Turkey, ham, pies, cookies, cakes…for many people, the holidays are a time for eating, and not always the healthiest eating. Celebrations and parties abound; we give gifts of snacks and sweets; we are surrounded by more food than usual, and often this food is high in sugar and fat. Eating more calories than we burn through physical activity eventually leads to weight gain. During the holidays, it’s easy to end up eating many more calories than usual. Many American adults will likely gain around a pound over the holiday season. One pound might not sound like a lot, but researchers find that it sticks around, and over the course of years, these holiday pounds can start to add up to more significant weight gain.
The best way to fight back is to prevent this holiday weight gain in the first place! Lucky for us there is a helpful resource from our friends at Eat Smart, Move More North Carolina. It’s called the Maintain, don’t gain! Holiday Challenge. Individuals can sign-up to receive e-mail tips and reminders and get access to great tools to help monitor and maintain their weight between now and the end of the year. To sign-up, go to http://www.myeatsmartmovemore.com/HolidayChallenge/index.html
Here are just a few tips from Eat Smart Move More North Carolina, and Chatham County Public Health Department staff to help protect against holiday weight gain.
A small plate can make a big difference. Start with a smaller, appetizer-sized, plate. You’ll fit fewer rich foods on your plate and keep your calories in check. Super-size the veggies on your plate – vegetables and fruit are lower in calories and will fill you up, not out.
Keep your hands occupied. Hold your glass of water with one hand and your plate with another. With your hands full balancing food and drink it will take you longer to eat and will cut down on mindless snacking. Standing away from the food table (and, even better, where you can’t see it!) will also help cut down on mindless snacking, and reduce the temptation to continue eating.
Schedule time for physical activity. If your schedule is really tight, think about fitting in 10 minute bursts of activity during the day. Three of those sessions and you’re up to your recommended half-hour of daily activity! This recommendation counts when you travel too. If you’re on a long car trip, take a brisk 10 minute walk or do some jumping jacks and stretches during your stops along the way. If you’re waiting for a plane, train, or bus, see if you can keep moving as you wait.
Create a new active family tradition. We all have holiday traditions around food, but why not establish a family tradition around physical activity? Maybe a family walk, hike, or touch football game before the family meal!
Don’t deprive, just downsize. When you deprive yourself of the foods you really crave, you are more likely to go overboard down the road. Go ahead and enjoy the foods you love, but do so in moderation – one cookie instead of two, a bite or two of cheesecake instead of a giant slice. Savor each bite and enjoy every moment.
Set small, achievable goals and take it easy on yourself. Don’t try to make drastic, sweeping changes. Instead, try to focus on one small action that is realistic for you to take on during the holidays. It’s a busy time and any new habit is hard to establish. So, try to remember that skipping a workout or indulging in an extra holiday treat does not spell failure. When slip-ups occur, don’t think of it as a catastrophe. Be gentle with yourself, practice self-forgiveness and remember past successes!