How to Maintain a Healthy Weight During the Holidays?
The holiday season is upon us and with it, a bunch of festivities and celebratory meals that usually contain lots of sugar and fatty food. And while indulging in some is completely ok, many people struggle with the concept of gaining weight, how to prevent it, and how to get back on track if they do put on a few extra pounds.
Gaining weight isn’t always a bad thing. Not everyone needs to be their leanest to feel good. As a matter of fact, some people even feel their best and greatest when they’re at a comfortable weight that might be a few pounds more than they’d like. Others have more energy and feel better when they’re able to fit into their last year’s jeans. Still, no matter how one feels about it, rarely will they tell you how they don’t care about the “holiday weight gain.” Most people do care and some take it to the next level by stressing about it and doing everything they can to prevent it.
Why Do You Gain Weight During the Holidays?
The question of how and why you’re gaining weight is more important than the actual number change on your scale as it plays a crucial role in whether the weight gain is healthy or unhealthy. If having a few weeks of joy, fun, and a plethora of happy family dinners full of food and laughter makes it harder for you to button up your pants come New Year isn’t the same as if the weight gain was caused by stress, anxiety, long sleepless nights, and overall worry.
Even though the number on the scale might be the same, the first example isn’t necessarily so bad for you. And most often than not, you’re just as easily able to lose the gained weight in a few weeks after the holiday celebrations have ended. In the second example, your weight gain is caused by chronic stress and inflammation that wreaks havoc in your body and isn’t as easily lost in January.
This is why the reason behind your weight gain is so important. Weight fluctuations are a normal part of life and it’s impossible to expect you’ll maintain the same weight constantly. Even more so if you’re a woman. Women’s weight tends to fluctuate during their menstrual cycle as the hormonal changes cause water retention and even make their bodies hold on to fat a bit more tightly when they need it to produce estrogen.
During the holidays, most cultures tend to gather around food and festivities involving food. And generally speaking, there’s always plenty of food on every table that’s not a usual part of your everyday life. There is always a variety of fatty and sugar-rich foods that are a part of your culture and haven’t been updated or changed in hundreds of years. And even though some people look forward to this time of the year and don’t even care about the weight gain, others get stressed just by thinking about it. The stress it’s causing you combined with the anxiety around eating the said foods while focusing on how to avoid an extra item on your plate might cause you more harm than the actual food itself.
So, if you’re stressing out the second November comes around, here are some ways to maintain a healthy weight during the holidays.
Plan it Out
There’s nothing worse than going into something that’s already causing you anxiety without a plan. When there are actionable steps you can take, there are ways to deal with and mitigate your body’s stress response. This means you can lower your inflammation and help prevent unnecessary and unhealthy weight gain caused by it.
So, come November, you already know there’s Thanksgiving and Christmas to think about. Start gathering information on the potential friends and family gatherings, how many of those you need to attend, how many you need to host yourself, and how many of them are back-to-back. Once you have the final number, put them in your calendar and look at the days in between.
You can block out the days leading up to and following an event and decide to spend them by focusing on healthier and more nutritious foods, more intense workouts, or even finding more time to relax and de-stress so you’re better prepared for the extra calories as well as allow your body to digest everything properly afterward.
Influence What You Can
Even though most holiday foods haven’t had a change in their recipe for decades, maybe even hundreds of years, do some research and make some healthier changes when you’re in charge of the meals.
Love the Thanksgiving cranberry sauce? Do a healthier version that doesn’t include tons of added cane sugar and instead, make yours with coconut sugar, yacon syrup, or even honey. Crave the infamous pumpkin pie? Make a raw vegan version and add a variety of health-boosting ingredients such as camu camu powder and ginger.
There are plenty of different ways to recreate famous holiday recipes and transform them into healthier versions. And it’s all about the balance – you’ll probably feel better scooping up that gravy if you know there’s a healthy dessert waiting for you in the fridge.
Accept What You Can’t Change
And then there’s the most important tip, but probably the hardest: stop stressing about the holidays. They are here just for a few weeks out of the year and instead of worrying about weight gain and how to say no to another piece of the delicious Christmas chocolate cake, accept the holiday season for what it is. Eat to your satisfaction, spend time with family and friends, relax, laugh, and have fun. There’s always the next day and a new chance of getting back on track.
Focus on the Long-Term
Nothing is forever and just like they come, the holidays pass. A few extra slices of bread and grandma’s Christmas cookies won’t make you obese just like a few healthy salads and steamed broccoli won’t make you shredded. Focus on your long-term health and fitness goals and keep maintaining them like you normally would, but allow yourself to enjoy the holiday treats while they’re here.
Say No if You Want It
On the other hand, if you’re already dealing with a health condition and you’re not in a position to gain even one additional pound or you simply think that holidays equal a sugar rush, focus on staying on top of your healthy routine and don’t apologize for saying no to dessert. Just because the holidays are here, it doesn’t mean you should eat foods you normally never would. Just don’t stress about it. Say no and if someone doesn’t understand it, know that it’s their problem. You have the right to put your own health first, whether it’s physical or mental.
Holidays should be a time for joy, happiness, and no stress. In reality, there is often a commotion of a variety of stressful factors around this time of the year, and food shouldn’t be one of them. Plan your time around festivities, make smart choices for your health, and put your stress in the backseat. Your health and weight will both thank you for it.