How Do I Avoid Holiday Weight Gain + SPECIAL COURSE GIVEAWAY!
The holidays are supposed to be times of joy, visiting with family and friends, and strengthening bonds. Unfortunately for many the holidays bring much anxiety, worry, and fear – especially about food and our bodies.
Food is everywhere and we may be visiting with family and friends who we haven’t seen in a long time. We worry about people noticing whether or not we “look different”. We worry that they’re whispering to each other “Oh, look how much weight she gained”. We worry about whether or not we should allow ourselves to eat all of the holiday treats. We worry about weight gain from eating all the food. We may even consider going on a crash diet to try to “look our best”.
Why does holiday weight gain happen?
The reality is most people do gain a few pounds over the holidays. But it’s not because they overeat on the three days – Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years – that are actually holidays! Those three holidays only comprise three days out of the next fifty. Even if you overeat on all three occasions, plus a few holiday parties over the next two months, it’s not a huge deal in the grand scheme!
The problem occurs on all the days in between. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by all the food, and then feel bad about overeating a few times. This stress often causes people to throw in the towel. So rather than a few days where you overeat, it turns into a 50-day food free-for-all. After which we promise to do better starting January 1st.
But you absolutely can gain a significant amount of weight if you overeat every day between now and the New Year! Keep the holidays in perspective…90% of your days over the next two months are just normal days. You are unlikely to gain any extra weight if you don’t let a few moments of overeating lead to more overeating!
Intuitive eating can help you avoid holiday weight gain!
The advice I give to clients about handling holidays, parties, and travel is vastly different from the advice I gave in the past, and also very different from what you’ll hear from mainstream fitness and nutrition professionals.
Do a Google search of the phrase “holiday weight gain”. You will come up with thousands of blogs and articles suggesting that you do the following: fill up on protein and veggies before going to parties, never go to parties hungry, bring your own food or a healthy side dish so you’ll have something to eat while everyone else eats delicious treats, choose only protein and veggies while at parties, don’t eat sugar, and skip seconds. All of that sounds good on paper, but often isn’t practical or even desirable in the real world.
Intuitive eating helped me stop binge eating, emotional eating, and just overeating in general. And I have found that practicing intuitive eating comes in especially handy during times when I’m most likely to overeat or binge…like the holidays. I know I’m going to see friends and family. I know I’m going to face gobs of holiday food. I know I’m going to eat some of that food. So why try to “be on a diet” and pretend that I won’t?
If the holidays cause you anxiety because of food and your body, do something radically different this year. Take the pressure off of yourself. No diets. No food rules. See what happens.
A Survival Guide to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain: 9 Tips To A Happier Holiday!
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #1: If you want to avoid holiday weight gain, stop trying to lose weight before the holidays!
Most of us will be attending gatherings and seeing friends and family. I understand the desire to want to “look good”, and I’ve crash dieted many times in attempt to impress, usually with poor results. Here’s how my story usually goes…on November 1st I embark on some insane diet in an attempt to lose at least 10 pounds by Christmas. This goes great for about a week. Then I start “slipping”. A cookie sneaks in here. A slice of pie there. By the time I get to Thanksgiving, I’m typically no thinner (sometimes heavier), and I’m seriously obsessed with food. I’m usually so unbalanced by Christmas that all I can think about is food, and I wind up overeating at all holiday parties and gatherings…and most of the days in between too. By January 1st, I’m often HEAVIER than when I started my diet on November 1st!
Crash weight loss diets are a recipe for food obsession, overeating, and binges. Overeating and binges cause weight gain. So this year don’t try to “diet down” to a smaller size. Look in the mirror and accept that whatever body you see right now is the one you’ll be taking to family gatherings and holiday parties. Buy a new dress or outfit that fits and flatters your NOW body. You should feel comfortable and beautiful.
Not putting ridiculous restrictions and deadlines on yourself will relieve you of the pressure of attempting to “be good” or to look a certain way. You may not lose weight over the holidays, but you also won’t risk causing disordered eating patterns and gaining weight.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #2: Allow yourself to eat without guilt or shame
That sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? If I let myself eat, I’ll gain weight! But let’s get real about eating over the holidays. Are you really going to refuse grandma’s homemade cinnamon sticky rolls? Are you really going to skip out on Thanksgiving stuffing and mashed potatoes and only eat turkey and steamed veggies? What happens when you try?
