With the holidays upon us we all want to celebrate. Time spent with family and friends could mean an abundance of holiday cheer, food and alcohol. The good news is that the average weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Years is not 5 lbs or more as is what is commonly asserted. In a study from the New England Journal of Medicine (2000), the average holiday weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Years was 0.37 kg in a non clinical sample of 195 adults. Another study, reported in Nutrition Journal from 2006, noted weight gain in college students during the Thanksgiving holiday. The average weight gain was 0.5 kg. While a pound may not be a big deal, if this is not reversed after the holidays, it could contribute to weight gain in adulthood.
So if you plan on celebrating like the rest of us, here are some tips on how to avoid excess holiday weight gain while enjoying the season with your loved ones:
Still hungry? Add an extra serving of veggies on your plate. Who doesn’t like mashed potatoes? Keep the serving of carbs lower and veggie portion higher to avoid excess calories to satisfy your appetite.
Put the salt down! Excess sodium causes the body to hold more water. This can lead to sensation of fatigue and bloating. Not to mention the burden on the heart with excess fluid in the body! Most turkey and fixings already have sodium from the pasteurizing process.
Stay hydrated! Up to 60% of the human adult body is water. Water is important to help the kidneys filter toxins from the body. If the body is dehydrated from excess alcohol /sodium/sugar the kidneys will hold water and thus build excess waste/toxins.
Don’t go to your holiday dinner hangry! This will cause you to overindulge! Depending on the time of day your dinner is served, you should try to eat a small meal with a balance of lean protein, good carbohydrates (rice, sweet potato, oatmeal etc) and fiber about 3 hours prior to dinner. This will avoid unwanted spikes in blood glucose levels with large meals.
Stay consistent with exercise! While the holidays/cold weather are a great excuse to skip your exercise routine, this is when you need it the most! Exercise ensures the body will utilize all this great food for fuel. Additionally, exercise has many other benefits of decreasing stress/anxiety, improving sleep quality and reducing symptoms of depression.
Prepare for your event! Eat clean most of the week with a good balance of lean meats, good carbs and veggies/fiber/fruits. Use a guideline of 2 meals per week for “cheat meals”: meals that are not typically on your diet and may have excess calories.
Your holiday celebrations should not affect you too much if you use some of these guidelines. Enjoy the season!