It's no secret that people tend to gain weight during the holiday season.
Contrary to popular belief, however, some research has suggested that on average people only gain about 1-2 pounds. While this may not seem like much, the average adult yearly weight gain is 1-2 pounds, suggesting that most or all of the weight gained is gained during the holidays but is not lost in the subsequent months. To put this in perspective, a woman weighing 140 pounds at 25 years old who gains one pound per year will weigh 150 pounds at 35 years old, 160 pounds at 45 years, 170 pounds at 55 years and so forth just from her holiday indulgence. Do keep in mind that these figures will differ individually, of course, as personal genetics, bouts of inactivity and poor eating are factored in.
It's also important to keep in mind that the most noted study was conducted using a relatively small convenience sample of only 195 adults. There's no reason to believe that excessive holiday eating coupled with a lack of activity can't increase an individual's weight gain to far more than the reported 1-2 pounds during this season.
So, how can you avoid the potential pitfall?
Enjoy the season and create some fantastic memories, but develop a personal strategy that keeps you accountable and on track for your fitness goals.
Here are some simple strategies you can use that can also give you a head start for the New Year:
1. Revoke your license to pig out. Constantly telling yourself that it's the holidays every time you are tempted to eat that extra helping or add another treat to your meal will only leave you sorry come New Year's Day. And, as discussed, since most people don't lose those added pounds of holiday weight gain, every year only adds insult to injury. Perhaps the single most effective method of controlling your eating is to keep a food diary. Research has shown numerous times that people are more likely to control their eating if they write down their daily consumption.
2. Eat before you eat. Fill your stomach with a healthy soup or a filling low-cal salad before going to a dinner party or holiday buffet. If you wait and allow yourself to get too hungry before you get there, you may find yourself face down a bowl of chips and dip.
3. Get some shut eye. Studies have shown that a lack of sleep can cause weight gain. Not only does it affect hormone levels, it may also affect your judgment where comes to your food and fitness choices as your blood sugar begins to wane.
4. Steal away. Moments, that is. Just because you don't have time for your normal hour long workout doesn't mean you should skip exercise all together. Remember some exercise is better than NO exercise. For instance, research has shown that similar health benefits can be gained from three ten minute workouts spread throughout the day as one long 30 minute session.
5. Eat your fruits and veggies. Not only will you benefit from the vitamins, minerals, and lifesaving anti-oxidants, you'll also fill your stomach with a smaller caloric impact than more fattening foods.
6. Get rid of the evidence. Send leftover party treats home with guests and keep high calorie treats out of plain sight for PLANNED cheat days; better yet, don't buy it until the cheat day is at hand.
7. Eat SLOOWWLY. It can take an estimated 20 minutes for your brain to register that you are full. If you eat too fast you could overeat and ingested more calories than you need before you realize it. Take your time, savoring the meal as well as the priceless moments with friends and family.
8. Take a bath. Actually, it doesn't have to necessarily be a bath, but do something that makes you feel pampered. I like a bath with soothing bath salts, aromatherapy candles and a magazine or book I feel I "don't have time to read."
9. Bathe your insides, too. Sugar, salt, and alcohol can leave you feeling a bit parched. Drinking plenty of water can not only keep you hydrated, it can also curb your appetite to keep you from eating too much.
10. Get back on the horse. If you do overeat, get over it start again. Eat lighter on the next meal or the next day if you overate at dinner. Be sure to get your workout in, but don't punish yourself by overexerting. All you'll do is open the door to injury or being too sore the next day.
Live. Learn. Move. Thrive!