The holidays are fast approaching…And so are those tasty, tempting holiday treats we love so much. This time of year is filled with family dinners and holiday parties all presenting opportunities to indulge. As the season approaches, many of my clients are expressing a bit of panic about staying in control over the holidays. “How do I avoid gaining weight?” or “how do I stay on track with my weight loss program?” are common questions that I’ve heard. There is no doubt that you will be faced with some difficult and tempting situations over the holidays. However, my response is usually...
“Take a break and enjoy yourself!”
Think about it this way: The holiday season lasts about 2 weeks. There are 52 weeks in a year. This is only 3.8% of the year. Seriously. Enjoy! No, this doesn't mean that you should binge on Nanaimo bars for two weeks. It means that you should allow yourself to enjoy the holiday treats that you love without feeling guilty. Besides, it takes an extra 3500 calories to gain one true pound of body weight. Those calories must be eaten above and beyond what you would normally consume. So, let's say that you consume 2000 calories per day normally. You would have to consume 5500 calories in one day to actually notice any true difference in your weight. That's a lot of Nanaimo bars. Like 100.
You may notice that your weight fluctuates daily, especially during the holidays. This is likely—no, most definitely—due to water retention. You're probably eating foods that are higher in sodium, therefore retaining more water. Your weight will return to normal once you're back into your old routine. Even if you did gain a true pound or two over the holidays (which is normal and OK), you would have to continue to eat poorly throughout the rest of the year to keep that extra weight on or continue to gain weight. Chances are, the little bit of extra weight will come off within 2-3 weeks after the holidays. If you've gained any at all.
Now that you have given yourself permission to enjoy your favourite holiday treats without guilt (hopefully), read on for some of my quick tips on how to indulge without going completely overboard:
Continue to be mindful about what you are eating and how much. Remember to make sure that you’re meals are balanced (always include some protein, veggies and/or fruits and whole grains). This will help to control your blood sugar and your cravings throughout the day. For dessert, choose one or two things that you NEED to have. Don’t waste your time on things that you don’t absolutely love.
Sample small portions of appetizers and treats for taste, but don’t go overboard (after all, you want to save room for dinner). For bigger meals, take a smaller portion to begin with and then go back for seconds if you are still hungry. Eat slowly and enjoy the company around you. Take a break when you're almost full and go to the bathroom. That way, you can give your body time to digest and re-evaluate whether you want to keep going.
I'm sure you've heard this before, but it's important. Never leave for a party or holiday function hungry. This is a recipe for mindlessly overeating. Have a snack with some protein (such as Greek yogurt or hummus or nuts) before going out so that you feel in control when you arrive.
Even though you may not have time to stick to your regular exercise routine, try to do something active everyday. Even if that means dancing to Christmas carols with your toddler in your living room. I'm serious—it's fun! Aim for 30 minutes of activity per day. Other ideas are going for a winter walk to check out Christmas lights in your neighborhood, ice skating, building snowmen in your backyard, or doing a quick exercise video when the kids are napping.
Above all, do not set a weight loss goal for over the holidays. It won’t happen and it’s an unrealistic expectation. The holidays are no time to be counting calories or sticking to a rigid diet plan (well, I think calorie counting is lame anyway). The holidays are meant for celebrating with family and friends (and we all know that food is a big part of this). Food is not only our fuel, but it is also comforting and makes us feel good, and it’s a way to honour tradition and custom. There are 52 weeks in a year—1 or 2 weeks is not going to make or break your weight. If you do set a goal for over the holiday season, set a maintenance goal. Maintaining your weight over the holidays is the same as losing a couple of pounds in my books!