Commonly, we gain weight during the holiday season. Although research shows that the average American gains only about one to two pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, many people do not lose that extra pound. An extra 1 to 2 pounds gained each year can add up. Our holidays typically revolve around food and drink so it is difficult to avoid the temptation to overindulge. I propose that we all aim to maintain our weight during the holiday season. Among the reasons for weight gain over the holidays are: Stress, Exhaustion, Emotional Eating, and Cold Weather
STRESS: For all of our intentions not to get stressed, we often find ourselves overwhelmed. We all strive for that “Perfect Holiday” (you know the perfect holiday you had as a child: pretty lights, perfect presents, great food and everyone getting along). Some ways that you can de-stress the holidays are:
- Lower your expectations of perfection.
- Allow situations to unfold.
- Welcome new ideas.
- Realize you are not responsible for everyone’s happiness.
- Make sure exercise remains a priority in your life—exercise is a great stress reliever.
EXHAUSTION: Exhaustion is another reason for overeating during the holiday season. The demands put on our time by adding shopping and get-togethers to our already hectic schedules can make us feel sluggish and sleep deprived. Our regular schedule of eating and physical activity can be thrown out of whack. This situation leaves us likely to overeat and less physically active. Some strategies to avoid exhaustion are:
- Make a game plan for exercise and sensible eating.
- Don’t skip meals.
- Keep your sleep patterns as normal as you can.
- Make sure you eat breakfast every morning and snacks when you need them.
- Do not overbook yourself - you don’t need to be at every event.
- Make sure exercise remains a priority in your life—exercise gives us energy.
EMOTIONAL EATING: Emotional Eating is very common during the holiday season. Some people use food to soothe sadness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, or loss. Others use any celebration as an excuse to overindulge. This is especially true when alcohol is available.
- Avoid mindless eating -Bring yourself back to the here and now: pay attention to what is in your hands, on your plate, and what you are eating.
- Turn to people for comfort rather than food
- Alternate alcoholic beverages with calorie free drinks, such as water or diet soda.
COLD WEATHER: Believe it or not, cold weather often triggers a craving for high-calorie comfort food and drink when the temperature drops. Foods such as pie, stuffing, and cream soups bring us a sense of comfort from the cold. On top of that, bad weather can put a damper on outside activities.
- Pay attention to the calories you are eating.
- Choose some lower fat and lower sugar options.
- Add an extra helping of fruit or vegetables to your plate once a day.
- Make sure exercise remains a priority in your life—indoor exercise is as effective as exercising outside.
Being aware of the reasons for gaining weight at the holidays is the first step in learning to avoid the pitfalls. Next week we will share with you some great ideas to keep your exercise on track as well as ideas to cook and eat healthier more balanced meals at the holidays.