The holiday season has begun. That means parties, big family dinners and sweets tempting you from every corner. So while the holiday season can be full of joyous experiences, it can also be a truly stressful time, bringing with it the fear of stepping on the scale once the New Year rolls around.
However, there's some good news: most people don't gain as much weight during this time of year as they might think. But the bad news is that the weight gained during the festive season often turns into an unwanted gift that can't be returned.
Researchers from the National Institute of Health and the Medical University of South Carolina studied 195 people and found that nearly a year later 85% of the participants still had not lost that extra weight. That means that even if you only gain two pounds during the holidays, that if you consistently do that year after year you'll be 10 pounds heavier in just five years! The study also found that overweight and obese participants gained the most weight during the holiday study, compared to others.
Even small amounts of excess weight carry risks to our health, so avoiding weight gain altogether is the smart solution. "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of weight gain," said Dr. Samuel Klein, director of the Center for Human Nutrition at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "Preventing the increase in weight is a lot easier and better than actually gaining weight and trying to get it off again."
Sure, that may sound like something that is easier said than done. There are no shortages of holiday weight tips being echoed throughout TV, radio and print. But still, people tend to gain some weight during the holidays. That doesn't have to be the case! Let's put some real-world reality into these tips to actually make them useful. There are reasonable ways to alter your behavior so that you can still enjoy yourself without becoming an unofficial member of the holiday weight gainers club.
Tip 1: Don't abandon your fitness regimen during the holidays.
Sure, it sounds easy enough but even devoted exercisers can fail. During November and December, time gets overtaken by holiday shopping, decorating, and family get-togethers. But just because you abandon your normal workout routine doesn't mean you can't stay fit. Schedule just 10 minutes per day for exercise. Put it on your calendar so you won't brush it aside. 10 minutes a day can be enough to prevent gaining a few pounds. Exercises to try: brisk walks, strength training with dumbbells, resistance band exercises.
Tip 2: Allow indulgences, but limit them.
Moderation is the key but in reality, how many of us can stop ourselves from eating more than one cookie or resisting all the different types of homemade deserts at a family party? The key here is to remind yourself that if you eat a piece of pie, you haven't destroyed your healthy eating for the entire day. So you can't use that excuse and allow for a free-for-all. To keep yourself in check, write down each indulgence you have. If you write it down, you will see in black and white exactly what you are consuming and that should be enough of a reality check to keep you on track. You may even want to consider posting your indulgences on a public webpage that your friends and family view. Revealing this to others may further help keep you in check.
Tip 3: Stay out of the kitchen.
For those who find joy in baking treats during the holidays, this tip doesn't sound very fun. Instead of placing police tape across your kitchen doorway, have fun baking but give the goodies away. As soon as you bake, place your items in containers. Give the containers to friends and family, or to a good cause. One option is sending them to troops through Soldier's Angels or Treats For Troops.
Tip 4: Avoid overindulging at holiday parties by eating sensibly throughout the day and avoiding the high fat foods at the buffet.
No matter what time of year, you should always strive to eat three to five meals per day. That helps to maintain a healthy weight. But that can be difficult on a good day. When the busy time of the holidays rolls around, it becomes more and more challenging. Still, with some planning, it doesn't have to be impossible. Plan one hour per week that you can take time at the grocery store and stock up on some healthy but quick foods. Try organic frozen meals you can heat in the microwave oven, roasted chicken from the prepared foods section and pre-cut vegetables.
When faced with a holiday buffet bursting with tempting foods, try this plan: first go through the buffet line and pick only the most healthy options: vegetables with a small amount of dip, cheeses, and chicken (not fried) dishes. Eat those, then wait at least 10 minutes before you allow yourself to hit the buffet line again. This time choose just two less healthy options (get small portions) and allow yourself to eat those. Wait 20 minutes and drink two glasses of water during that time. Hopefully you won't feel like returning to the buffet line but if you do you shouldn't be too hungry and therefore should have more willpower by then.
Tip 5: Strive for five-a-day. Ensure that you eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
This proves to be challenging for most people. But, these days you can become very creative with the foods you eat to satisfy your five servings. The best options are eating raw fruit and vegetables throughout the day — bananas, apples, carrots, salad. But if that just isn't going to work for you, try out some of the new fruit-and-vegetable juice blends that give you both a fruit and veggie serving in a single glass. Also, there are fruit strips that are made of 100% fruit. You can even find snap pea chips these days. Some soups have full servings in them as well.
These 5 tips give you real world suggestions that you can do while still fully enjoying the holiday season. So, no more excuses — follow the tips and you should find yourself picking a new resolution come January. No need to resolve to lose holiday weight!