Have you ever heard of “last supper syndrome” or “mindset of scarcity”? When you are trying to restrict food and are then confronted with food – especially large amounts of delicious food – not only is it easy to lose control and overeat simply because you’re hungry, but the likelihood that you’ll vastly overeat is much higher because of “last supper” thinking: “Oh darn it! I blew it and ate XYZ even though I hadn’t planned to…I might as well eat whatever I want, and as much as I can right now, because I’ll have to get back on the wagon tomorrow/Monday/January 1st”. Sound familiar?
When you simply allow yourself pleasure from food, the magical power that we often bestow on it disappears. It’s much easier to stop eating when you know you’re allowed to have it. So admit that you want to eat your holiday favorites and stop pretending that you’ll skip them! It only makes you feel like a failure when you inevitably end up eating them anyway…and probably end up eating much more than you intended out of guilt!
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #3: Eat it only if it’s worth it
I just told you to allow yourself to eat and enjoy holiday foods…but that doesn’t mean go crazy and eat everything and anything!
From Halloween through New Year’s, food will be everywhere you go. There are cookies and pie in office break room, candy and ice cream at the school Christmas party, mashed potatoes and rolls at grandma’s, and specialty frappucinnos at Starbucks…the food is inescapable. Most people mindlessly eat stuff just because it’s in front of them…not because they’re hungry or because it’s something they really want. So, while it is important to allow yourself to enjoy your favorite holiday treats, try to be picky! My example for this is gingerbread cookies. They always seem to be around over the holidays, and I find myself eating them “just because”. But I don’t even like them!
Moral: If it’s worth it, eat it without guilt or shame! But save your appetite – and your calories – for the goodies that really light your fire!
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #4: Go to parties hungry
Say what?!?! Now you think I’m totally nuts, right? Hear me out…
I used to fill up on veggies, protein, and water before going to parties. I’ve done this more times than I can count with the intention of going to a party and not eating at all, or only eating off the veggie tray. Guess what happens? I still end up eating all the things I hadn’t planned on eating - because I love all the holiday food - and then I feel awful because my stomach is so distended and full! Worst of all, I didn’t even enjoy my favorite holiday treats because I was already full!
I’ve learned to go to family gatherings, parties, and restaurants in a mildly hungry state so that I can actually enjoy the food.
Key words: mildly hungry. I said go to parties hungry…not hangry. The fastest way to lose control and overeat or binge is to arrive starving. Eat a good breakfast. Have a light snack if you’re verging on ravenous. Go to the party hungry and be ready to enjoy some great food!
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #5: Be mindful
Tip #3 states “only eat it if it’s worth it”…so if you choose to eat it because it’s worth it, at least be mindful while you eat it!
How often do you distract yourself while eating? Most of us never just take the time to eat without multitasking. We claim that we love food so much, yet we eat while we drive, while we work, while we watch TV, while we talk on the phone… How can we truly enjoy the experience of eating, and listen for our body’s subtle signals to stop eating, when we’re distracted?
Short answer: we can’t. Eating distracted is actually one of the top reasons that people overeat. Eating distracted strips us of deriving true pleasure from food, which leaves us wanting more and more. So when you’re about to bite into your mom’s award-winning apple pie, take a deep breath and put down the shovel. Find a comfy place to sit down, chew a little slower, put the fork down between bites, and really taste it! You may find you don’t need a second piece.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain tip#6: Be kind to yourself if you overeat
We all overeat. Sometimes the food is just so good that it’s hard to stop! Overeating in the presence of palatable food is biologically normal human behavior. So be kind to yourself if you overdo it!
For many people, overeating a single time leads to feelings of failure, which leads to “last supper syndrome”, which leads to “throw in the towel syndrome”. So instead of overeating just once - which isn’t harmful - it turns into a month-long face-dive into food.
One of the most important things you can do to be kind to yourself after overeating is to eat again the very next time you are hungry. Punishing yourself by fasting, restricting food, or through extreme exercise will only lead to more overeating. The fastest way to arrest the cycle of overeat-restrict-overeat is to put the past behind you and allow yourself to eat again when you are hungry.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #7: Have a plan to deal with “weight shaming” so that you can stress less
Worrying releases stress hormones. Stress hormones cause overeating and fat gain, especially around the belly. Worrying about what others think of us – especially friends and family who haven’t seen us in quite some time – is common, but only serves to ramp up our stress hormones in anticipation of holiday events and gatherings.
