the slightest chance of coming in contact with ‘tempting’ foods is one way to effectively reduce your intake. While you won’t be able to control all situations, focus on the many ones you can. For example, do you keep candy or cookies at your desk or workspace? Do you frequent the dining room table or pantry where you store all your holiday goodies? Make a mental note of tempting places and try to control them. For example, make a pact with co-workers that goodies will be kept solely in the break room, not at the front desk or in various offices. Mentally plan out how you will avoid tempting situations. If you can’t avoid them entirely, see number 4.
4. Limit to one-a-day
While you can’t control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. If you aren’t confronted with holiday foods that day, just skip your one-a-day – but don’t compensate and double-up on your serving the next day.
5. Always plan ahead – Never go to a party hungry
Before you go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack such as a serving of your favorite fruit, fat-free yogurt or a low-fat, whole grain granola bar. When you arrive at the party, you won’t be craving hors d’oeuvres.
“If you’re going to a potluck dinner, bring a healthy dish to share such as a salad, veggie or fruit tray, or a low-fat pudding, Jell-O or fruit dessert,” says Zumpano. “That way, you’ll know you have at least one healthy item on the table spread.”
6. Be in charge of your party choices:
- Small plate, please
Be wise when choosing appetizers – a small portion of some appetizers may help you from overeating at dinner.
“Pick up a small plate, and stick with vegetables, but limit or avoid the creamy dips,” advises Zumpano. "Restrict your intake of butter crackers, chips, cheese and meats. If you must have a deep-fried appetizer, eat only one small serving. Never go back for seconds. For dinner, fill half of your plate with salad and vegetables, one quarter with meat, and the final quarter with starch,” Zumpano says.
- Avoid the sauce
Avoid sauces made from cream, half-and-half or meat drippings. For salads, use oil and vinegar, vinaigrette or low-fat dressings. Broth -based or vegetable sauces are fine.
- What about desserts?
The best low-calorie choices are fruit, Jell-O, pudding, an unfrosted mini muffin, shortbread cookies, ginger snaps or angel food cake. If you must have a dessert with frosting, butter cream, cream cheese, or chocolate chips, limit yourself to one small cookie or one thin slice of cake.
- Watch the drinks
“Besides restricting your alcohol to one or two servings, you also need to restrict the type of alcohol,” says Zumpano. “For example, instead of high-fat eggnog, have a light beer or wine. After that, stick with calorie-free drinks such as water, unsweetened ice tea, hot tea or coffee.”
7. Say No Politely
Many times you feel forced to eat foods because people keep putting it in front of you. Learn to say no politely, such as "No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious", or "I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful". You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.
8. Focus on socializing
Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. Conversation is calorie-free.
Remember, the holidays are meant to celebrate good times with family and friends. Enjoy the holidays and plan effective strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Achieving what you sought out for will give you one more good reason for holiday cheer! Happy Holidays!