Did you know that most Americans gain weight between October and the New Year’s Eve, and that it takes about 5 months to lose it again?(1) It doesn’t have to be this way, and knowing you’re at risk may be the first step in avoiding packing on the holiday pounds.
The over-eating cycle is all too familiar. It starts with Halloween candy, then Thanksgiving feasting, then holiday office parties and pot lucks, culminating in New Year’s festivities and then diet and exercise “resolutions” that last a few weeks. The New York Times reports (2) that over a third of people don’t stick to their diets through the entire month of January.
But we are going to beat the odds, right? I think we should form a support group or something, don’t you? I’m very much prone to winter weight gain, but I thought I’d share some of my strategies with you and see if we might keep each other accountable.
- Pack your own lunch. It’s so easy to grab fast food or high calorie snacks when you’re at work. And who knows how many calories are in them? If you do some simple meal prep at the beginning of the week, you can stack up a bunch of healthy lunches in advance. Grab one Tupperware container (I put frozen veggies, brown rice, and grilled chicken in single serving packs and nuke them at work), a fruit, cheese stick, and some nuts and your nutrition day is covered.
- Don’t eat your friend’s candy. You know that temptations are all over the place, especially right after Halloween. Remember that you should not eat ANY candy mindlessly – one extra 50-calorie hard candy per day can add up to 5 lbs of extra stored energy (aka fat) per year!
- Put fruit slices in your water to make it more tasty. So many beverages (especially non-diet sodas) have hidden calories or are high-sugar. I know that water is boring, but if you fill up a jug with some cucumber or fruit slices and pour yourself a big sport bottle of it every day as you leave for work, you’ll stay hydrated and feel like you’re having a treat to boot.
- Don’t skimp on breakfast. I know you may think that if you skip breakfast you can allocate those calories to sweet treats or a larger lunch. That sounds fair in theory, but what happens is that your hunger gets out of control and you eat a much larger portion later than you normally would, adding up to more calories overall.
- Eat a small dinner. If you’ve eaten a good breakfast and lunch, you’re probably winding down your day at night and don’t need to eat such a large meal, especially before bed. Eating just before you sleep can contribute to reflux and heartburn.
- Do aerobic activity. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends (3) that we do one of the following per week:
- 150 minutes (2 hours and 30 minutes) each week of moderate-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as brisk walking or tennis)
- 75 minutes (1 hour and 15 minutes) each week of vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity (such as jogging or swimming laps)
- An equivalent combination of moderate- and vigorous-intensity aerobic physical activity
- Lift some weight. Strength training at least twice a week builds muscle, and muscle naturally burns more calories than fat.
- Be accountable. If you have a friend who also does NOT want to gain weight over the holidays, create a plan and stick to it together.
- Don’t keep high calorie, low nutrition foods in the house. Have the courage to throw out or donate your “trigger foods” – the snacks you just can’t stop eating. Everyone has different favorite junk foods (chips, cookies, ice cream to name a few common ones). Make sure yours are not easily accessible to you. Mine is Nutella.
- Try on your skinny jeans. Normally I don’t recommend weighing yourself too frequently because there are natural gains and losses that can drive you crazy. But if you have a favorite pair of jeans (or other clothing) that you feel good in at the weight that’s healthy for you… try on those clothes every now and then to give yourself an early warning signal if they’re getting too tight!
Good luck beating the odds this season, my friends. I’m right there with you!
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