15 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

Beard & Howell / Getty Images
Beard & Howell / Getty Images

The holiday season is a time to celebrate. Unfortunately, for many the holidays are also a time for overeating and weight gain. The festivities don’t have to leave you looking like Santa. By focusing on a healthy balance of food, activity, and fun, weight gain can be avoided. Here are some helpful tips.

1. Always start with a healthy breakfast

It kick-starts your metabolism and is a great way to start your day with balance by combining whole grains, fiber, and fresh fruit.

2. Plan for snacks

Snacks are a good thing if they are healthy. Being overly hungry leads to overeating. Grab a 100- to 200-calorie snack containing whole grains, protein, and a little bit of fat. For example, a non-fat yogurt with fruit or a banana with peanut butter. Snacks help control your hunger and keep your judgment about eating intact so you can make better decisions and will be less likely to grab something that smells and looks good, but isn’t good for you.

3. Don’t skip meals

Eating every four hours throughout the day will help keep your metabolism revved up. Skipping meals doesn’t save you calories over the long haul, because by the time you sit down to eat, you’re ravenous, which leads to overeating. Skipping meals also causes your body to go into starvation mode, making it more likely that the calories consumed are stored as fat instead of being burned.

4. Dress strategically

Wearing fitted clothes provides a subconscious reminder to avoid overindulging, because your clothes will feel snug when you start to over eat versus clothing that stretches right along with your waistline. Another good strategy for women at holiday parties is to bring a clutch bag rather than one with a shoulder strap. If you have to hold your purse, you’ll be hard pressed to grab multiple appetizers.

5. Have a strategy ready for food pushers

Don’t feel pressured to eat everything. Just because it is there doesn’t mean you have to eat it. And you don’t have to over eat to be a good guest. Have polite comments ready for food pushers. Politely say, “No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything is so delicious.” The host/hostess will appreciate the compliment and you will avoid overeating out of guilt.

6. Preplan your drinks

Limit your drinking to one or two drinks or alternate between drinks and water. Be mindful of the caloric value of your drink. Eggnog has about 450 calories per glass, which is the equivalent of nearly one full meal. Any hard alcohol on the rocks or mixed with club soda will be closer to 100 calories, as will most light beers or a glass of wine. No matter what your beverage of choice is, make sure you drink a lot of water too. Water will keep you hydrated and helps to fill you up and slow down your eating.

7. Pace yourself

Whether you put down your fork between bites, chew thoroughly, take a drink between bites or any other strategy, taking longer to eat helps you feel more satisfied with less food.

8. Bring a healthy dish

By offering to bring a healthy dish to a holiday gathering, you will be a great guest, and can be assured that you will have something to eat that you like and that is nutritious.

9. Practice healthy eating habits

Avoid or limit sauces made from cream, half-and-half and meat drippings. Instead choose broth-based or vegetable sauces. For salads, choose oil based salad dressings, like oil and vinegar or vinaigrette. Limit added fats by skipping the gravy and butter. If you feel hungry for a second helping, consider how much you’ve eaten and check in with your body. Good choices for seconds are vegetables and water.

10. Manage stress

Holidays can be a stressful time for many people and stress can contribute to weight gain in several ways. Make sure to set some personal time aside for rest, relaxation and leisure.

11. Listen to your body

It is easy to get distracted from signals of physical hunger and fullness at social gatherings. Make an effort to stay in tune with your body’s signals during holiday meals. If you feel satiated and comfortable, stop eating. Just because there is more food available, does not mean you need to eat more. For an added reminder, put your phone on vibrate and set a countdown timer for 20 or 30 minutes. When the timer goes off, check in with yourself and notice how you are feeling and what you are doing. Are you eating? If so, are you actually hungry? Are you eating to cope with emotions or to distract from stress? No judgment; just observation. Then set the timer again.

12. Eat mindfully

Survey the entire table before you take any food. Choose foods that look visually appealing or that you know you will like, and enjoy a small portion thoroughly. If the food you selected does not taste as good as you expected, stop eating it and choose something else. By giving yourself permission to eat a certain amount of food, you are much less likely to overeat later.

13. Keep up with exercise

Exercise will not only help burn calories, it will also keep your metabolism going throughout the day. An added benefit of exercise is that it boosts endorphins, which can be helpful for relieving holiday stress. Try to get an extra 20 minutes of exercise every day.

14. Get enough sleep

Studies have shown that poor sleep can increase appetite and caloric intake. Get enough sleep to avoid overeating and food cravings throughout the day.

15. Out of sight, out of mind

Wrap tempting foods in foil or in nontransparent containers. Place nutrient-dense foods toward the front of the refrigerator and cabinets. Reduce the accessibility of higher calorie, easy-to-eat foods and make them more difficult to reach.

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  2. コールMay 13, 2014 at 12:44 am

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    15 Tips for Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain | Eat Well with Gina

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About Gina
Gina Consalvo-Hassick, MA, RD, LDN, CDE, NCC is a registered dietitian and is actively involved in various food and nutrition communities. She has counseled and assessed a wide range of patients and has experience in outpatient, inpatient, and consulting. Areas of specialization include weight management, eating disorders, and wellness nutrition.
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