The holidays are a time for celebration, friends and family, and of course, good food. But, trying to avoid weight gain can be tough to navigate with all the tempting treats.
Despite our best intentions, many of us tend to put on a few extra pounds during the holiday season. Between all the parties and treats, it can be hard to resist overeating. However, with a bit of planning you can avoid holiday weight gain.
By the way, did you know that the calorie intake of the average American jumps to more than 7,000 calories on Christmas day?
That’s significantly higher than the average of 4500 calories for Thanksgiving dinner.
Notably, although the recommended calorie intake varies according to gender, age, and activity level, the average adult should only be consuming around 2000 and 2500 calories a day for women and men respectively who engage in moderate physical activity.
To help you stay healthy during the holidays while still enjoying some of your favorite dishes, I’ll share some top tips on how to make healthy choices during these festivities.
On a positive note, new research has discovered some simple strategies to keep weight gain under control this season.
But, before we dive into that, let’s discover what the average weight gain during the holiday season really is.
“The only successful way to reach and maintain a healthy weight is to find what works for you.” – Author Unknown
What is the average weight gain during the holiday?
Many experts claim that there is an average weight gain of about 5-6 pounds over the holidays. But according to research, it’s closer to 0.8 pounds and 1 pound over the fall/winter season.
Another research reported an increase of 0.4-0.9 kg (0.9-2 lbs) in adults, including those who were trying to lose weight and those who are motivated to self-monitoring.
However, children, adolescents, and students in college did not show significant weight changes (Díaz-Zavala et al., 2017).
So, I’m sure you’re wondering, why is this small amount even significant?
Well, it’s because this holiday weight is usually not lost in the spring/summer months and contributes to the frequent weight gain that occurs during adulthood (Yanovski et al., 2000). Think about it, gaining 1-2 pounds every year during your adult life really adds up.
If you have a healthy weight, you should prioritize maintaining and not increasing that weight during your adult years.
In fact, persons who gained 11-22 pounds after the age of 20 have three times greater likelihood of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, and gallstones than those who had a weight gain of 5 pounds or less.
Unfortunately, those who gain more had an even greater risk.
Notably, for women who did not use Hormone Replacement Therapy, losing weight and keeping it off after menopause decreased the risk by 50 % of post-menopausal breast cancer (Harvard T.H. Chan, 2021).
Unfortunately, persons who are already overweight or obese can gain 5-15 pounds of fat during the holiday season. This is because overweight persons are more likely to overeat and be less active during the holidays.
How to avoid holiday weight gain during the holidays
With so many delicious treats around, it’s hard not to overindulge. But don’t worry, with a little bit of planning you can avoid putting on those extra pounds.
So how can you stay healthy during the holidays? Start with these surprising tips:
1.Don’t deny yourself completely to avoid holiday weight gain
The worst thing you can do is go on a major diet before the big feast. After all, deprivation can make you want to eat everything in sight when the party finally starts.
Instead, try to cut back where you can. Sneak in a workout or two before the big meal so that you’ll be less likely to overindulge at the table.
2.Remember that many of us are hardwired for fatty foods
Scientists have known for decades that many people have a strong genetic predisposition to crave fatty foods.
So when you sit down at the table this holiday, you might need to fight your body’s basic instinct to load up on fat and carbs — especially if you know those foods will be there in abundance.
“Getting my lifelong weight struggle under control has come from a process of treating myself as well as I treat others in every way.” – Oprah Winfrey
3.Don’t go crazy with appetizers
Yes, it’s tempting to munch on hors d’oeuvres before the dishes arrive. But many appetizers are loaded with fat and calories — one reason why they taste so good is that they’re engineered to make you want more of them.
4.Don’t go too long without eating
If you wait too long between meals, your body will get hungry and you may wind up eating way too much.
A better idea is to serve yourself smaller portions and eat regularly throughout the day.
5.Eat fruit to avoid holiday weight gain
One of the best tips to make sure you eat something healthy before heading over to parties or other festive gatherings.
Fruit is a great substitute for fattening desserts, especially if it’s ripe and in season.
For example, a ripe peach is sweet and satisfying, while also providing valuable nutrients like vitamin C and fiber.
Read also: 16 Reasons why sugar is bad for you.
6.Go easy on soups and salads
Most people know that creamy, cheesy meals are loaded with fat. But, even simple vegetable soups can pack the calories depending on the added ingredients including too much cream or butter.