Your weight and what you put in your mouth is your business, and no one else’s. But that doesn’t mean it won’t come up, especially if your weight has been a “family issue” in the past. We can’t control what others think and say, but we can control our own reactions.
A little mental preparation and a plan of action can help you reduce stress hormones and enjoy the holidays. If the topic of your food choices or weight arises you have options. You may choose to call that person out and say “my weight and what I eat is none of your business and your comments don’t help me”. Or you may decide to do nothing at all – but at least saying to yourself “I know grandpa is going to comment on my weight”, may help you come to terms with it ahead of time and brush it off a little easier in the moment: “Yup. There it is. Good ‘ol grandpa said it again! Moving on!”
In the end it can be helpful to remember that most people – even if they do notice your weight – are so preoccupied with their own lives and how they look, that they won’t be thinking about you for longer than a few seconds.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #8: Escape
I’m an introvert. Parties aren’t my thing…even family parties. Social gatherings cause me stress and anxiety. I usually arrive wondering when I can leave. That’s just me.
I’m the one who disappears to take a long walk after dinner – not because I’m trying to burn calories, but because I need to clear my mind, get away from the food and noise, and have some quiet time. I also frequently use my animals as an excuse to leave early: “Sorry we have to run, the dog/horses/chickens need fed/let out/exercised.” I’m not trying to be rude, but I know myself pretty well at this point. I’ve learned that taking care of myself makes me less inclined to overeat or eat emotionally.
Having an escape plan helps me show up in the first place, but also allows me to honor my physical and emotional needs. I will even plan ahead of time by talking to my husband - also an introvert - and we mutually decide on an appropriate time to leave and an exit plan.
On a similar note, never forget that you have the option of not going. You don’t have to attend every party to which you are invited. If certain people are very toxic to your emotional health or going to certain functions causes you severe anxiety…just don’t go. Sometimes you just need to do what’s best for you.
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain Tip #9: Start exercising NOW
It’s tempting to wait until January 1st to “start fresh” with an exercise regimen. Don’t do that! Get started NOW!
Believe it or not, exercise is not strongly associated with weight loss. But it is strongly correlated with keeping new pounds from creeping on. Getting into an exercise routine now will put you far ahead of the game on January 1st, when everyone else is toting around eight extra pounds and struggling to make exercise a habit.
Start by committing to at least 10 minutes of brisk walking every day. Work your way up to 30 minutes per day, four to six days per week. Add in a twice-weekly weight training session of squats, push ups, lunges, and planks to round out your routine.
Another great exercise tip: always try to work out the day of and the day after a holiday party. This will help you avoid holiday weight gain in three ways: 1.) it burns a few extra calories, 2.) it makes you more insulin sensitive, which means your body will be less likely to store calories as fat, and 3.) it will make you feel better and keep you in the “health mindset”, which will make it easier to get back on track after indulging.
So get into the habit of moving every day right now, and by the time the holidays are over you’ll probably have avoided holiday weight gain, and you’ll be healthier, happier, more energetic, and will have created a new exercise routine!
I hope you found these tips helpful for reducing overeating at holiday parties and enjoying the festivities and food this year!
Now for the FUN part! I’m giving away a spot in my Intuitive Eating Online Course to one lucky lady and a friend of her choice (women only please)! Here’s how to enter:
Like my business page on Facebook by clicking here and then clicking the “Like” button.
Share a big struggle you have with food in the comments below.
Take the Intuitive Eating Quiz by clicking here. I will randomly choose a winner from my email list, so to be eligible to win the contest you must add your email when prompted by the quiz! I promise I will not inundate your mailbox with daily emails and program advertisements, nor will I ever share your email with third parties!
One winner will be chosen on November 28th, 2018. In order to win you must complete all three steps!
Didn’t win the giveaway? Join us on December 1st anyway! The cost for 12 weeks of guided exercises and teachings is only $35! Get in on this before the price goes up on January 1st! For more info on the course and to get signed up, go to my Intuitive Eating Page.
There’s no time like the present to give yourself the gift of feeling confident with food and your body!
Blog Author: Kelly Bailey, IIN certified holistic nutrition coach, and NPTI certified personal trainer
Learn more about the author here.