With the holiday season approaching, many of us find ourselves surrounded by festive food and the subsequent concern of weight gain. Studies have shown that the typical American may gain two to seven pounds over the six-week holiday season.
We may also find it harder to maintain our exercise program with all the holiday parties, shopping and travel. In addition, many people have much more stress during the holiday period, which can result in overeating as a "feel good" response.
The best way to avoid gaining weight over the holidays is to eat in moderation, keep a consistent exercise program and try my 10 tips to avoid holiday weight gain.
1. Stick to a regular routine with sleep and exercise. Many times feeling tired or stressed is mistaken for hunger.
2. Watch your alcohol intake. Alcoholic beverages contain "empty calories," offering little to no nutritional value and contributing to excess weight gain. Try having a seltzer with a lime twist or a glass of water between alcoholic drinks to help cut calories and remain well hydrated.
3. Eat a small, healthy meal before party time. It's a common misconception that you will lose weight by skipping meals. The truth is your metabolism slows down causing you to store body fat if calories are too limited for too long. Another negative result is that you are more likely to binge later at night resulting in greater weight gains.
4. Don't stand by the food at the party. You will be less likely to partake in unconscious snacking all night if you instead move, mingle and socialize with friends.
5. If you're hungry at the party, reach for the vegetables (without the dip), fruit or rye crackers. If you do host a party have plenty of water and low-calorie snacks available.
6. Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for the stomach to register a "full" sensation and signal the brain that it's had enough. Slow down and listen to your body.
7. Set goals and keep a food diary. Plan your weekly food intake and calorie count to include those treats or Christmas cookies in your diet -- in moderation, of course. Don't totally avoid sweets and holiday food; just plan for it and eat more fruit and vegetables during the week to allow for this. With this plan you can also avoid the guilty feeling afterward that can add to your stress level.
8. Eat protein. Quality protein includes lean meats, seafood, chicken, turkey, eggs, yogurt and low-fat cheeses. Protein will help you feel full and control your appetite.
9. Try to stay consistent with your workout routine. Don't fall prey to the excuse that you'll get back on track after New Years Day or when the weather warms up again. You may need to modify your program for the busy holidays. Do what you can, but keep it up, trying new fitness activities and cross training to keep things fresh and fun. Seek out a professional to help you with your program if you need motivation.
10. Always remain positive. If you do have a "bad" day, don't worry or stress about it. Just get back on track the next day.
Maybe this can be the year your New Year's resolution doesn't include dropping those extra holiday pounds.
Gary Bredehoft, C.S.C.S., is owner of Tiger Coaching and Personal Training in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a four-time Ironman finisher and a past volunteer assistant coach for the University of Nebraska cross country and track teams.