In addition, be wary of adding rich, unhealthy dressings to your salads.
7.Drink water before diving into the drinking bowl
Alcoholic drinks can be loaded with empty calories that’ll put pounds on your waistline over time. Plus, alcohol lowers your inhibitions and encourages you to eat more than usual.
A better idea is to quench your thirst with water or plain seltzer without additives before digging into the bowl of spiked eggnog.
By the way, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, water and plain seltzer are smart beverage choices. In fact, both are just as hydrating.
8.Don’t eat late at night to avoid weight gain
Lots of people think that they can avoid holiday weight gain by eating very little early in the day and then splurging later on.
But, if you eat your biggest meal at midnight, you’ll pack on more pounds than usual because your metabolism slows down at night. So, don’t pass on a healthy breakfast.
9.Treat yourself to a workout before the big meal
A quick 15-minute workout will make you less hungry and give you more energy, both of which can help you resist all those goodies once you sit down to eat.
Notably, these effects of exercise are likely due to the improved hormonal regulation that results from exercise.
10.Don’t let food take over to avoid weigh gain
Don’t be controlled by the look and taste of the food. Think about how you feel, too. If the big meal leaves you feeling lethargic and bloated afterward, resolve to spend more time outside doing fun things with family and friends.
“I always believed if you take care of your body it will take care of you.”– Ted Lindsay
11.Don’t go nuts on workout supplements
When it comes to weight loss, there’s nothing wrong with a little extra help from supplements that boost your metabolism or give you a big energy jolt.
But, many dietary supplements are dangerous and can have serious adverse effects on your body.
Additionally, many dieters don’t use supplements wisely and wind up taking too much of them, which can be harmful to your health.
12.Sticking to a routine to avoid weight gain during the holidays
In most cases, it’s fine if you want to forgo a trip to the gym during the holidays. You can always work out later if you want to.
But experts suggest trying to stick with your normal workout schedule as much as possible so that the holidays don’t throw off your overall fitness goals for the year.
13.Going to a buffet and avoiding weight gain
If you get stuck at a buffet, try loading your plate with veggies, fruit and lean protein. That way, you’ll have something nutritious to eat even if there aren’t many healthy choices on the table.
And, don’t be afraid to ask the host to bring out the healthy dishes first.
14.Don’t overindulge in candies to avoid weight gain
Don’t worry about the little occasional holiday candy canes you find when you come home from work. But, if you have a big stash of wrappers in your desk, it’s time to throw them out.
15.Worrying about calories to avoid weight gain
It’s okay to worry about calories now and then. Just don’t let it ruin your holiday fun! Instead, focus on eating every day as well as you can.
If you splurge one night, try to compensate by eating less or exercising more later on. Beating yourself up may cause you to give up on your efforts.
16.Don’t cut back on the sleeping hours
You can’t make up for lost sleep on the weekends. So, don’t let the holidays keep you from your full night’s rest. Notably, lack of sleep is associated with higher rates of obesity.
Final words on avoiding holiday weight gain
The holidays are a time of joy, family, and celebration. However, for many people they can also be a time of weight gain and extra stress.
In this post we’ve outlined some tips to help you enjoy the holiday season without putting on extra pounds.
Follow these simple tips and you’ll be able to ring in the new year with your health – and your waistline – intact.
Have you tried any of these methods to avoid weight gain during the holidays? Let us know in the comments below!
"It's about perfect. It's about effort And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where TRANSFORMATION happens" - Jillian Michaels
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abcNEWS (2014) How many calories the average American eats on Christmas.
abcNEWS (2016) How many calories Americans will eat on Thanksgiving.
Díaz-Zavala, R. G., Castro-Cantú, M. F., Valencia, M. E., Álvarez-Hernández, G., Haby, M. M., & Esparza-Romero, J. (2017). Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review. Journal of obesity, 2017, 2085136.
Harvard T.H. Chan (2021) Healthy weight
Spector, N. (2018) Can you drink too much seltzer? Here’s everything you need to know.
Yanovski, J. A., Yanovski, S. Z., Sovik, K. N., Nguyen, T. T., O’Neil, P. M., & Sebring, N. G. (2000). A prospective study of holiday weight gain. The New England journal of medicine, 342(12), 861–867.