How many times have you stood in front of the mirror a week or two before Thanksgiving and said NOT THIS YEAR? How many times have you vowed to fit into your favorite jeans ALL winter long but struggle to zip them by January 1? It feels inevitable, but I promise it is possible to avoid holiday weight gain.
Holiday weight gain may feel inevitable with shorter and cooler days alongside a holiday season that starts earlier and earlier. You may feel the only option is to say bah humbug and decline every party invitation that comes your way, spending your time tied to the treadmill instead.
I have some good news. Did you know the 10 pounds the average American is alleged to gain between Thanksgiving and New Years Day appears to be a myth? The New York Times says in surveys people self-report an average of five pounds gained, but research studies show the average is only around one pound.
Yet the myth persists and is spread even in fitness circles, mostly in marketing materials. But the truth is you CAN still lose weight during the cold winter months by being as consistent as possible with your normal healthy habits and focusing on two key areas: staying active and staying connected to your hunger. The results of the study concluded that these two controllable factors influenced who gained 5 or more pounds and who didn’t. People that kept moving and kept their hunger levels in check succeeded in staying true to their weight loss goals. If you’re ready to bust the myth and avoid holiday weight gain, here’s how.
1) Keeping up your level of activity.
· Just because you can’t make an hour-long Power Yoga class doesn’t mean can’t fit in a workout. Now is the perfect time to try out all of the quick workouts you’ve been saving on Pinterest. I would also recommend my 15 Minute No Jump HIIT workout or my Healthy Holiday Kettlebell workout.
· Use the colder weather and shorter days as a reason to be adventurous. If you have never tried hot yoga or have always been curious about karate now is the time to give new things a try. Plus the holidays are a slow time for many gyms and studios. You might find yourself with a private yoga lesson or more hands-on time from the instructor at the usually crowded climbing gym.
· Wear your activity tracker every day. Maybe you’ve been inconsistent with wearing your Fitbit in the past, but wintertime is the best time to make sure you use it. When your Apple Watch says, it’s time to stand, walk around the house or your office for a few minutes. It’s a perfect time to refill your water bottle too. Set up incentives for yourself when you hit your step goal, like a manicure or a new coloring book.
· Make your holiday family fun more about getting moving and less about eating. Caroling or ice-skating with the whole clan is a great alternative to a cookie exchange or cocktail party. If you want to gather to warm up afterward, try a holiday hot tea.
2) Managing your level of hunger.
· Make sure protein is on your plate at every meal. Protein will keep you feeling full longer and help keep blood sugar levels more stable. If you grab a snack, try to reach for a hardboiled egg or dry roasted edamame instead of a piece of fruit. You’ll feel more satisfied.
· Always have a glass of water or a cup of hot tea in your hand. Up to 75% of Americans are chronically dehydrated. Getting enough water in winter can be harder because of the colder temps and sweating less. We often mistake dehydration for hunger. Being diligent about your water consumption can help curb excess snacking and boost your energy. Hot tea can help with hydration levels, warm you up and provide some flavor without added calories.
· Be smart about your carbs. Carbs are not the enemy. You can still eat them, including bread and pasta. It’s all about quantity and quality. Carbs that will keep you feeling full, like vegetables, or that have a lot of protein and fiber, like beans, should be the bulk of your carbohydrate intake. When you have “less smart” carbs like pasta or rice, keep your portions in check and don’t be afraid to leave a few bites behind when you hit your 80% full.
· Don’t skip meals! The worst thing you can do is to go to Thanksgiving dinner or the office party starving. When you arrive hungry everything looks good, despite your best intention to “enjoy in moderation.” Eat normally throughout the day, so you have some willpower left to enjoy only one slice of grandma’s pecan pie.
Worrying about how your shorts will fit that first warm weekend doesn’t have to happen. Snowy days and dark evenings don’t have to derail your fitness journey. The key to weights loss (and avoiding holiday weight gain) is to be consistent and proactive: have a plan, be active and practice 80% full every day. If you follow these simple steps you’ll be ready to trade your bulky sweater for a tank top on the first warm and sunny spring day.