The holidays really can be the most magical time of the year, but if you're someone who harbors anxiety about the inevitable weight gain that comes with Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc, you're certainly not alone. Fortunately, there are some easy ways to enjoy the season without tacking on excess body fat that could harm your health in the long run.
The average person will gain a few pounds during the holidays, maybe even five pounds. While a few pounds certainly isn't going to make or break your health, keep in mind that's just the average number. There are many people who wrestle with even more weight gain during the festivities for a variety of reasons. Maybe they come from a big family and there is constantly an excess amount of food around them during this season. Perhaps they have always struggled with portion control in general and there are just too many temptations around throughout the holidays. Whatever the case may be, if this sounds familiar to you, you're most certainly not alone. In fact, you're in great company.
As much fun as the holidays can be, there's no denying that there's a lot of food available that is simply unhealthy—refined sugars, processed carbs and fats, seed oils, etc. It's extremely difficult to avoid these types of ingredients when you're indulging in all the dishes of the season, and it's perfectly okay to indulge in your favorite treats in moderation. But an excess amount of these foods can lead to unnecessary weight gain, altered brain function, decreased immune response, and even insulin resistance. Not only will this negatively affect your health, but it will also make you feel horrible and rob you of the holiday magic you should be experiencing with your loved ones. Here are four easy tips to incorporate over the next couple months that will help you enjoy the season without sacrificing your health.
1. Practice Portion Control
It sounds like a no-brainer, but it's the most difficult thing to practice during the holidays. It's all too easy to pile up your plate with everything you see on the table at Thanksgiving. How could you say no to the stuffing, turkey, cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pies? You don't have to say no, thankfully, but you should seriously consider practicing some portion control. You can most certainly enjoy the foods you love during the festivities, but it's best to pause for a moment and be conscious about what you're putting on your plate.
Look at the palm of your hand. The amount of protein you eat should be about that size in diameter and thickness. Now make a fist with your hand. That's about the size of carbohydrates you should be eating at each meal. That's usually about the size of half of a baked potato or perhaps one cup of mashed potatoes or stuffing. Finally, look at your thumb. That's roughly the amount of fat you should be eating, such as butter, coconut oil, avocado, etc. That should be the general guideline you use when you're filling up your plate. Of course, because we are enjoying a special holiday, there's some wiggle room and you can put a little extra green bean casserole on your dish if that's your favorite. But those general guidelines will ensure that you don't stuff yourself to the point of no return.
One rule that helps my clients maintain their weight during the holidays: no snacking.
Additionally, one rule that helps my clients maintain their weight during the holidays: no snacking. Save your appetite and your hunger for the meals because that's where the most delicious food shows up anyway. No mindless grazing on leftovers, candy, bread, etc. That's where the trouble starts, especially because you're never measuring how much you're snacking on and you're often doing it while you're talking to friends or family so your mind isn't fully focused on what you're consuming. Eat three full meals (and a little dessert) and call it a day.
2. Go For a Walk Every Single Day
You don't have to worry about working out all the time during the holidays. It may not even be an option for you depending on whether you're traveling, hosting, looking after kids, etc. But one thing you can do every single day no matter what is go for a walk. Walking is a seriously underrated form of exercise that gets the heart pumping, boosts your immune system, improves your mood, burns calories, and prevents you from being sedentary. Aim to get at least 10,000 steps a day. Not all of those steps will come from walking outside or on a treadmill. In fact, you can achieve a lot of those steps by simply cooking, running errands, cleaning up the house, etc. If you add in at least one daily walk, you'll reach 10,000 steps in no time.
Walking daily is a wonderful way to spend quality time with your friends and family that doesn't involve excess eating. Enlist your loved ones to go outside for a stroll, even if it's chilly. Bundle up, go to a nearby park, and enjoy the crisp air of fall together while you stay active. In addition to boosting your health in many ways, a daily walk will motivate you to make better choices in the kitchen and at the dinner table.
Walking daily is a wonderful way to spend quality time with loved ones that doesn't involve excess eating.
3. Drink 100 Ounces of Water a Day
Staying hydrated is key if you want to stave off excess weight gain. That's because we often mistake thirst for hunger. Thirst can often feel like hunger; our stomach feels empty and maybe it growls a little bit. But Americans tend to be chronically dehydrated so you probably don't actually need a snack or an extra serving of pecan pie. You likely need to drink some water. Aim to drink 100 ounces of water a day. This will come in particularly handy when you're eating a lot of salty foods; hydrating yourself staves off bloating and aids in better digestion.
If 100 ounces sounds like a lot, that's because you're probably not starting to drink water early enough in the morning. When you wake up, drink a liter of water to get the day started (just make sure you wait 30 minutes before you eat your first meal) and carry around a water bottle with you at all times to ensure you have something to sip on throughout the day. When you sit down for a festive meal feeling hydrated, you're much less likely to mindlessly overeat and rather you'll savor the food you have in front of you.
We often mistake thirst for hunger.
4. Stay Positive and Don't Let Yourself Feel Guilty for Enjoying Food
Did you stuff yourself at dinner and maybe ate too much pie? Okay, it's done. No need to beat yourself up over it. One of the most common things women tend to do with themselves around food is wallow in guilt and shame if they happen to overeat. This is the worst thing you can do after eating a big meal. We forget how much impact our emotions have on our health, and when you beat yourself up for dietary choices you made in the past, you only create unnecessary stress and increased levels of cortisol in the body—and that makes it even harder to digest properly, achieve hormonal balance, and make better choices in the future.
If you step outside the bounds of your dietary expectations, just shrug it off and move on with better choices for the rest of the day. There's no need to kick yourself for doing the same thing that every other human being has done many times in their life before: indulge in delicious food. Besides, you have more important things to focus on, such as spending quality time with your friends and family. The holidays are meant to be celebrated—enjoy them!