10 Simple Tips to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

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holiday-party-foodThe holidays are here, a time for family, friends… and lots of food. Many of these foods are special to the holidays and we often want to celebrate by enjoying these special sweets and treats. For some, certain holiday foods or desserts bring us right back to the comfortable place where we originally feasted on them. For others, it’s simply a time to put our healthy eating on hold until the New Year.

Is there a way you can enjoy this time of year and still prevent holiday weight gain? Yes! It’s all about preplanning, so here are 10 simple tips for a healthy and weight-gain-free holiday season:

1. Travel Wisely: Will you be traveling? If so, before you leave for your trip, be sure to pack some healthy snacks and drinks. While there may be plenty of fast food and convenience stops along the way, chances are what you pack will be more nutritious and healthier than what you’d find at most rest stops. If you’re traveling by plane, the same idea applies. While you may have access to some healthy choices at an airport restaurant or store, long lines and other last-minute delays may prevent you from having time to get what you need.

2. Belts, Buttons and Zippers: Here’s a trick I stumbled upon in college and still use today. Remember the “freshman 15”? With lots of late night partying, unhealthy food, drinks and a first crack at independence, many new college students leave their first year of college carrying an extra 10-15 pounds. Here’s what I noticed; while I was wearing jeans, everyone else was wearing… sweatpants. I also seemed to be one of the only freshmen who didn’t gain any weight. Subconsciously, wearing fitted clothes gives you a reminder to keep from overindulging. So, make sure to wear something fitted that buttons or zips before you head out.

3. Tame that Hunger: Never go to a party hungry. Being overly hungry leads to overeating, so a small snack of healthy protein, fiber and healthy fat (hummus and veggies, nuts and an apple, etc.) before you go keeps your judgment intact and will help you make better decisions when you’re looking at all of those holiday goodies. That snack can spare you from overindulging in unhealthy hors d’oeuvres and appetizers you’d later regret.

4. Clutch! This next tip is called the “clutch trick.” This is where you purposely bringing a clutch bag vs. one with a strap. By carrying your bag, you’ve lost a hand that could be grabbing unhealthy options! No problem if you don’t have a clutch bag. Simply tuck the strap into any small bag and carry it in your hand. For you guys, a hand in your pocket does the same thing.

Once you’re at the party, here are a few things you can try:

5. Be a “Food Snob.” Only eat what’s special for that holiday and shun foods you can have on any occasion. For example, let’s say for Thanksgiving there’s a delicious looking stuffing, sweet potato pie or a signature dish from a favorite relative along with ordinary breads and rolls. Since the roll isn’t significant to the holiday, skip it to allow for a taste of the special foods served only during that time of year. By having what’s unique for the holiday, you’ll feel a part of it without “stuffing” yourself.

6. Preplan Your Appetizers: Of course, if you do want some appetizers, limit the amount, choose the most delicious looking ones, and enjoy them thoroughly. Give yourself permission to enjoy the treat so each bite isn’t eaten with a side of guilt. Also, by giving yourself permission to eat a certain amount, you’re much less likely to binge later on because you feel good about keeping a promise you made to yourself.

7. Preplan the Alcohol: These drinks go down quickly and easily, so you’ll want to plan wisely. Will you have a drink or two, alternate between a drink and a glass of water, or have a wine spritzer to cut the amount of wine you’re having in half? Will you have seltzer, which looks like a drink, and no one will question you about why you’re not drinking?

8. Beware of Food Pushers and Food Bullies: When it comes to preplanning, it’s not just our food we need to consider. Often it’s the situations –the people, places, thoughts and feelings that may derail our best efforts. For these eating triggers, we need a plan, too. For example, you may have a relative who shows their love and nurturing through the food they prepare and serve to you. Not wanting to hurt their feelings or have them feel rejected, you accept that love in the form of a slice of warm apple pie, an extra serving of mashed potatoes… you get the idea. Knowing that you’ll be faced with these well meaning “food pushers,” you may want to preplan what you’ll say or do ahead of time so you both feel good about the meal and experience. Try out a few phrases and see if they work for you, like; “I’ve been looking forward to your delicious cookies and I’m saving room for a taste,” or “I’m stuffed now but can I wrap it up and take it with me for later?” They’ll feel that their treat is so special you want to find a way to eat it, while you can choose to do whatever you like with it once you leave.

9. The “Getting Back on Track Plan”: If you’ve overdone it, put a period at the end of that sentence and just stop. Cap it right there, immediately and before you eat again. Start the next meal with lots of nutrient dense, whole, real foods that nourish and support you. Drink lots of water and simply begin again. Period.

10. The Mental Game of Bouncing Back After a Setback: Finally, if you’ve really gone overboard, evaluate what happened, don’t be hard on yourself, and put some closure on it. There’s nothing positive that comes out of berating yourself and chances are, those negative feelings may just encourage you to keep overeating out of sheer frustration! Also, many of us take that “may as well” approach where as long as we’ve overdone it, we may as well keep going. That’s the same as saying something like: “Well I gained a pound so I may as well gain back all I’ve lost”. Does this make any sense?

With a plan, you can enjoy the holidays weight-gain-free. By putting some strategies together now, you can avoid that tired pledge to lose excess weight as the New Year begins.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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February 2023