The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year – it’s also the most dangerous time of the year if you’re trying to avoid holiday weight gain. Between parties, family gatherings, office parties and time off from work, you may not be able to avoid all opportunities to overindulge in festive food and drink – but there are some things you can do to help limit your intake and prevent holiday weight gain. Read on for our top 10 tips on how to avoid holiday weight gain!
1) Don’t skip breakfast
This is one of my favorite tips for avoiding holiday weight gain. If your body doesn’t get at least five hours of sleep, it will start releasing hormones that trigger hunger—often leading us to overeat at breakfast, which sets us up for overeating later in the day and snacking on unhealthy choices throughout December. Skipping breakfast might save a few calories, but if you aren’t fueled properly by 9am or 10am, prepare yourself for cravings and other unwanted side effects.
2) Schedule exercise time
You’re busy. Everyone is. That doesn’t mean it’s okay to skip exercise time, however. Holidays are just like any other day; find 10 minutes during your day and book it in your schedule for physical activity. It will make all that holiday food much easier to digest—literally and figuratively. We recommend working out 45-60 minutes per day. If you’re lucky enough to get that time, do not watch TV or check social media!
3) Limit alcohol and soda intake
Alcohol contains many empty calories, and drinking too much can have harmful effects on your health. For instance, alcohol consumption is associated with increased risk for certain cancers, especially for those who drink frequently or in large amounts. Stick to one or two drinks per day—the equivalent of 12 ounces of beer (5% alcohol), five ounces of wine (12% alcohol) or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor.
4) Keep track of everything you eat
Monitoring what you eat can be challenging if your schedule is hectic, but technology makes it easier than ever. Smartphones make tracking simple with apps like MyFitnessPal and LOSE IT! while websites like FitDay and FitBit (which also has an app) let you track your food intake as well. When it’s time to sit down for dinner, take note of how much water you’ve had so far that day and make sure your glass stays full throughout dinner.
5) Don’t overindulge on holiday sweets
As much as it pains me to say, candy canes and egg nog are not calorie-free! If you’re trying to avoid holiday weight gain, try following your favorites treats with a glass of water. It may be hard at first but drinking lots of water is one way to stay hydrated—and minimize calories. This is important because even if we do eat healthy for Thanksgiving dinner or Christmas dinner, we can blow it by loading up on cookies and ice cream later that night.
6) Watch portion sizes
You may be eating at holiday parties or other gatherings, and it’s easy to overeat when no one is counting what you put on your plate. One good rule of thumb is not to eat out of serving dishes intended for more than one person. Another is not to eat off other people’s plates. If that doesn’t work for you, take two small servings instead of one large one.
7) Get enough sleep, even if it isn’t on Christmas Day
If you’re working extra-long hours at work during holiday season, it might be tempting to stay up late on Christmas Eve. But when your body is deprived of sleep, your cravings for junk food can go through the roof. Staying alert and productive all day is nearly impossible when your body isn’t getting adequate rest, so cut yourself some slack and get plenty of shut-eye before heading out for Thanksgiving dinner.
8) Think about your goals before hitting the buffet line
People who approach eating with a plan are more likely to succeed in keeping their weight down. Before filling your plate at your holiday party, decide how many servings of each food you’ll eat and stick to your limits.
9) Use smaller plates, bowls, and cups
Having smaller plates, bowls and cups at dinner parties helps trick your brain into thinking that you’re eating more than you are. When people are served dinner on large plates with large serving pieces, they naturally eat more food than if they were served on smaller plates with small serving pieces. If your objective is to eat less at dinner parties and family gatherings, use smaller dinnerware.
10) Wear a pedometer and track your steps each day
Whether your goal is weight loss, muscle gain or overall health improvement, step tracking is a simple way to keep yourself accountable for activity. A pedometer will let you know how many steps you’re taking each day and give you motivation to increase that number over time. An iPhone app called Diet Assistant tracks your daily step count using GPS technology so it doesn’t matter whether or not your pedometer has buttons – it will still track how far you go.