For many of us, the holiday season means more parties, more family meals and sometimes, a lot of extra calories. According to studies, the average American gains about one pound between from fall to winter. It may not sound like much, but this pound often accumulates year after year. If you’re wondering why your weight jumped 10 pounds in a decade, this may be part of the reason. Here are 5 strategies to help keep weight in check this holiday season:
1. Think before you drink
What you drink is just as important as what you eat – especially around the holidays when a cup of hot chocolate or eggnog can cost you nearly 300 calories. Whether you’re out Christmas shopping or at a New Year’s party, calorie-free and lighter beverages should be your first choice. Instead of a mocha frappuccino (about 410 for a 16-oz) consider a 12-oz skim latte (about 100 calories) or hot tea (no calories – if you keep it unsweetened).
Another big weight gain culprit? Alcohol. Calories from beer, wine, liquor and mixed drinks can add up very quickly. What’s more, studies show that alcohol stimulates appetite while reducing self-control. It’s hard to eliminate all alcoholic beverage at parties and family gatherings, but you can set limits: aim to have no more than 1 drink if you’re a woman and 2 if you’re a man. (A drink equals 12 ounces of beer, 5 ounces of wine, 1.5 ounces of liquor).
2. Befriend Your Scale… and a good health tracker.
It’s all too easy to ignore your scale around the holidays. Yet one study found that people who weighed themselves every day lost about 20 pounds in 6 months, compared to those who weight themselves less often. The scale can be a great tool to help nip weight gain in the bud. Health trackers can also provide extra motivation around the holidays. A recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that those who used a Fitbit (with its mobile app) significantly increased time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity, as well as average steps taken daily, compared to those provided a standard pedometer with no online tracking who did not see significant changes in activity.
3. Bring a Healthy Dish
One of my secret weapons for surviving the holiday season is my own cooking! If I’m going to a holiday dinner or party, instead of a bottle of wine I’ll bring a delicious, healthy dish to share. This way I know there will be some lighter, healthier options on the table. Some of my favorites? Brussels Sprouts, Butternut Squash Soup, and an Apple-Pear Crisp.
4. Give Problem Foods the Boot
If you’re worried about overindulging, one good strategy is to reduce temptation in the first place. If pastries, breads or other seasonal favorites are your weakness, keep them out of the house. Studies consistently show we’ll eat more if those foods we love so much are visible and readily available. If you can’t control yourself with homemade baked goods in the house, have them stored at someone else’s house or don’t bake them and buy them or have someone else bring them.
5. Boost Your Exercise Routine
For many people, high calorie meals are inevitable at holiday celebrations. If you simply can’t resist that extra helping of stuffing or dessert, don’t feel guilty. But do keep extra calories from becoming extra pounds by ramping up your fitness routine. Not only will more exercise help you burn calories, it also serves as a stress reliever and boosts endorphins (the ‘feel good’ chemicals) in the brain. Walk for an hour at a moderate pace and you’ll burn over 200 calories. Don’t have that much time? Go for a 30 min run and you’ll burn about 300 calories.