It’s that time of year again; time to pace ourselves through the slow roll of successive holidays from late fall through the New Year where we partake in the revelry the season brings. Who doesn’t love the parties, holiday events, gift shopping, and holiday breaks spent with loved ones? While disruption of normal routines and #treatyoself can lead to holiday weight gain, it doesn’t necessarily have to mean all is lost as long as you have a game plan for your merriment.
“When what to my wondering eyes should appear? But an extra ten pounds on my hips, thighs, and rear.” Ten pounds over the holidays…are you serious?!?! According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, this frequently reported number is grossly over-estimated. They report that the average weight gain from mid-November to mid-January was actually less than 1 pound.
The takeaway here? You’re not going to gain massive amounts of weight from a few holiday indiscretions; our bodies just don’t work that way. But, if you let the one or two pounds from each holiday season accumulate, they can add up over time. Many of us overindulge over the holidays, hoping that our January 1 resolutions will put us back on a healthy track again. Making resolutions is the easy part; it’s the sticking to it that takes hard work. Don’t put that kind of pressure on yourself; establish a plan to get yourself through the holidays making good choices, and setting yourself up for success in any goals you set for the New Year. Start making realistic holiday health resolutions now, so you can cruise into the New Year happy and healthy.
Don’t hold yourself to such strict standards that you can’t enjoy the celebration. Beating yourself up over slips from your plan is no fun for anyone. Follow the tips below to avoid falling into the “I’ve already ruined my diet/healthy eating today” landslide.
Party Game Plan
- Consume protein beforehand. This will satiate you, and helps prevents overeating or binging due to hunger.
- Don’t stand next to the food table. Fix yourself a plate and remove yourself from temptation. This also helps prevent mindless grazing.
- Be selective. Choose things that look extra special or are your favorites. Don’t eat something just because it’s there.
- Be mindful of the number of alcoholic beverages you partake in. Alcohol is just empty calories. And let's be real with each other…overconsumption can lead to poor dietary choices. “Pass the celery” said no tipsy party-goer ever.
Marathon shopping excursions can lead to poor snack and/or meal choices and less than ideal grab on the go fast food. A little planning can keep you from face planting into a food court buffet.
Shopping Game Plan
- Stay hydrated! People often mistake thirst for hunger. Water can also keep you feeling full.
- Eat a good breakfast with protein and fiber. This will give you the energy you need to carry all those shopping bags and help prevent mindless snacking.
- Pack smart snacks. Nuts, dried fruit, apples, and beef jerky all travel well.
- Plan ahead and meal prep before you leave for the day. This is the perfect opportunity to use that new slow cooker recipe you’ve been wanting to try; add a nice salad and dinner is served!
- Don’t park in the closest spot; parking farther away just increases your step count for the day.
Getting creative with your activity can take the doldrums out of sticking to your regular workout routine. Use your family and your surroundings to make your holiday workouts fun!
Activity Game Plan
- Being one of four siblings, I know family competition is alive and well! Create fun activities for the entire family to do. Who can rake the biggest leaf pile or shovel snow from their side of the driveway the fastest?
- Take advantage of your surroundings. Strap onto your snowboard, cross-country skis, or spend the day sledding and snowball fighting. We lucky Charlestonians can burn calories walking or running out along one of our beautiful beaches or enjoy the views from the Ravenel Bridge.
- Sign up for holiday races. Many cities host Reindeer Runs or other seasonal races. Make it a family affair or just get your squad together and get moving!
It's perfectly fine to miss a day (or two or three) of exercise, eat your favorite holiday foods, and enjoy a festive drink. The important thing is that you don't let it turn into weeks – and then months – of no exercise or unhealthy eating. If you accept going in that there will be some sidesteps from maintaining/adhering to your newfound or established habits, you'll be better prepared to get back on track and move and groove right into 2017!
Wishing you and yours a happy and healthy holiday season from the MUSC Health Sports Medicine team!!