Enjoy Holiday Feasts Without Weight Gain

Dodge holiday weight gain by avoiding these 5 traps, and set yourself up for a happier, healthier holiday season.

It’s the season of feasts! Yahoo! To cap off a year of stress baking and emotional eating, we’re rolling into the holidays like never before.

How many of you will continue your baking traditions when there aren’t the usual recipients to share your creations with?

The six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s are typically a minefield of unhealthy choices for the average person that leads to dreaded holiday weight gain. Everywhere you look, another dietary pitfall is ready to derail your good health and send you down a slalom course of crappy eating. Not to mention the usual stresses of overstuffed schedules, interesting family and social dynamics, and short dark days.

In this regard, 2020 is not so different from other years. So if you want to arm yourself with good advice and good habits, especially during this global pandemic, read on.

Most folks think the average person gains 7-10 pounds over the holiday season but according to the New England Journal of Medicine, most people gain a little less than one pound from mid-November to mid-January.

Hooray! That means you can break out the Christmas cookies and chow down, right? Well, not if you want to feel good and keep your healthy eating habits on track because a two-month vacation from smart choices can turn into a full year of feeling sluggish, dumpy, and gross.

Research shows that most people don’t take that one holiday pound off, so it adds up year after year. Worse news is that people who hit the holidays already overweight are likely to gain about five extra pounds. Where’s the “hooray” in that statistic?

So what are the biggest pitfalls you’ll encounter lurking in every corner of the “happiest time of the year?”

1. Saving for Later.

Saving calories for later is a humdinger. How many times have you skipped breakfast on Thanksgiving morning because you’re “saving calories” for dinner? The problem with that type of thinking is that you don’t get your metabolism revved up for the day so you’re burning calories in low gear and by the time you get to the dinner table you are so hungry the gravy boat is calling your name and you’re ready to drown yourself in it.

The rush! rush! rush! of the season can lead you to skip meals too. The best solution to keep from hoarding calories and missing meals is to plan ahead. Know what you’re going to eat throughout the day and you won’t ever get stuck eating sugar cookies for lunch or so famished at supper that you can’t control yourself.

Plan your meals to stay fueled, balanced, and level-headed.

2. Succumbing to Food Pushers and Eating Under Pressure

We live in a culture that has conditioned us to say, “I love you” with food. Friends will bring you baked goods and candy. Grandma will insist on drowning your perfectly healthy broccoli in a sea of her special cream sauce. And the party hostess will beg you to try one of her double-fried cheese balls. How do you say “no” to that kind of love?

Be gracious, be laudatory, and sing the praises of every tempting delicacy. Even take a small bite if you’d like but then shift the conversation, tell a joke, give them a hug, and skip the sugar and fat.

Eating food you don’t want is NOT a prerequisite to celebrating the holidays. You are NOT obliged to consume the “love” that’s being offered to you. The holiday season is crammed full of festive foods but you are allowed to choose what you eat.

Related to this is a sense of scarcity – have you noticed certain flavors are marketed only in certain seasons? You don’t need to gorge on the opportunity now – release that pressure valve. If you can follow a recipe you can make and enjoy pumpkin pancakes, peppermint mochas, and gingerbread anytime you want.

Give yourself permission to take care of yourself.

3. Sipping Instead of Strolling.

Socializing instead of sweating can trip up your healthy routine too. If you find yourself putting exercise on the back burner, but skipping your workout can cost you two ways. First, you will miss out on the calorie burn and the metabolism bump you win from getting your heart rate going. And second, you lose out on the calming effects of a good workout, leaving you feeling frazzled and making you more susceptible to using sweet treats to boost your energy or calm your stress level.

Do yourself a favor and make time for your workout. Take the dog for a walk, go for a run, strike a yoga pose or lift heavy…whatever you do, schedule it in like you would a date with a friend (you!) and take that time to care of yourself.

4. Getting High on Sugar.

Sugar is everywhere. There is no time of the year more saturated in sweetness than the holidays. Oh, wait…that’s at least half the year these days!

From Halloween through Easter most of our homes and workplaces will enjoy (or suffer, depending on how you see it) an endless parade of sugary treats. We all know that sugar isn’t good for us. It contains no nutrients, no protein, no healthy fats, and no enzymes. Sugar provides empty, quickly digested calories that actually pull minerals out of your body during digestion. It stresses the liver, doesn’t fill you up, and causes an addictive response in the brain. Basically, there’s no good argument for eating it except that, “It tastes good.”

One trick for tackling this holiday pitfall monster is the Three Bites Law of Dessert: No matter how many bites you take of a dessert, the first bite is the best, the last bite is the grand finale, and every bite in between is…forgotten. So by limiting your dessert consumption to ONLY three bites you get the full sensation without the caloric burden of downing a whole slice of cheesecake. And the best news is, enjoying treats in moderation will keep you from splurging and doing your body any real damage.

5. Skipping Your Beauty Sleep.

Burning the candle at both ends will cost you in health and happiness too. The December holidays are an extra demanding time of the year. Often we have more on our plates financially, socially, and literally. It’s difficult to get the sleep you need but blocking out 6-9 hours every night to rest, recuperate, and recharge will not only make you more productive and pleasant to be around. It will keep you thinner too.

Contrary to popular belief, you can’t “make up” missed sleep. The key to healthy sleep is establishing a solid routine and consistently getting the rest you need. Sleep deprivation messes with glucose levels and lowers your body’s production of appetite-suppressing leptin while it increases production of hunger-stimulating grehlin. Plus it elevates cortisol levels which increases your chance of developing diabetes and or obesity. And research proves that sleep-deprived folks reach for carb-dense sweet salty foods. Basically, sleep deprivation is a prescription for hungry, tired, and chubby.

Find as many ways as you can to enjoy the holidays this year without allowing food to make you feel bad about yourself or gain unwanted weight.

*** Arm yourself against temptation by eating breakfast, planning your meals, drinking lots of water, and ditching guilt.

*** Don’t load your plate with sauces and gravies and don’t load your brain with guilt and shame.

*** Do your best to keep the focus on the meaning of the season for you.

By keeping it light—both your food and your heart—you can win the happy, healthy, holiday you deserve!

And for extra support, come on over to my private group, the Healthy Habits Practice Community. We’ve got a lot of things planned to offer support, motivation and accountability to get you through the holidays, finish out this godforsaken year feeling great and ready for a fresh start in January….come on over!