Happy Holidays: Tips to Stay Healthy, Happy, and Not Gain Weight This Holiday Season

The holiday season ushers in many different opportunities that can send our best healthy habits into a tailspin – parties, gatherings, celebrations, and goodies galore at every event and even at home.  Exercise routines get squashed with cold weather, events to attend, gifts to buy and wrap, and so many other chores of the season. Poor food choices, too much sugar, lack of exercise and social pressures are all factors that take a toll on our health, suppressing out immune system and opening up the doors to colds, flu, and depression.

So how can we stay healthy and happy, but not gain weight, over the holidays?

Let’s first bust a few myths!

Myth # 1: People gain 7-10 lbs. over the holidays

Myth-Buster: Not true! The average weight gain is about 2 lbs. for men and about 1 lb. for women. What IS true is that the overindulgence in carbohydrate-laden foods tends to bloat and that makes you feel like you’ve gained weight. Sodium intake also tends to soar with chips, dips, and other processed goodies. This excess sodium also causes bloating as well as drives up blood pressure.

Myth #2: I won’t gain that extra few pounds because I will exercise more and I’ll really stick to my New Year’s resolution this year (so I might as well eat now and enjoy myself).

Myth-Buster: Studies have proven that avid exercise does not cancel out excessive indulgences in food. In a study done at Texas Tech University, 48 men and 100 women between the ages of 18 and 65 were followed, weighed, and measured for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. They all gained the same amount of weight! Some worked out 5 times a week while others didn’t work out at all, but they all ended up gaining the same amount of weight. This is not to say that you should give up your workouts; but understand that the quality and quantity of your food intake has a far greater influence on body weight and composition than just exercise alone.

As for New Year’s Resolutions, many people fail when it comes to resolutions because they get overwhelmed, misinformed and most importantly, don’t seek support from a coach or weight loss support group of some kind. The Mayo Clinic cites social support as a critical component of a weight loss plan. As innocuous as gaining a pound or two may sound, if you multiply that over a few decades it can really add up. The average weight gain for adults is 10-20 pounds per decade.

How to stay on track with your goals this holiday season

Staying on track takes more than just will power. More often than not, it is our state of mind (fatigue, stress) and emotions that distract us from our goals.

Practice Mindfulness

What is this thing called mindfulness? Daniel J Siegel states that “Mindfulness in its most general sense is about waking up from a life on automatic, and being sensitive to novelty in our everyday experiences. Instead of being on automatic and being mindless, mindfulness helps us awaken, and by reflecting on the mind we are enabled to make choices and thus change becomes possible.” It’s our responses to events, not the events themselves, which can affect us. Take a moment and become aware of what you’re are thinking and feeling. Being stressed out and not living in the moment causes us to be off balance, so in turn we seek high carbohydrate foods (sugary cookies, sweets, breads) to calm and soothe us instead of harnessing our well-being with a bit of mindfulness that helps to keep us grounded and confident to resist the urge to splurge.

  1. Be present:Ever find yourself mindlessly munching on a bag of chips until they are gone, but not even realizing how it happened? Engaging mindfully in the present moment can keep your mind off distractions such as past hurts, disappointments, or future worries. Look around, engage someone in conversation, listen, and savor the moment. Breathe and enjoy; you’ll be less likely to find yourself mindlessly munching on that bowl of chips at a party.
  2. Stay grateful: Gratitude changes your brain deep within the limbic system. Jot down your thoughts about what you are grateful for every day this season. This will make you feel more positive and optimistic as well as bringing a sense of belongingness with those around you.
  3. Reach out and do something for someone else: The holidays brings many opportunities to help those who are less fortunate, or to reach out to a disconnected friend or family member, elderly relative, or a friend who lives alone. Share a coffee and a memory, help wrap some gifts, do something for someone else lifts your happiness.

Now that you are more familiar with how to stay grounded, present, and mindful, you’ll be more prepared for those holiday parties! But, these strategies are useful year-round, too! Practice these strategies to help keep you on track:

  • Don’t arrive hungry. Eat a healthy protein snack before heading out. A small plate of two hard boiled eggs with some high-fiber veggies or whole grain crackers can stave off the munchies and help you not overeat.
  • Bring something along that is healthy. A leafy green salad with a mix of extra virgin olive oil and vinegar on the side; a tray of cut-up veggies or fruits; high-fiber crackers with hummus are all great bring-alongs and give you a healthy option to grab.
  • Use the “small” plates: Fill them with at least half veggies. The fiber will fill you up and you need to chew so they’ll take longer to finish on your plate.
  • Liquid calories add up: Eggnog? Hot chocolate? Sweet calorie-laden drinks are everywhere during the holidays. Any cocktail can contain over 200 calories in a pinch! Try adding seltzer to your wine to decrease the calorie load. Drink plenty of water, too. Alcohol is dehydrating and dehydration can increase your blood pressure.
  • Skip food gifts: If you receive them, don’t bring them home if you know you’ll be tempted. Spread the cheer and leave them at work for others to enjoy.
  • Work out: With the Rolling Strong App a great workout is always at your fingertips, and you don’t even need the fancy gym at all! Bodyweight HIIT (high intensity interval training) exercise keeps you metabolically burning fat for 24 hours. Plus, it will boost also your mood, making you less apt to reach for foods with sugars and carbs as a mood booster.
  • Sleep: The extra activities and events around this time of year can do some serious damage to our sleep schedules. Fatigue can easily lead to letting go of our best intentions and derail us emotionally and physically. Practice good sleep hygiene and get 6-8 hours of rest every night. You’ll feel recharged and not in need of a sugar fix.

By:  Cindy Luisi, WHE, WHC, CCP CDL Wellness Coach

Sources:

Healthy eating through the holidays

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/simple-steps-to-get-happier-and-healthier

https://www.health.com/nutrition/5-myths-and-facts-about-holiday-weight-gain

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