The holiday season is upon us. Those social gatherings and seemingly never-ending family and office festivities—all of which present a multitude of opportunities to indulge in calorically dense and nutritionally sparse foods—are the norm rather than the exception.
Several studies show the average weight gain during the holiday season is between one and two pounds per person. While these small numbers are not cause for alarm, The New England Journal of Medicineindicates that most people don’t ever lose the weight they put on during the holiday season.
Over the course of 10 years, one to two pounds per year results in 10-20 extra, hard-to-lose pounds. This is what experts refer to a “creeping obesity,” and unless you have a specific plan to avoid holiday weight gain, you will be hard-pressed to avoid the creep.
For people who are already struggling with weight issues, the holiday weight news is more daunting. Although the averagegain is only one pound, people who are overweight tend to gain more than the average. One study found that overweight individuals gained five or more pounds during the holidays.
Balancing holiday indulgences and healthy habits requires an up-front plan to celebrate with moderation and balance in mind. Laura Williams, author of 20 Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain – Beat the Statistics, shares her top seven tips that allow you to enjoy moderate, seasonal indulgences without doing damage to your health.
- Keep a Holiday Calendar – Look ahead at the holiday season in order to figure out which one or two nights per week you have planned celebrations. Enjoy those times, but stick to your regular routine the rest of the time.
- Start a Nutrition and Fitness Journal – Simply write down what you eat and how much you exercise. Don’t try to keep up with specific calorie intake and burn.
- Recruit an Accountability Buddy – Link up with a friend or family member who you can check in with daily to discuss the entries in your nutrition and fitness journal. Choose this person wisely. It is important that this person is equally committed to staying healthy during the holidays.
- Teeter-Totter Nutrition and Fitness – Review your journal daily to understand if you need to include an extra workout to counterbalance any extra calories you have consumed. If you’re short on time, opt for a brisk walk with a friend.
- Eat Conscientiously – Sit in a well-lit location, take smaller bites, and chew your food thoroughly—studies prove these tips help ensure you are less likely to overeat.
- Sign-up for a Holiday Fitness Challenge – Participate in a local fitness challenge that focuses on realistic, maintainable fitness goals (e.g., logging 10,000 steps per day) rather than a New Year’s Eve-style weight loss competition. Check out Healthy Kingsport’s year-long fitness challenge by visiting healthykingsport.org. You can join the challenge as an individual or as a team member, which is a great way to have built-in accountability partners.
- Celebrate with Activity – Create new family traditions by choosing to engage in active celebrations. Instead of driving around your neighborhood to look at Christmas lights, take a family walk. Every little bit counts, so think creatively and come up with new ways to make the season magical.
With some up-front planning, you are sure to enjoy this holiday season while maintaining your weight and overall health and wellbeing. This should be great motivation for putting these seven tips into practice.
Kandy Childress is the executive director of Healthy Kingsport. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.