7 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

It can be hard to maintain your health goals over the holidays. Find out how you can avoid holiday weight gain during the holidays with these 7 tips! FREE Breakfast Guide Included | New Years Resolution| Healthy Holiday Eating | Healthy Holiday Recipes

The holidays are a time for family, friends, traditions, and thankfulness. Unfortunately, it’s also a common time for overeating, feelings of guilt, and unwanted weight gain. How can we find a happy medium to, dare I say, have our cake and eat it too? We don’t have to throw out or delay our health goals throughout the holidays. On the same tune, we also do not have to give up our favorite holiday treats.

Here are 7 tips to mindfully enjoy your favorite holiday foods, without the undesired side effects. Psst – check out the free breakfast guide at the end, too!

1. Don’t “save up”.

We’ve all done it.  In attempt to “save up” on calories for a holiday party tonight , you nibble on fruit and salad all day (maybe even skipping lunch) to plan for those overindulgences later in the evening. So, what’s the problem? When you cross those doors into the party, your appetite hormones are raging and you’ve got one thing on your mind: FOOD. ALL THE FOOD.

Saving up for calories later in the day can promote binge eating, and does not allow for mindfulness during your meals. By depriving ourselves of nutrients and calories during the day, our blood sugar drops. When blood sugar is lower than normal, our body has a natural physiological response – to get sources of energy (food), and QUICK. Because our appetite hormones are high, we are more likely to overeat and give into cravings.

Instead of “saving up”, plan consistent and balanced meals throughout your day. This results in well balanced blood sugars and appetite hormones. Make at least HALF of your plate some source of non-starchy vegetables and fiber. Include wholesome sources of protein, like fish or grass-fed beef, and a small serving of high fiber carbohydrates like quinoa, or sweet potatoes.

Related: How to Stop Your Sugar Cravings

2. Start fresh the next day.

We get stuck in the holiday food binge because we feel ashamed of what, or how much, food we ate the previous day. Forget this mentality. Despite what your brain (and stomach) may be telling you, eating healthy does not have to start on a Monday (or January 1st). Think of it like this: if you forgot to brush your teeth one night, would you stop brushing your teeth for the next three months? NO! (Well, at least I hope not). You would probably brush them the next morning.

Each day is a new beginning. Set one or two small, attainable health goals each day. Write them in a place where you will see it often, such as a reminder on your phone, or a sticky note at your desk. Here are a few examples below:

  1. I will take the stairs at work today instead of the elevator.
  2. I will park in the back of the lot when I am running errands today.
  3. I will wake up 10 minutes earlier to  have a balanced breakfast at home.
  4. I will have at least 1 cup of vegetables with my dinner tonight.

These realistic “micro-goals” allow you to start fresh each day, and focus on a positive health behavior with a daily visible “win”.

3. Focus on your favorites.

Here is where you can have your cake (or pie) and eat it too. Absolutely love your grandma’s pecan pie? Indulge in a sensible portion of your favorite holiday treat, and savor it. Restricting yourself too much can create negative feelings and make you want to overindulge. Pass on the treats that aren’t quite up to par.

When enjoying your favorite holiday food, think about the flavors, textures, and slowly chew each bite. Place your fork down after each bite to help slow down. This is the start of a mindful eating process. Mindful eating helps you reach a state of full attention to your experiences, cravings, and physical cues when eating.   Give yourself permission to enjoy the foods you REALLY want, and pass on the foods that may not provide as much nostalgic value.

4. Go easy on the alcohol.

Ok – before you exit out after reading that headline, bear with me. I enjoy a good holiday drink with family just like everyone else. But, it’s no surprise that alcohol can lower our inhibitions. Everyone has a family member that goes a little overboard with the eggnog at every family event. (If you are shaking your head at this, then you are probably that family member ?).

Try to be mindful of how much (and what kind) of alcohol you drink during the holidays.  Sipping on your holiday drink over an hour can help you drink less, and control those inconceivable “drunchies” that come about after one too many. When mixing holiday drinks, try to keep the added sugar to a minimum. Choose a simple vodka soda (with lemon or lime), or a festive drink like this Skinny Cranberry Moscow Mule. 

