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Healthy for the Holidays: Preventing Seasonal Weight Gain

While lots of fun, the holidays aren’t known to be kind to the waistline. Thoughtful dietary choices and regular fitness activities can easily fall by the wayside due to holiday schedules and shopping, not to mention the stress! Treats bombard us from every direction, including cookies in the office break room and lavish platters at holiday parties. Many of us accept holiday weight gain as simply inevitable, making weight loss and health an issue for the new year. However, your weight loss resolutions won’t be so daunting — or even necessary at all — if you avoid the holiday weight gain by selectively indulging and squeezing in a little exercise when possible. 

Be Selective with Festive Foods

  • Just because certain foods are only available once a year does not mean you’re obligated to consume them. Take a second to ask yourself, “Do I really even like that?,” when it  comes to egg nog, gingerbread, fruit cakes, peppermint bark, and more. (We’re not knocking any family favorites, but don’t waste the calories on any food you don’t really like.
  • On a similar note, you don’t have to eat something just because it’s offered to you or being passed around a holiday gathering. Find your polite “no, thank you” or tell your host you’re full – no feathers are ruffled, and you can always take one for the road for later. 

Don’t Fast. Snack. 

Eating at regular intervals and snacking can prevent overindulgence in several common holiday situations. 

  • If possible, eat something before you go to a holiday party — preferably vegetables or snacks high in protein. This helps you regulate blood sugar, and with something in your  stomach, you’ll be less likely to binge on party foods. If you plan on drinking any alcohol), pre-eating can slow the absorption of alcohol and help you maintain control of your cravings. 
  • On the day of a big holiday celebration, it’s not wise to fast for the whole day leading up to the big meal later. This will interfere with your blood-sugar levels and make you crave  unhealthy food choices later on. If you eat breakfast and snack over the course of the day, you’re less likely to overdo it at the big event.
  • If you’re facing a daunting day of shopping or errands, always eat something beforehand – that helps you resist the temptation of the mall food court or the convenience of fast food.

Don’t Beat Yourself Up

  • There’s already enough stress during the holidays. Let yourself indulge a little. Split desserts with a loved one, or try just taking two or three bites of something decadent.
  • There’s nothing inherently wrong with enjoying a big meal the day of a holiday and treating yourself to foods you love that aren’t necessarily healthy — just try to keep from  extending the holiday eating into multiple days. See if you can resume your regular diet the day after a big celebration as opposed to indulging in all the leftovers for a couple of days. 
Get Exercise Where You Can

The holidays are definitely disruptive to regular fitness activities. You might not have access to a gym, much less your favorite group exercise classes. You may only have time to exercise around the margins of the holiday celebrations. Some tips:

  • Bring your jump rope or yoga mat to travel destinations. Sneak in 20 minutes early in the morning or between group activities. Every little bit counts!
  • If you there’s not a gym open nearby, push-ups, sit-ups, air squats, dips (find a chair) and planks are great body-weight exercises that can be performed anywhere. 
  • Walk whenever possible, particularly after a big meal. As much fun as it is to eat too much ham, turkey, and pie then fall asleep watching football… walking it off will make  you feel better later. It also makes for a great group activity — start a new tradition with  your family!