Tips for Beating the Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays can be a joyful time of year for many people and they can also be stressful. With social obligations, shopping for holiday gifts and preparation for holiday events, it can sometimes feel overwhelming. It can be tempting to overindulge with an abundance of sweet treats and rich holiday meals. For some people, stress can lead to skipping meals, especially breakfast, which often leads to overeating later in the day. Others may use food as a means to cope with stress.

What are some helpful tips for staying on track this holiday season?

  1. Focus on conversation, not on the food. Remember that holidays are for giving thanks and connecting with friends and family.
  2. Skipping meals might sounds like a logical solution for avoiding excess calories, however, it often leads to overeating. Try eating a small, healthy snack before a holiday party such as string cheese or a small handful of almonds.
  3. Take a step back and breathe- it is easy to feel overwhelmed by a table filled with your favorite dishes. Before you start to fill your plate, take a deep breath and survey the options. Select only the foods you really want to taste.
  4. Bring a healthy dish or appetizer with you to holiday parties or meals. A great example is a vegetable tray with humus or a low fat Greek yogurt dip to enjoy before the meal. Eat the vegetables and limit the other pre-meal snacks.
  5. Be mindful about your food by taking small bites and savoring every bite.
  6. Put your fork down between bites, then chew and enjoy the food.
  7. Use caution with alcohol as it can compromise judgment and lead to overindulging. It is also important to remember that alcohol contains a significant amount of calories; a one-ounce shot contains 120 calories and a 12-ounce beer can be between 100 and 200 calories.
  8. Choose a smaller plate, if possible, to avoid oversized portions.
  9. Sample small amounts of your favorite foods offered at holiday parties. Choose more of the healthier options such as turkey breast, steamed or fresh veggies, and fruits.
  10. There are many delicious foods around us at home, work and at parties during the holidays. Don’t punish yourself for a small indulgence, but also don’t permit yourself too much indulgence. Any food is OK if consumed in moderation.
  11. Make some healthy swaps to your favorite holiday recipe. Find ingredients that are lower in fat, salt, or sugar to substitute for the usual ingredients. This will reduce calories, sodium and fat, while retaining the taste. Examples include low fat evaporated milk instead of whole fat evaporated milk in pumpkin pie or low sodium chicken broth instead of regular broth when making stuffing.

What about exercise?

Exercise is often forgotten when schedules get busy and many people may not view exercise as a priority. The combination of overindulgence and lack of exercise may lead to holiday weight gain. Many view weight gain as inevitable during the holidays, but it does not have to be.

Continue to exercise and remember that you don’t have to exercise for an hour to get the benefits. Only 10 minutes of exercise is better than none at all. You can also spread exercise out by doing small chunks whenever time permits. For example you could walk for 10 minutes in the morning, 10 minute at lunch and 10 minutes in the evening.

You can always get the help of UCHealth Medical Fitness nutrition services or join us for some of our holiday exercise programming for some support. You got this!

Katie Kissane, MS, RD, CSSD