The holiday season is upon us. It brings with it a sense of festival; a time for thanks, quiet reflection, enjoyment of friends and family with food and drink. Unfortunately, many view the this period not as a seasonal transition punctuated by a handful of celebratory events, but a sabbatical from reason and responsibility; especially when it comes to choosing what to pop in our pie-hole.
From the first gobble gobble that follows Halloween through the welcoming of the New Year, those 6 to 8 weeks are we abdicate rational thought to subscribe to the rationale of vices. It’s the Scarlet O’Hara approach; enjoy the celebrations and at least until January, “I’ll never be hungry again…As God is my witness, I’ll never be hungry again.”
So with caution and common sense gone with the wind, we indulge, we eat and accumulate the baggage that we will resolve to rid ourselves of with the turning of the calendar. Although, research shows that the weight gain is generally not reversed. But what if just a little direction, a pinch of common sense, and a dash of effort could prevent us from showing up to the starting line of the new season way behind the 8-pound ball?
Here are five easy tips to curb your holiday weight gain.
- Eat, eat, eat: There are two good reasons to be eating throughout the day before you hit the evening party circuit. If you starve yourself before you show up, you are likely to be the hangry guest; and nobody likes a Christmas Grinch. And if anybody has ever been the hungry shopper, well, you know the answer to the second part.
At first this may seem counterintuitive. How can eating prevent weight gain? But it is about the quality of food and the timing. A little constant snacking throughout the day allows us to control two very important variables. The first is the quality of the food we choose to eat. Lightly snacking on some wholesome, authentic and worthwhile food choices that we have either packed with us to the workplace or consume at home allows us to have the majority of what we eat to be quality comestibles. By being at least partially satiated when we show up at the buffet we are less inclined to overindulge on potential junk food offerings. During the festive season shoot for the 80/20 rule; no more than 20% of what you eat should consist of the typical holiday fare.
- Slow it down: Hand-in-hand with the frequent snacking is the nibble rate. By lightly snacking over a period of time, you allow time for your stomach to signal your brain that you are starting to feel full. This is typically about 20 minutes. When you consciously ingest, savoring the flavor and textures of what you are consuming add a little international flair by apply the Okinawan concept of hara hachi bu. This is the ancient Confucian concept of stopping when you are about 80% full. What you will find, is in about 10 to 15 minutes after stopping, you will feel pleasantly satiated without the pains and weight gains that accompany overindulgence.
- Wine a little: It is the holiday season, after all; so things are going to happen. It is okay to go ahead, vent those frustrations and whine a little. For many of us that means enjoying the festivities with a cocktail or glass of wine. While wine and other forms of alcohol have been shown to be part of a healthful approach to food and drink, moderation is the key. Use the opportunity to whine and wine a little, but mix it with a good conversation, company and cheer. This helps slow down but the food and alcohol consumption.
- Walk it off: The season invariably involves a bit of hustle bustle and running about. While that may impinge on workout time and mean less frequent outings to the gym; it doesn’t have to mean less physical activity. When you’re headed to the mall or the store, park further way. With frequent stops and a busy schedule each little bit of extra walking and physical activity that can be done, adds up. It is important to try and not lose any physical conditioning over the holiday concourse. Otherwise, he spend the first part of the new year just trying to get back to where you are – and that can be incredibly frustrating and discouraging.
- Be sweet: Holiday season often means holiday treats. And there is nothing at all wrong with that, but again moderation is the key. Trying to deny yourself an occasional gustatory gift across the many weeks, and then no doubt adding said desserts to the verboten list of New Year’s resolutions ends up with either pharmacological therapy or anger management – or both. By following the above guidelines, you should be able to approach dessert rationally. A small portion should satiate and take your time savoring the succulent sweet. Even if you feel like going back for the entire chocolate cheesecake, go ahead and give yourself that 15 to 20 minutes and chances are you can resist the devil’s food.
And most importantly, enjoy the season! If you do go a little overboard one day, don’t beat yourself up or perform penance through starvation. Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, redouble your resolve and efforts; remember it is a long and sometimes arduous holiday season.
And remember…“Fiddle-dee-dee! After all, tomorrow is another day.”
Yanovski, J. A., Yanovski, S. Z., Sovik, K. N., Nguyen, T. T., O’Neil, P. M., & Sebring, N. G. (2000). A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain. N Engl J Med , 342:861-867 DOI: 10.1056/NEJM200003233421206.