How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Challenges, and fixes, for the most wonderful time of the year.
Posted December 19, 2021 | Reviewed by Gary Drevitch
Christmas is right around the corner. We’ll see friends and family, exchange gifts, have a wonderful time, and probably indulge in all sorts of foods. Nothing quite compares to the atmosphere, and it would be impossible to create it without different desserts and other foods that families traditionally make. But that's where the problem occurs. Most people gain weight during the most wonderful time of the year. To avoid that scenario, identify unhealthy eating habits and tackle them. Here's how to start.
Mindless eating happens when you’re not aware of how much you're eating. This usually occurs when snacks are on the table, but it can also happen with desserts and good food. Often, the person doesn’t even chew food thoroughly. Mindless eating leads to excessive intake of calories and may result in weight gain. Plus, it can also cause bloating and constipation or acid reflux.
THE FIX: Like any other day, eat when you are hungry. Strive to chew your food thoroughly and focus on mindful eating. Pay attention to every bite, flavor, and aroma. Make eating an enjoyable experience. Through mindful eating, you can control how much you eat.
Forgetting your plan
One of the most common unhealthy eating habits during Christmas is people simply forgetting about their goals. You may strive to eat a healthy diet throughout the year, but then Christmas comes along, and you find yourself ditching all the rules you followed.
THE FIX: Stay as close to your plan as possible. It can be tricky during the holidays. One way to make this task easier is to monitor what you eat. A food journal can help.
Focusing on the positives
In an attempt to avoid holiday weight gain, most people focus on all the foods they can’t eat. This practice can be overwhelming and stressful. As a result, your calorie intake could actually increase, especially if you use food to manage emotions.
THE FIX: Instead of focusing on what you can’t (or shouldn’t) eat, try to focus on all the foods you can. In other words, pay attention to the positives. Not only will this help you make wiser choices, but the holiday season could be less overwhelming.
Overloading the plate
With so much delicious food around, it's easy to forget about portion control and overload the plate. In turn, you overeat, and excess calorie intake could be responsible for the unwanted number you see when you step on the scale after Christmas.
THE FIX: Keep in mind that people who eat larger portions tend to gain weight faster than those who do not. This season, treat yourself to delicious foods but practice portion control. If you’re not sure how, try this: Use a smaller plate and don’t ask for seconds.
Not eating enough protein
Holiday foods are often high in carbohydrates but low in protein. Carbs aren't as satiating and are higher in calories. When you combine them with fat content, it's clear why people tend to put on a few pounds during Christmas.
THE FIX: Eat protein with every meal. Protein promotes satiety, thereby suppressing hunger. This lowers the number of calories you consume because you don't overeat. Plus, protein increases metabolic rate.
Overdoing the taste-testing
The holiday season is all about making a wide range of meals and desserts. That also implies you do quite a lot of taste-testing whether you’re the one who’s cooking/baking or not. Although taste-testing may seem innocent, it still adds to the total calorie intake and may lead to weight gain.
THE FIX: Don’t cook hungry; doing so could make you overdo it with taste-testing. Also, when testing foods you’re cooking or baking, use only tiny amounts. You can also ask someone else to check it for you.
Drinking your calories
Where there's a lot of food, there's also usually a lot of drinks, both alcoholic and nonalcoholic. Sodas, alcohol, and eggnog tend to be high in calories. That way, you're consuming too many calories without even realizing it.
THE FIX: Limit intake of high-calorie beverages. Drink water, tea, or coffee (in moderation). Opt for low-calorie beverages, including homemade (unsweetened) fruit juices. Alcohol can be an enemy of healthy weight, so you may want to avoid it entirely or reduce its intake. Instead of egg nog, you may want to give soy nog or rice nog a try.
Not modifying the recipes
Many traditional holiday foods are high in calories. For a person who’s trying not to gain weight, this is not good news. So, if you keep making different foods without modifying the recipes, you risk eating a lot more than your body needs.
THE FIX: Try to modify the recipes to some extent. Use healthier alternatives of some ingredients to reduce the food’s calorie content. For example, instead of butter and too much salt, you can add flavor to dishes with herbs and spices. Instead of frying, opt for grilling, cooking, or baking. Substitute heavy cream for low-fat or skim milk. Instead of chocolate chips and candies in desserts, use dried fruit. Sugar alternatives are also a good choice.
This can be is the loveliest time of the year, but it’s also a time when people worry about seemingly inevitable weight gain. It doesn’t have to be that way. All you need to do is to identify unhealthy eating habits, then do your best to fix them. Simple modifications can go a long way in reducing intake and maintaining healthy weight. Practice mindful eating, use a smaller plate, modify some recipes, and you’ll succeed. Enjoy this time of the year with loved ones without worrying about weight.