Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming! Unfortunately, for many, so is the holiday weight gain. In fact, the average American will gain 5 to 12 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's. But it doesn't have to be like that, as long as you implement some simple strategies to stay on track.

 Avoiding holiday weight gain doesn't necessarily mean avoiding holiday goodies. It only means that you should approach it with common sense and purposeful decision making. If you suddenly stop working out because you're too busy shopping and start eating every Christmas cookie that crosses your path, you are bound to end up with some holiday pounds. However, if you maintain or increase your activity level, and have a few treats in goodies along the way, then the end result will not give you any reason to fear the bathroom scale.

 Think about it, the holiday season mainly consists of Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's Eve, with a sprinkling of parties here and there. Those few days shouldn't have a big affect on your weight, even if you eat more than you normally would. This is different than going on an eating binge all the way up to the day when New Year's resolutions cause you to go on a diet.  Don’t wait until New Year’s Day to be healthy. Act in healthier ways now, and you will be ahead of the pack.  

 So, the best strategy is to not to lose your mind. Simply put, keep your good decision skills sharp! Here are a few tips:

  •  Maintain (or increase) your activity level. Don't sacrifice your workouts in exchange for shopping. You and your health need to remain at the top of your priority list.
  • If you genuinely feel to you don't have enough time for your workouts because of the holiday time crunch, then shorten your workouts, but increase the intensity. Look for workouts that can strengthen your muscles and bring your heart rate up simultaneously for an effective use of time.
  • If you know that you consumed a particularly large amount of calories, increase your activity level the following day to get right back on track. You'll feel better about it, both physically and emotionally.
  •  With cooking your own holiday treats, look for recipes that are low in fat and sugar. Most baking recipes still taste perfectly sweet with HALF the added sugar. You can also try simple substitutions, such as switching applesauce for oil in cakes and sweet breads.
  •  When baking at home, cook small batches, unless you're planning on giving them away to someone who isn’t trying to lead a healthier lifestyle. Freeze or share with others so you are less tempted to empty the dish.
  •  Go lightly. Christmas will not be ruined if there are not mountains of baked goods
  •  Drink water while you bake. It will help keep you from being tempted to nibble.
  •  Start “sampling” holiday foods rather than eating the whole thing.
  •  If you're going to a party, eat a healthy dinner before you go, so you won't be tempted to chow down on fat ridden appetizers and snacks in order to satisfy your hunger.
  •  Keep in mind, alcohol is practically liquid sugar. A night of drinking can easily be the equivalent of eating an entire cheesecake. So instead, consider having one or two drinks, and then switching to water, club soda, or what ever else fits your mood and your desire to avoid the holiday punch.
  •  You know those cookies and treats that people often give as gift plates? Choose a strategy after graciously accepting the gift (they meant well, and their good intentions should be acknowledged). Strategy #1: Immediately individually wrap and freeze them. If you then only have one goodie a week, it will be quite manageable for your body. Strategy #2: Give them away. Strategy #3: “Sample” only, and toss the rest. Strategy #4: Throw them away. I know that sounds mean, but eating something just because you feel obligated to doesn’t make a lick of sense. Eating foods that you know cause you to backtrack doesn’t make any sense either. Strategy #4: Trade your time and sweat for it. The average sized, non-frosted cookie will cost you about 30 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. Is your time worth it?  
  •  Throw food away. Yes! I meant that. Throw it away. This means to leave food on your plate if you are full and scrap your plate off into the garbage. Being stuffed feels gross anyway. Choose to feel comfortable instead.
  •  Weigh yourself daily. Stay aware of how your body is reacting.
  • Aim for weight maintenance, rather than weight loss during this time of year. Think BALANCE.

So there you go. Eat, drink, and be merry (with good sense) and your holidays will be brighter and lighter.


Dr. Kaylan McKinney-Vialpando is a certified weight loss nutritionist, trainer, health focused psychotherapist.