By: Sara Shipley, RD-to-be and student at University of Central Oklahoma
The colder weather is finally here and that signifies the upcoming holiday season. For some people, Halloween was the kickoff and for the next two months- its one themed event after the next. If you’re like me, I have several friend’s weddings sprinkled between major holidays, so this time of year is going to be packed. Packed full of opportunities to overindulge and join the countless Americans in the average holiday weight gain. It’s a vicious cycle and according to research, on average, Americans gain 1-3 pounds during the winter holidays, every year. As activity levels plummet during the colder months, most people see an increase in weight and tightness in their clothes. And then they beat themselves up in January, making empty resolutions and paying for gym memberships that go to waste by March. I’m not being cynical- I want to help you avoid that drama before it starts! Missing out on a party with all the festive temptations doesn’t have to be your strategy to maintain your healthy regimen. You should enjoy every invite, but with the mindset of moderation. It’s about the choices you make and how those choices will make you feel that next day.
Tips for staving off holiday weight gain:
Stay active: Most people get busy and distracted with end-of-year deadlines and obligations that seem more important than their workout. Or they get lazy and want to stay in, because- hey, its cold out there and I don’t want to battle the weather for my morning run! The most important step is lacing up your shoes and getting moving. Even for 30 measly minutes, any activity is worth it. Try any or all of these ideas to keep your activity level high:
- Signup for a race in your area. Look for a Turkey Trot around Thanksgiving or other holiday themed races around the community. You don’t have to run, so sign up with friends or family and walk. They are usually focused on raising money for children or soldiers, so you’ll be doing yourself and someone else a favor.
- Aim for a workout 4 days a week/at least 30 minutes and stick to it. Try an indoor, DVD series if you can’t make it outdoors. P90X is widely popular, but there are also countless options you can stream from YouTube. TaraStiles Yoga is a great site for yoga practice for any level.
- Wear a pedometer. It may seem like a hassle but it can actually turn into a fun, little game. Once you start wearing it, you might find yourself trying to rack up the steps and beat your previous day’s count.
- Take the stairs- at first it seems annoying to attempt 10 flights, but it works the glutes and every extra step adds up.
- Park at the back of the lot, everywhere you go (work, grocery store, the mall, the movies…). Your car is less likely to be dinged and as mentioned before, every extra step adds up.
- Get moving on your lunch break. A 10 minute walk will clear your head and keep you from being sedentary all day. Walk to your car and back if that’s the only opportunity you have.
Choose wisely: Holiday parties are notorious for food offerings that don’t normally sit at the table. Heavy appetizers of cheese laden fried bites are likely to be at the next party and you can expect to see all the comfort foods- scalloped potatoes, stuffing, beef chili and the list goes on. If you are invited to a friend’s thankgiving feast, you should join as the plates are passed, as you do not have to skip these dishes. But you should be mindful not to over serve yourself like it’s your last meal. Survey what is offered and make a few indulgences. Balance your plate with vegetables (not creamy, fried or buttered up). Eat lighter meals during throughout the rest of the day, but don’t entirely skip. If you head to the party famished, be aware that you’re likely to over indulge and then justify it to yourself. (More tips to come regarding smart swaps for holiday dishes!)
Drink up? : Delicious party food is customarily paired with festive drinks. And some of these drinks can clock in as heavy and alcoholic, which can negate your healthy efforts. (Hello, eggnog). After just two drinks, you could be pushing your limits on more than 500 calories without even having a bite! Not only will the alcohol leave you dehydrated, your judgment will be impaired and you may think that second round of cheesecake is a better idea than it truly is. Skip the mixed holiday drinks and opt for a glass of heart healthy red wine or a bottle of light beer, which helps you control portions. If you feel deprived without your annual eggnog, drink up- but balance it with less dessert.
- Glass of red wine= ~125 calories
- Light beer= ~100 calories
- Vodka Soda with splash of light cranberry=~ 150 calories
- Eggnog (one cup) = ~330 calories
- Chocolate Martini= ~250 calories
- White Russian with light cream=~800 calories (not a typo)
The numbers are quiet staggering. In fact, they’re probably skewed because as we all know, the drink is only as good as the bartender. If the bartender has a heavy hand, you may be drinking more juice than you realize!
A good reason we all enjoy the holidays is spending time with family and friends. These gatherings usually include food and drinks, but that isn’t the primary focus. Preparing your self to make healthy choices will take the stress out of holiday weight management. You don’t have to feel deprived while mindfully celebrating!