Holiday Survival: 10 Tips for Enjoying the Season While Managing Weight
Most of us don’t gain more than a pound or two between Halloween and the New Year, but the problem is that we also don’t lose it again. So, one or two holiday pounds that stick ultimately turn into 10 or 20 pounds over the years. Even though the scale cannot be your friend; ignorance is not bliss! Step on the scale at least once a week during the holiday season to know when — and if — weight starts to creep up so you can do something about it sooner than later.
Part of the enjoyment of the holiday season is food! Let’s face it, we love to eat when we socialize. And there are special treats that you only have that one time of the year (can you say fudge?) and we have to take advantage of it!
As a registered dietitian, I see firsthand how the holidays can deter us from our Physical Wellbeing goals, but I am here to share with you 10 tips that will leave you feeling relaxed and on track this holiday season. Here are 10 tips for enjoying the season while managing the weight:
- Stay active. You know you are going to eat more so move more! Make sure you get your regular exercise in and schedule in the time to stay on the treadmill for an extra 15 minutes each session to bump up the burn (P.S. Shopping burns calories, too. Do laps around the mall while searching for the perfect gift!).
- Control stress. Yes, easier said than done! Be aware that stress levels go up significantly for many people during the holiday time, whether it is getting a longer To-Do list done or dealing with family drama or memories of holidays past. Stress increases cortisol levels which can cause weight gain and higher food intake. Cortisol can also contribute to increased cravings for sweets and high fat foods. Instead of turning to unhealthy foods, do some deep breathing, meditation, or yoga to reduce cortisol and stress levels.
- Eat light and often. It doesn’t really work to skip a meal so that you can eat more at that next party. Anytime you eat too much at one time you risk storing the extra as fat, which provides an opportunity for weight gain. Have regular meals and light snacks in between so that you don’t arrive at the party ravenous.
- Focus on fun! Instead of hanging out right next to the buffet table during the entire duration of the party, get one plate, eat and then socialize the rest of the evening. Spend time with loved ones or friends you don’t see often instead of the food. Focus on creating new memorable moments with those people most important to you.
- Drink responsibly. There are lots of reasons to moderate alcohol consumption (especially at the office party!) but especially because it may reduce your will power and you may end up eating more in addition to the extra calories in your drink. Other beverages besides alcohol can also contribute excess calories like eggnog, apple cider, soft drinks, and more. Stick to sparkling water with a splash of juice.
- Bring a healthy dish. If you aren’t sure there is going to be anything even remotely healthy at a gathering, bring a healthy dish to share so at least you have one food item you feel good about on your plate. For a festive salad, try this Kale salad with apples, cranberries, and pecans.
- You control portion. Even though you feel pressured or obligated to eat certain foods by certain family members (we won’t name names!), you can always control how much you eat. I will often take a piece of my loved ones’ special pie, but it is a small slice and I may not always finish it. As long as they see you take it and you compliment the dish at some point, they probably won’t notice if you don’t finish it!
- Balance it. You know that some days will be higher in calories so on the days there are no parties, be more conscious of controlling portions and make good choices so you can balance it all out.
- Be more mindful about your food. Slow down by chewing your food thoroughly. Put your fork down between bites. Focus on conversation with others. Minimize distractions from TV, computers, and phones. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Pay close attention to the taste, texture, and flavor of the food to get full satisfaction from eating.
- Sleep! Inadequate sleep can lower metabolism, leading to weight gain. It also causes hormone changes affecting appetite causing us to feel hungrier and not feel as satisfied or full at the end of a meal.
Most importantly, enjoy yourself. This is a busy but special time of the year to share stories and create memories that last a lifetime.
About the Author
Tara (Gidus) Collingwood, MS, RDN, CSSD, LDN is a sports dietitian in Orlando, FL. She works with the US Tennis Association, University of Central Florida athletics, World Wrestling Entertainment, Leadbetter Golf Academies and Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute. She was the team dietitian for the Orlando Magic for 10 years. She also wrote Pregnancy Cooking and Nutrition for Dummies and Co-authored Flat Belly Cookbook for Dummies. Tara enjoys being active with her husband and four boys.
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