Strategies To Maintain Your Weight Over The Holidays

Published:  12/11/2017

Christmas Tree and people in background at a party

Navigating the Holidays: Evidence-Based Strategies for Weight Management

As the holiday season approaches, many individuals find themselves facing the perennial challenge of maintaining a healthy weight amidst the festivities. Recognizing the prevalence of weight gain during this time, it becomes crucial to explore scientifically grounded strategies that not only facilitate weight control but also deter the unwelcome pounds that often accompany celebrations.

The holiday season poses significant challenges to weight control and eating regulation for all of us and for those who are overweight, a higher degree of effort is required to manage their weight in the long term.

Several studies have found that those who gained weight over the holidays were far less likely to ever lose the weight. So, paying attention to exercise and eating behaviors will pay off. PMID: 10727591

In this article, I share evidence-based approaches, drawing from scientific research, to provide a comprehensive guide on how to navigate the holidays without compromising your weight management goals. Whether you're aiming to shed pounds or simply avoid the seasonal weight gain trap, understanding these strategies can empower you to make informed choices and foster a healthy relationship with food during this joyful yet challenging time of the year.

You can do what those who have a history of successful weight loss do to maintain or even lose weight during the holiday season. (defined by: lost a mean of 76 pounds and had kept >29 pounds off for a mean of 5.9 years)

Compared to Unsuccessful Losers, Successful losers: 

Make specific preholiday plans to control their eating and 
•    Maintain greater exercise, 
•    Pay greater attention to weight and eating, 
•    Have greater stimulus control, 
•    Keep a food journal,
•    Practice greater dietary restraint during the holidays,
•    Eat a healthy breakfast,
•    Weigh themselves weekly.

In general, successful losers give greater overall attention to weight, exercise and eating during the holiday season.

I Suggest You Start Here

1. Decide what your goal is for your weight specifically during the holiday season. 

2. Studies show that utilizing a greater number of strategies is associated with less weight gain.  

3. Determine which strategies to use. The top two are weighing daily and determining your food prioritizes. Healthy eating isn't about deprivation, but it makes sense to differentiate important-to-you holiday favorites from foods that are "just ok" on the satisfaction scale. Thinking this through before filling your plate can help you make more mindful choices and feel fully satisfied without overeating.

  • Weigh yourself daily during the holidays
  • Make choices about which holiday foods are worth eating and skip items that aren′t special or important to you
  • Maintain an exercise routine that you already are doing
  • Monitor portion sizes
  • Track the kinds of foods you eat or count calories
  • Add more activity into your routine
  • Adjust how much you eat during other meals on the days that you have a party or event
  • Try to stop eating when you feel full and/or practicing other mindful eating strategies
  • Avoid certain types of food
  • Bring a healthy dish
  • Minimize the amount of time you have tempting foods in the house
  • Use technology to make healthy decisions
  • Skip or reduce alcoholic beverage intake
  • Focus on non‐food elements of the holiday season
  • Decrease the amount of time sitting each day
  • Start a weight loss program or follow a formal diet
  • Pack healthy snacks while traveling
  • Share your weight goals with someone in your life and ask them to support you

5 Tips to Avoid Gaining Those Extra Holiday Pounds!

Many will fall into the trap of gaining holiday pounds over the next several weeks, only to be faced with a belly of blubber that must be worked off in January. With a little thought and planning, YOU can avoid that cycle and start January ahead of the pack! Here are 5 tips to stay on track this holiday season.

1.    Understand that a holiday is just 1 day.
Too often I hear people practicing negative self-talk. “I just can't lose weight around the holidays”, “I know I will gain 10 pounds between all the holidays- it happens to me every year” or “I'll just wait until January and then get back on track with my nutrition and exercise” That's inaccurate thinking. A holiday is just one day. You CAN enjoy a meal with the family and still stay on track with your goals- just take it one day at a time. Remind yourself that it's only 1 day. 
2.    Spend part of the day outside instead of on the couch!
While watching Thanksgiving football has become an American Tradition- try to get outside for part of the day as well. Go to watch a local game, throw the football around in the park or backyard with the kids. Have fun- just get your rearend unglued from the couch at some point during the day.
3.    Limit alcohol consumption
Think of beer and wine as liquid fat. Alcohol has affects on the body's metabolism and energy usage. If you're a social drinker, try to limit yourself to 1 or 2 drinks - and make them last. Avoid high calories mixed drinks that are full of sugar. Even better- skip the alcohol and order a tonic water or diet soda.
4.    Opt for mashed potatoes instead of candied sweet potatoes. A cup of mashed potatoes has about 240 to 300 calories, depending on how much butter (each tablespoon is 100 calories) and what type of milk or cream is used. Candied sweet potatoes, however, also contain butter -- as well as brown sugar and sometimes even marmalade, honey, maple syrup, marshmallows and/or pecans, which can add up to more than 450 calories for a one-cup portion.
5.    Choose one desert, not three
Pumpkin Pie, Christmas cookies, Chocolate- the holidays are full of traditions with sweets. Enjoy them! But pick 1; don't feel like you have to eat everything on the table. Give yourself permission to enjoy all the holidays have to offer, and then grab the platter of veggies!

Remember YOU have the power to lose or gain weight this holiday season. By incorporating these 5 tips you'll come out of this holiday season better than ever and ahead of the pack in January!

Maria Faires, RD is a Registered Dietitian, a Certified Personal Trainer with the American Council on Exercise. For more information on getting in shape for the holidays and getting RESULTS with this year's resolutions contact Maria at My Active Nutrition Fitness & Nutrition Consulting.


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