If all else fails and you overdo the alcohol (hey, we’ve all been there) then refer to tip #2 (start fresh the next day).

5. Start with a good breakfast.

Skipping breakfast may be tempting (there’s an extra 300 calories that you can “erase”) – but it will end up backfiring. Skipping breakfast may lead to overeating later in the day. The coffee, pastry, and fruit you grab from the break room is not doing you any favors either.

Make time for a simple, protein packed breakfast each morning. When we start our day with a good carbohydrate to protein/fat ratio, we are setting up our appetite hormones for success. Protein and fat are digested slowly in the stomach, and allow you to feel more satisfied, for longer, until your next planned snack or meal. This means if you only have a bowl of fruit or a large fruit smoothie for breakfast, you will end up “crashing” merely 1-2 hours later. And let me tell ya, those sugar cravings will be RAGING.

Your breakfast should ideally contain 3 food components: fiber, protein, and healthy (real food) sources of fat. Here are a few examples. Some of the foods act as two components (example: nuts are a good source of both protein AND fat – winning!)

  1. 1 egg cooked over stovetop w/sautéed spinach and sliced cherry tomatoes. Served over a ½ of an avocado sprinkled with pepper and a small dash of sea salt.
  2. ½ cup cooked oatmeal (plain), spiced with a dash of cinnamon. Add a handful of nuts (walnuts, pecans, almonds), and sweeten with a handful of berries.
  3. 1 slice of whole wheat toast, 1.5 tablespoons of natural nut butter, and ½ tablespoon of chia seeds sprinkled on top.

Want more breakfast ideas? Download my free breakfast guide!

6. Bring a mindful dish.

If possible, bring your own dish to the holiday event to share. Bringing a side dish, salad, or dessert that promotes real food balance gives you at least one option to keep you on track during the party. When making a holiday dish, keep in mind the power trio: protein, healthy fats, and fiber. This trio promotes blood sugar balance, can curb sugar cravings, and will keep you full to help limit the mindless snacking. Load up your dish with delicious fall and/or winter fruits and vegetables to amp up the fiber.

7. Get enough sleep.

In general, people who sleep less tend to weigh more than their counterparts that get enough sleep – in fact, they eat about 300 calories more. Also, sleeping less than five hours per night causes an imbalance in your appetite hormones. The next day you feel constantly hungry and never satisfied. On top of that, some studies show a 40 percent increase in sugar cravings the next day.

To ensure you are sleeping enough during the holidays, practice general sleep hygiene.

  • Avoid electronics at least 30 minutes before bed.
  • Avoid stimulants like caffeine or nicotine close to bedtime.
  • Incorporate some form of physical activity during the day – as little as 15 minutes of intentional exercise, such as walking,  may improve sleep quality at night.
  • Establish a regular relaxing bedtime routine. Adults need a regular routine just like kids do. Having a relaxing routine before bed tells our brain that it is bedtime. Consider reading, stretching, meditating or doing a light yoga session before bed.

Favorite Free Resources:
Down Dog – virtual yoga sessions from 10-80 minutes, tailored to your own skill level.

Headspace  – daily mindfulness app from your phone in as little as 3 minutes.

Ziva Meditation – excellent 14-day online meditation course to teach you HOW to meditate and stick with it (affiliate link)

Do you struggle with food cravings during the holidays? Food Farmacist RD goes into 7 tips for how to eat mindfully during the holidays to avoid dreaded weight gain. |New Years Resolutions | Healthy Holiday

The holidays are a time for family, friends, and celebrating traditions. Enjoy this time, and indulge in your favorite treat. But, balance the rest of your day otherwise so you can nourish your body with wholesome foods and healthy habits throughout the holidays. Plan a family 2-hand touch football game, grab the Wii and challenge your sibling to a duel on the Wii Fit, or bundle up for an “unplugged” morning walk to truly enjoy each other’s company. Because ultimately — there’s no place like home for the holidays.