Ah yes, the holidays…mix all your favorite high-calorie foods with more stress, less time, less sleep, strained family dynamics and what do you get? Weight gain!
According to multiple studies, the not-so-merry news is that we can’t just “blame it on the holidays.” Americans tend to gain .4 to 1.8 pounds each year. At that rate, a 20-year-old who weighs 130 pounds could weigh 148 at age 30, 166 at age 40, 184 at age 50 and 202 at age 60 (does this sound familiar to anyone else?).
To help with some practical tips to get us through the holidays and beyond, I spoke with Lisa Hammett, a Weight Watchers leader. She knows first-hand how difficult it can be to shed unwanted pounds. She lost 45 pounds and kept it off for 3 years. Then moved to Texas, fell in love with Tex-Mex (that happens!) and gained it all back. In 2010, she was sick and tired of feeling sick and tired, so she went on the Weight Watchers program and lost 65 pounds – she looks great and has kept it off ever since. She helped us with a previous article called 3 Practical Weight Loss Tips that I’ll credit with helping me lose 15 pounds!
Here are a few of Lisa’s tips and tricks for getting through the holidays without having to resort to a rubber band closure on your pants…
1) It’s not just about food
Lisa suggests this exercise: “Write down everything you enjoy about the holidays. Then, put a check mark next to the things you enjoy doing with others. You’ll see that there are a number of things you enjoy that don’t involve eating. Focus on those things during the holidays and take the emphasis off the food.” So, treat yourself to a skinny vanilla latte and go walk the mall with your family or friends. Bring your own low calorie popcorn to that holiday movie. Walk a section of your annual Christmas light tour instead of driving all of it. Lisa sums it up with, “Focus more on relationships and activities you love than food consumption.”
2) Slow down
Everything about the holidays moves faster and you can’t always control it. But you CAN control how quickly you shovel those bites into your mouth! Lisa says, “Think of something you really enjoy drinking. Wine or coffee, maybe? When you drink it, you don’t guzzle it down like water in the desert - you sip it and enjoy the experience.” Now apply that thinking to your big holiday meal. There’s a flurry of activity right before the table is set and everyone sits down. The tendency is to continue that pace and scarf down your entire plate in 10 minutes. Instead, mentally make a shift to slow down and savor your meal. “You can do that by putting your fork down between bites and taking a sip of whatever you’re drinking. Have your soda, wine, milk, as well as a glass of water. Because there’s a lag time between when my brain recognizes that I’m full vs. when I’m actually full, eating slower gives my brain the opportunity to catch up so I don’t overeat.”
3) Don’t deprive yourself
You don’t have to eat tofurky or sing “Soy to the World!” Lisa says, “It’s unrealistic NOT to enjoy your favorite foods at the holidays, so don’t deprive yourself. I LOVE stuffing and I’m going to eat it because this is the only time of the year I get it. The important thing is making sure the portions are manageable and I don’t go crazy. I’ve found that if we don’t eat the things we crave, we’ll go on a binge and eat more calories than if we’d just had a small portion of the original craving!”
4) Watch the little things
Lisa warns, “Grazing between meals can add hundreds of covert calories. People tend to congregate and chat around food while mindlessly putting things into their mouths as they wait for a meal to be served. First, get away from the food and have conversations in other areas, if possible. And skip the nuts, chips, cheese, crackers, etc. - eat from the veggie or fruit tray if you’re hungry between meals.”
5) Stay active
Check out Lisa’s awesome “Move Your Bum” tips in our 3 Practical Weight Loss Tips article. She says, "You don’t have to go running, sweat buckets at the gym or walk the dog for an hour. There are so many activities you can easily fit into your day if you’re willing to think about it and be more strategic." Knock out some holiday meal calories by taking all those at the “kid’s table” on a long walk (you’ll be a hit with all the parents, too!), play sports with the fam, or have a walk through one of the many stores that will now be open on Thanksgiving.
6) Plan ahead
You can’t do any of these things if you don’t plan ahead and mentally prepare. Lisa advises, “Have something for breakfast so you’re not starving when the dressing and yams are passed around. Build your plate ahead of time in your mind – if you go over your calories, have a plan to burn more or eat a few less in the days ahead to make up for it. Plan a long walk in the morning and pre-burn some calories to make room for pumpkin pie. While you can’t control what the host is cooking, you can control what you bring, so make a healthy choice.” Try a new tasty recipe and all the other health-conscious people will appreciate you!
Now it's your turn! Do you tend to overeat at the holidays? What are some things you do to eat better? Leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.