Avoiding the Holiday Weight Gain
Ah the holidays. A happy time filled with family, watching ‘Home Alone’ while sipping hot cocoa on your couch. It’s also a time that can be stressful. Frantically running from store to store, finding last minute ingredients to prepare meals for your family gatherings. Or maybe you’re traveling so you have to deal with getting to and from the airport, avoiding traffic, and figuring out what to pack. And diet and exercise? Forget about it! Those things are your last priorities right? Well time to pump the brakes. Those things should actually be at the top of your priority list! If you can’t take care of yourself, how can you take care of anyone else? I know, I’m preaching to the choir. But instead of ignoring these issues or throwing a pity party, let’s be proactive and figure out how to equip you with the tools you need. Use the strategies below to maintain sanity, health, and guilt-free living during the holiday season.
Finding ways to incorporate exercise into your life, is as crucial as anything else especially during the holidays. It will help lower stress levels, and subsequently levels of cortisol (which break down your muscle, and can weaken your immune system), help you burn off some of those calories, but most of all keep you motivated!
You can come up with an excuse like “oh the gym closed early today” or the infamous “I don’t have time.” But that won’t fly here. Something as simple as a few 10-20 minute walks can make the world of a difference, especially if used strategically.
Has been shown to decrease post-prandial blood glucose, meaning that it can help you avoid that debilitating food coma that renders us useless for the day. Try a 10 minute walk before or after a big meal.
also makes us more insulin sensitive which can help shuttle a large bolus of glucose into our muscle cells, instead of fat cells. I enjoy doing a short bout of exercise prior to my Thanksgiving meal, key word being “enjoy.” I don’t encourage using exercise as a punishment or reward per se, but knowing the physiological effects from exercise can serve as a bonus. As for the time or gym thing, you can do a simple 20-30 minute bout from the comfort of your home, using only your bodyweight, or if you have any hand held weights all the better! Give the routine down below a shot.
- Time-Restricted Feeding
I’m sure you’ve heard of intermittent fasting (IF) by now. Time-restricted feeding and IF are sometimes used interchangeably, but it’s the concept of reducing your feeding window throughout the day. Instead of just eating at will, you choose a starting point and an end point.
This helps you prevent uncontrolled eating. Start with a 12-hour window. If you consume your first calories of the day at 8am, you have until 8pm to consume your last. Shortening the window seems to reap more benefits, so you can also try 8 and 10-hour windows.
The science surrounding this method of eating is still emerging, but you don’t need to know all the physiology to utilize this simple and effective strategy.
- Nutrient Density
Exercising and practicing time-restricted feeding are great strategies for combating that holiday weight gain, but that doesn’t mean you are free to binge on snickerdoodles, brownies, and pumpkin pie. Focus on consuming high quality foods MOST of your meals, and avoid snacking on these treats throughout the day. Start your meals off with nutrient-dense foods such as the ones below. These will fill you up, which will make you less inclined to overeat those nutrient-poor, calorie-rich foods.
- Consume foods high in protein: grass-fed beef, free range chicken, free range eggs, greek yogurt, hemp hearts, pea protein
- Healthy fats: avocados, walnuts, pistachios, macademia nuts
- Fiber from cruciferous vegetables
- Drink plenty of water
Utilize cinnamon, and/or apple cider vinegar
Consuming cinnamon and/or apple cider vinegar prior to a meal, can help normalize blood glucose levels after a meal and reduce large insulin spikes.
Cinnamon, particularly of the Ceylon variety, has even been shown to:
- Increase cognitive function
- Decrease cardiovascular disease by lowering LDL levels in blood
Apple cider vinegar
- Stimulates digestion
- Can help curb your hunger
4. Stress and Sleep
We often think of these as separate entities, but they actually affect each other so much. The more stressed you are, the lower quality of sleep you’ll have. The less you sleep or the lower quality your sleep, the more stressed you’ll be.
I just wrote an article about the gut microbiome, and not only can stress make us eat more, it can actually alter our microbiome which can affect our metabolism, difficulty of weight loss, and squander our efforts to avoid the holiday weight gain.
Again the holidays are a fun time, and one or two days of going to bed late might not make too big of a difference, but try to keep a regular schedule.
- Avoid sleeping in too long, as this can throw off your circadian rhythm
- Avoid eating large meals too late at night
- Take short naps 20-30 minutes if you didn’t get great sleep the night prior
- Avoid consuming excessive amounts of alcohol at night
- Exercise (reduces stress AND increases sleep quality)
- Mindfulness and Gratitude
Enjoy the moment. Enjoy your food. But most of all enjoy your company. Food is amazing not only because of how they make us feel, but also because they bring people together. Focus on good conversation, and making memories with your loved ones as opposed to how many plates you can put away. Appreciate your food, savor each bite, and give gratitude for being able to share those moments in the comfort of your home with the ones you love.
Enjoy the holiday season
You don’t have to spend hours in the gym. You don’t have to sacrifice eating your Aunt’s famous double fudge brownies, peach cobbler, or whatever other food-coma inducing goodness will be thrown your way. And you don’t necessarily have to maintain a strict diet during the holidays.
However, you have to do SOMETHING. Keep moving, try an intermittent fast, get more sleep, go for a walk or two outside. Instead of letting your health slide for the last two months of the year, then starting back up with a New Year’s resolution, we can stay on top of our game and THRIVE.
I’m also running a Holiday Fitness challenge helping you stay on track with your goals, and avoid the holiday weight gain. Message me if you’re interested, but otherwise thanks for reading and feel free to share this if you think it’ll help someone else.