This Holiday Season: Maintain, Don't Gain

The holidays are coming!

By: Megan Keyser, Wellness Specialist

This is my absolute favorite time of year. There’s the rebirth of time for families, time for enjoying the season and all the food and festivities that go along with it. But of course, you may also be worried about overeating during the holidays. If so, you’re not alone.

According to Prevention Magazine, the average American adult gains about a pound and a half per year. This is significant because that adds up to 15 pounds in just 10 years, which can push a woman outside of her “healthy” weight zone. We obviously want to have our cake and eat it, too, or at least, just have a piece of pie on Thanksgiving!

So here are some strategies to help you.

1. Maintain, Maintain, Maintain:
Rather than planning on losing weight during the holidays and then depriving yourself of the foods and enjoyment you really want this time of year, plan ahead for it. Make your goal to maintain your weight throughout the holiday season and when January hits, if you want to push past this to another weight loss goal, you’ll be in the right mindset for it.

2. Plan Ahead:
Write all of your holiday parties down on a calendar you can see them at a glance. How are they spaced? Are they two or three days apart, or two or three weeks apart from each other? This is important to see up front because you can use your fun holiday parties as days when you allow yourself a weekly cheat meal. By all means, eat what you want on Thanksgiving, but then get right back on track for the next meal, even if that means skipping leftovers that day.

If your parties are clustered too closely together, then decide what you’ll allow yourself at each one and stick to it. For example, bite-sized appetizers tend to be around 60 calories each, so be selective about which ones you eat. And keep in mind the Rule of Thirds: allow yourself a protein that covers about one-third of your plate, add in about a fist-sized portion of vegetables (they contain fiber and will help to fill you up from eating too many calorie-rich, non-nutritious foods), and finally, allow another fist-sized portion of carbohydrates. Keep in mind, you don’t have to eat one of everything or eat Grandma’s stuffing!

3. Eat Before You Go:
Another strategy to use during the holidays is to fill your stomach with good lean foods before going to a party where you know you’ll be tempted. Again, allow yourself that one drink or that one dessert – whatever you’ve decided you want – and then stop. You won’t be tempted to each too much of those unplanned foods if you eat something healthy beforehand.

4. Don’t Skip Meals:
Skipping meals is counterproductive to your fitness goals because your body will go into “starvation mode” and transfer the next meal you do have into fat. No one wants this. Instead, eat frequently, at least five lean meals per day, and then when you’re ready for that holiday party, you’re much more prepared.

5. Extra Workout:
Whenever I know I have a big event coming up where I might have an alcoholic drink or something special for the occasion, I try to plan in an extra workout into my week. It won’t necessarily fend off the extra calories you might have at your event, depending on what you consume, but it can help you hit an extra muscle group, get your heart rate up and burn some calories. In the case of workouts, (See article “Why HIIT Works”) HIIT helps you burn more fat and calories than regular aerobic and steady-state workouts in a shorter period of time. Because it involves speed training, agility and strength exercises, you also tend to build a stronger, faster, fitter physique, so this is a great one to throw in during a holiday week!

6. Say, “No, Thank You.”
Learn to say this graciously. Have you ever gone to a party where you already have your mind set to eat lean foods and someone says, “Oh, but you don’t have to worry about what you’re eating, you’re so thin already! You can afford the calories.” Truthfully, I appreciate the compliment, but the reason why I’m able to maintain a fit physique is by making consistent smart choices on a regular basis, and that includes times when it’s not so easy. Family members can be the most difficult ones to manage because they don’t realize your goal may be very different than theirs. So instead, simply smile, say “No, thank you” in the sweetest, most genuine tone you can muster, and then don’t say another word. Your polite decline doesn’t require an explanation.

7. Drink Responsibly:
Remember, alcohol converts to sugar quickly in your body and can make your hard-earned muscle look flat. Additionally, drink calories can easily match or even surpass your food calories, so be mindful of what, and how many drinks you consume. There are lots of great recipes for skinny cocktails online, and you could even offer to bring a mix of one of your favorites as a party offering to your hostess. She will so appreciate it, and so will other health-conscious guests who want to have a little fun.

8. Think Higher Protein, Smaller Portions:
Social gatherings, like it or not, tend to revolve around food. And that’s not a bad thing if we know how to manage it. Unfortunately, portion sizes have gone out of control at restaurants and so now our eyes are conditioned to think bigger when it comes to filling our plates. In most cases, we’re consuming at least double, triple or even quadruple what we should. So, remember, protein is more work for your body to digest and will burn more calories during the digestive process. Your protein portion should be about the size of your palm. Fruits and vegetables are good for you and contain extra fiber and water, so you will feel fuller faster. Those should be consumed in about a fist-sized portion. Start with your dinner first and you’ll be well on your way to enjoying your holidays in moderation. (And come January, you’ll be ahead of the curve!)

Megan Keyser is a wellness specialist for Greater Midland Corporate Wellness and works with clients at Dow through their employee wellness programs.