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How to Not Gain Weight during the Holidays

Updated: Jul 12, 2020


holiday dinner table

Photo by Hannah Busing by Unsplah


If you believe that you can binge on food as long you hit the gym after and still maintain weight loss, then unfortunately, I have a bit of bad news for you. The holidays are definitely hard for maintaining your weight and results, but if you don’t it will set you back on all the progress you made. Think of all the hours in the gym you spent, early morning or late nights. Think of the healthy choices you made all year. This is not to say don’t treat yourself. However, my intention for writing this article is for you to identify what triggers binge eating, especially during the holidays, and tips to control your bad eating habits so you can enjoy a guilt-free holiday season.


Trigger 1: Temptation 

All your favorite foods are out there in the open in eyesight, a few feet away. Your grandma is shoveling food onto your plate, you haven’t eaten all day, and it's just one slice of cake… maybe a few slices tomorrow from leftovers…Yes, I get it. All that delicious food is there that your family spent so much time making and is insisting that you eat it. All of it. Temptation is a big trigger for binge eating but there are ways to help control the urge. 


Tip 1: Pick Your Plate

Danielle Staub, MS, RD, CDN, and Digestive Disease Dietitian, writes that it's important to pick the healthier options on your Thanksgiving plate (Columbia Surgery). Your plate should have fiber-rich produce that helps with fullness like vegetables, apples, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes (luckily, some of the most popular dishes made for Thanksgiving). Another objective is you should opt for lean protein; meaning the white meat. Lean protein has less calories and saturated fats, also with the benefit of being easier to digest. 


Another great tip is to modify your recipes that you’d be serving people. There are so many healthy choices you could switch on the ingredients list that most people wouldn’t even notice the difference. Examples include: using spices instead of butter, using stevia instead of white sugar, dried fruits instead of chocolate chips, etc. 


Trigger 2: Boredom 

These holiday gatherings can be long and boring, with nowhere to escape to, especially if you are at a relative's house or on a holiday trip together. These situations leave you susceptible to another danger - snackes. Boredom snacking can lead to weight-gain for a few reasons. Firstly, you are not counting the calories of what you are snacking on. Second, what you are snacking on could be high in calories, such as processed food (chips, candy, etc.). Although you might not be able to stop snacking, you can mitigate the damage. 


Tip 2: Healthy Snacks 

One healthy tip for making healthier diet choices during Thanksgiving and the holidays is snacking wisely. Find a healthier alternative for the caramelized popcorn like carrots with hummus. Reach for crunchy veggies, fresh fruit, a handful of nuts, and stay away from the comfort foods (Murcia, UCLA Newsroom). If you know you struggle with sweets, then chose to bring your own snack options to the party. These can include 100-calorie pack options so you can track what you are eating. 


Try to control the desire to eat just because it’s there and you’re bored. Bring entertainment like a board game or movie to the gathering. Not to mention, drink water to contribute to feeling fuller and lessening the urge to eat even though you’re not hungry. If drinking alcohol causes you to be hungrier, limit alcohol consumption as well. 


Trigger 3: Holiday Stress and Distress 

Stress is also a cause of bad food choices, which is considered a huge factor in holiday weight gain (Elliott, Healthline). The holidays can be extremely stressful, and it is encouraged to find alternatives to reduce your stress levels. Notice what is causing stress for you. Are you stressed to see certain family members at the holiday gathering? Are you stressed because you are in charge of holiday cooking? Or maybe, you are not going anywhere for the holidays and this time causes emotional distress and sadness for you. 


Tip 3: Boundaries and Solution Thinking

This tip is more broad as it is specific to your situation and more complex than a listicle article can answer for you. First, look inward to what you are feeling and what could be the causes. If it's about a family member limit time with them or create verbal boundaries about conversational topics. State that you don’t want to talk about politics or about your relationships (the classic “when are you getting married?” questions).  If you’re the one hosting or cooking, ask for help. Tell all attendees to bring a dish. Ask family members to help cook and turn it into a pre-party.  


Tip 4: Exercise 

Exercise shouldn’t be the excuse to eat bad but it also be incorporated into the holiday. Go on a run with the family or play a game of football. For stress, do some yoga before the holiday party.  Although unhealthy food choices won’t eliminate all the calories you ate by more extreme exercise, you can still use exercise along with some of the strategies above (Radcliff, Healthline). Bottom line: consume everything in moderation and along with doing physical activity- going on walks or hikes with family members for some bonding, playing in the backyard with the nephews and nieces, running mathatrons, etc., you will survive the holidays! 


All the above are all healthy choices you can make daily, but remember that one bad day is not going to throw off your weight loss goals unless you let it. This article is to empower you during the holidays to know that you have options and you are not at the mercy of your bad habits. 



Sources:

(Elliott, Brianna, RD). Healthline. April 5 2019. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/tips-to-avoid-holiday-weight-gain

(Staub, Danielle, MS, RD, CDN, Digestive Disease Dietitian). Columbia Surgery. https://columbiasurgery.org/news/2017/11/21/keeping-healthy-thanksgiving-holiday

(Murcia, Jane). UCLA Newsroom. Nov 26 2019. http://newsroom.ucla.edu/stories/guilt-free-holiday-dinner

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