Bad News – Holidays are around the corner. With that comes holiday parties, cookies, brownies, egg nog and a lot of eating! Most people think that, on average, they gain anywhere between 5-10 pounds. Well here’s the good news: A study was published in the year 2000, in the New England Journal of Medicine, in which the body weight of 195 men and women was studied during the course of the year. The results? The actual holiday weight gain was around one pound among those who were in general good health and five pounds among overweight or obese individuals. As with calorie counting, we overestimate actual weight gain during the holiday season. The problem is that according to the study, the weight was not lost in that following year. One pound may not seem like a lot but it can build up from year to year. Add that single pound to the increase in sedentary lifestyles and you are just asking for weight gain.
If the average weight gain is only one pound why is it that people feel they gain more? It’s usually do mostly to bloating. Carbohydrates draw in water during digestion so an increase in carbs will lead to an increase of water retention. In addition, sugary sweets spike insulin levels and cause a subsequent drop in blood sugar which can make us feel groggy and unmotivated. This can make us feel even crappier and the cycle goes something like this: It seems like the holidays just work against our fitness goals. Cold weather makes it annoying to spend time outside, sleep is disrupted because of family obligations and shopping, peer pressure, fattier and sweeter foods are more readily available, and then there are the people that remind you that it is “only once per year.”
What can you do to prevent this coming season from putting a damper on your motivation?
Here are a few ways to Beat the Bulge:
- Stay active. Be as consistent as possible with your workouts. If obligations start filing up your calendar, schedule gym time and make that an obligation as well. It is important to already be working out before the holidays hit. Attempts made during the holidays are feeble at best and usually lead to failure. Get going now.
- When possible get a workout in before attending a party. Even though overeating is rarely a good idea, you can at least make it a post workout meal to help control the damage. More sugar will be taken up by muscles if the meal is post workout.
- Do not go hungry to parties/events. Eat before. Have a protein shake on your way there or eat an apple/something with fiber to help fill you up a bit. You can also offer to bring something and prepare a healthy snack instead of something sweet.
- Take a mental food log. Don’t let yourself just go to town.
- Sit facing away from food. If food is in front of us chances are you’ll eat some of it. When possible have your back face serving tables.
- Focus on sleep. Get 6-8 hours regularly. It will help you control weight, reduce stress, and keep your immune function high.
- Don’t eat a full serving. Grab the appetizer plate and use that for your meals and use taller/thinner glasses.
- Remember the law of diminishing return. The first bite is always best. You will receive less and less pleasure after every bite. You can still enjoy your food by eating a smaller portion.
The truth is the holiday season is an inevitable and exciting part of our culture. It shouldn’t surprise you when the holidays come around. You should be prepared and familiarize yourself with the defensive techniques mentioned above in order to prevent a bit of damage.