Do you find that the scale moves up a few pounds during this time of the year? During summertime, we’re focused on our bodies, given we know we’ll be wearing the revealing clothing that goes with the season. But when fall and winter come around, that mindset falls away like autumn leaves. Maybe it’s our primitive instinct to bulk up when the weather gets colder; it probably also has a lot to do with our busy holiday shopping and social schedules interfering with our regular workouts, and with all the tasty holiday treats lying in wait to tempt us everywhere we turn, regardless. But don’t let the layers of clothing become layers of fat. These tips can help you avoid holiday weight gain this season.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain With These 10 Simple Tips
Staying healthy and fit during the holidays isn’t impossible. You just need to be prepared! Here are some tips to make it easier than ever to end the year on a healthy high note.
1. Travel smart
Many people find themselves traveling during the holiday season, but that’s not an excuse to eat unhealthily and avoid exercise. Plan your meals in advance, and pack snacks when you are either on the road or in the air. Good travel snacks can include nuts or dried fruit. To help you be a happier traveler, get a good night sleep before you leave to increase your mood and alertness. Eating a heavy meal before traveling can make you sleepy, so eat a small, low-fat meal before you head out the door.
2. Get enough sleep
Try to keep a regular sleep schedule and get a full night’s rest as often as you can. If you fail to get a good night sleep, it can make you grumpy the next day and make it harder to focus on your healthy goals. No one wants to travel with a grouchy person, so do everyone a favor and get some shut eye. Sleeping well can also help you reduce your calorie consumption, because it inhibits the release of the appetite-stimulating hormone ghrelin while promoting the release of leptin, another hormone that limits hunger. And keeping that hunger in check is a good idea when you find yourself surrounded by holiday goodies. Check out these natural sleep remedies to help you get some shut-eye.
3. Drink enough water
You’ve probably heard it before, but we’ll say it again: drink water! During the busy holiday season it can be easy to forget to fill up enough cups with H2O, but it can do wonders with keeping you healthy. It helps regulate your body temperature, helps with the digestion of food, and it can help you limit your caloric intake. How? Try drinking a glass of water before each meal, and you’ll likely feel more satisfied on less food because your stomach already has some liquid in there. And if you alternate alcoholic drinks with a glass of water, you’ll slow down your consumption of high-calorie beverages. If you don’t think a glass of plain old H2O is appetizing enough, here are 10 tasty ways to add flavor to your water.
4. Approach cocktails with caution
We’re not telling you to avoid alcohol completely! But do pace yourself by having at least one glass of water in between each drink (see tip #3). Remember that one gram of alcohol contains seven calories, and yet it yields virtually no energy or health benefits. Calories from alcohol can add up quickly, so be mindful of how much you are drinking. Also, drinking may reduce inhibitions at the dessert buffet, which can lead to a few too many sugar cookies.
5. Get an accountability partner
The holidays are filled with temptation, and it’s your job to stop it in its tracks. But…that can be really tough to do on your own. If you need some assistance in fighting the temptation of cookies and cocktails and candies (oh my!), don’t be afraid to ask for help. An accountability partner can help you stick to your goals when your willpower gets a little shaky. Tell a family member that you’re trying to eat healthier, so they can give you a gentle reminder when you’re eyeing that second slice of cake. Or, get a group of friends and do morning workouts together. You’ll probably find that power in numbers is a key part in avoiding holiday weight gain.
6. Use screen time wisely
Who says the TV can only be used to watch classic holiday movies and rivalry sports games? Take over the screen for a few minutes and stream one of your favorite online workouts. Don’t worry, you won’t have to be using precious TV time for hours at a time, there are plenty of workout that are less than 30 minutes!
And when you you do decide to cozy up for a made-for-TV holiday film, encourage your family to get up in between commercials for some jumping jacks or push-ups. Make it a competition to see who can do the most during the break and watch the sibling rivalry do some good for once.
7. Make recipes healthier
Most recipes can be made healthier without compromising the recipe. With a few substitutions, you can limit unnecessary salt, sugar, and fat in some of your favorite holiday recipes…and we doubt that your guests will notice. Here are some of our personal favorite holiday recipes made healthier, like Gingerbread Protein Pancakes and Herb-Crusted Beef Tenderloin.
8. Avoid serving food family-style
When food is placed right on the dining table, it’s much easier to grab a second helping. So make it harder: Keep the extra food away from the dining room. If you leave it in the kitchen, out of sight, it forces everyone to think about getting up to grab another helping. Here’s a tip: If you still feel hungry after your first plate, wait for 15 minutes and drink a full glass of water, then decide whether you want more food.
9. Eat smaller amounts more often
Instead of starving yourself all day so you can overindulge in that one, giant meal, have smaller meals throughout the day. At family holiday gatherings in particular, it’s asking too much to resist the lavish aromas of the kitchen, so being mindful of your portion sizes is important. You can still enjoy all your family-favorite recipes – just enjoy them in moderation. You’ll likely feel much better at the end of the meal that way.
10. Stay active
Whether you cue up a workout online or gather up the troops for a walk around the block, regular exercise can help with so many of the challenges you face during the holiday season. It can help you cope with the stress of traveling by releasing endorphins that help boost your mood and energy. At the airport, if you have time, walk beside those moving sidewalks instead of standing and letting them carry you to your terminal. If you’re traveling by car, take frequent breaks, get out of the car, walk around, and get some fresh air. If you’re staying home for the holidays, get the family involved! Depending on the climate, go ice skating, hiking, sledding, skiing, biking, or walk the dog. And go for a walk together after your big meal—it’ll help you all digest better.
We’re not asking you to deprive yourself of any holiday cheer. Just be aware of your body and the temptations and pitfalls it faces this season. Because the holidays have a way of testing your self-control, it’s a good idea to have a plan in place well in advance for dealing with them. That way, you’ll have a better chance of avoiding holiday weight gain and remaining on your regular regimen of exercise and dieting. You can even make it your New Year’s resolution to keep a healthy lifestyle and continue working toward your goals.