Advice on avoiding holiday weight gain

The holiday season is here, which some have touted as the time for gaining weight. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s can bring lots of eating, followed by New Year’s resolutions to lose weight. Here is how to keep your consumption and weight in check without being a Scrooge during the holidays. 

Eat normally before and after holiday dinners

This advice might seem obvious, but not always followed. For example, I know people who have “fasted” before or after holiday dinners. They either believe it will curb total caloric consumption for that day, or they simply want to “save space” for the evening smorgasbord. I don’t disapprove of fasting. Intermittent fasting can help people lose weight and stay fit, for instance. However, doing a one-time fast before or after Thanksgiving dinner is not the same as regularly engaging in the practice. If you’re not used to regularly fasting, you are more apt to overeat and to choose calorically dense foods at your next meal. Thus, fasting may prove futile if you simply consume the same or more calories in the end. Ditto for compensatory measures like overexercising or exercising more than your norm the day before or after. I always maintain my usual routine before and after holiday meals without feeling compelled to overeat. That brings me to my next point…

Don’t feel obligated to indulge

Just because holidays have the reputation for being a time to indulge doesn’t mean you have to feel obligated to do so. It’s okay to have small servings at holiday dinners or to decline certain dishes at holiday parties. Sometimes people get immersed in the mood, company, and holiday spirit and simply feel like they should stuff themselves. If doing so makes you happy, then go ahead. Otherwise, don’t be afraid to eat in moderation and to revel in other aspects of the holidays. Besides, smaller portions allow you to sample everything without feeling regret or discomfort. You can have more room for hors d’oeuvres, desserts, and drinks like egg nog and apple cider.

Alternatively, you can stick to healthier items. Fill your plate with more proteins and vegetables and less starches and carbohydrates. That way, you fill up more on healthier items and have less room to overeat on the unhealthy items.

Avoid spontaneous treats

The above advice holds true for all holiday season consumption. If you work in an office, you’ve probably experienced the deluge of baked goods and confections that come in during the holidays. Treats are always more tempting when they are free and available in a captive environment, i.e. when you are stuck in the office for several hours in a day. However, rationalizing against this sort of opportunistic, spontaneous indulgence can help. It helps to realize that your office may get many more treats during the next month or so, so you will not miss out by skipping today’s treat. Also, to realize that Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner is right around the corner, so you can look forward to indulging then instead of ingesting unnecessary calories now – especially if the item isn’t something you’d ordinarily want .

Of course, the easiest option would be to avoid the break room altogether – or to simply wait until people have picked the goods over, so that it’s no longer available or appealing to you. “Out of sight, out of mind” definitely holds true in the office. If a cookie tin is tucked away in a break room that you don’t frequent during the day, then it’s much less likely to tempt you than if it’s sitting within your view. (This also assumes that you’re sufficiently occupied at work and not seeking distractions like cookies!)

Don’t worry too much about holiday weight gain

Tying into the first point, try not to fret too much about holiday weight gain. Despite the title and subject of this article, the best advice for keeping your weight in check is to do it full-time. People who follow a healthy diet and lifestyle year-round should offset any holiday indulgences just fine. If you’re not so healthy year-round, then one to two months of random indulgences should not matter either. As long as you follow the above advice in not going overboard on a weekly (or more frequent) basis at the office or elsewhere during the holidays, then going crazy for three or so meals shouldn’t equate to drastic weight gain. Simply altering your diet and lifestyle for one to two months will only result in you feeling unnecessarily deprived during the holidays.

Further reading

If you do resolve to fully clean up your diet and lifestyle during or after the holidays, then these prior articles may help:

4 Reasons to Avoid the Scale When You’re Trying to Lose Weight (also relevant in avoiding the scale to see if you gained holiday weight!)

Do Juice Fasts or Other Types of Cleanses Work? 4 Things to Consider (if you’re considering fasting before or after the holidays to try to reverse the damage)

How to Get a Flatter Stomach. 5 Tips (if you resolve to lose weight after the holidays)

What’s More Important for Weight Loss – Diet or Exercise? (before you sign up for a gym membership or new workout routine after the holidays)

Are You Thinking About Starting a New Diet? Read This First. (if you resolve to lose weight after the holidays)

5 Reasons Against Extreme Caloric Restriction and Exercising for Quick Weight Loss. (in case you feel desperate to lose weight during or after the holidays)

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