Ah, the holidays. It is nearing the most wonderful time of the year. What makes it so wonderful, you ask? For me, it’s the promise of a white Christmas in Chicago (most years) which includes roasted chestnuts at Christkindlmarkt, my mom’s homemade hot cocoa after a day of holiday shopping, baking banana bread by the truckload for all the neighbors, and the list goes on. Notice how most of the items on my holiday checklist involve food? Yeah, I noticed that too.
The holidays are filled with some of the most delicious and most belt busting recipes of the year. Pair the decadent feasts with the extra holiday drinking, and often hectic schedule of the season limiting time for exercise, and it’s pretty easy to gain some extra weight quickly over the holiday season. Some studies suggest the average American gains between 7 – 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. So let’s all make our New Years Resolutions a little easier this year, and combat the holiday weight gain early.
Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain:
Here are some of my tried and true methods to avoid holiday weight gain, while still enjoying the finer things in life during throughout the season. Say it with me now: Everything is okay in moderation.
- Snack before the celebration. Holidays are filled with social gatherings and parties, and chances are the dessert plate is going to look a lot more appetizing at these events than the veggies and hummus, especially if you arrive to the scene hungry. Making a well-rounded snack for yourself before leaving the house is crucial, especially at buffet-style events. Try to include protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats in your snack to maintain your blood sugar and avoid a crash later, while also filling you up to help keep you full for longer periods of time. Some of my favorite pre-party snacks are: half a whole wheat bagel thin with 1 tablespoon peanut butter and sliced banana, a low-moister part-skim mozzarella string cheese with 2 pieces of fresh deli turkey and 10 whole wheat crackers, or non-fat greek yogurt with granola and fresh berries.
- Bring a healthy dish to the party. Going to a potluck? Or even just a get-together with friends and don’t want to show up empty handed? Knix the go-to bottle of wine and opt for a healthier dish. That way you know you have at least one guilt-free option to munch on while you are there. My go-to dish is a veggie plate with light spinach and artichoke dip and whole wheat pita bread. It’s a crowd pleaser and I can go home at the end of the night with my pants still buttoned. Win-win if you ask me.
- Make a healthy baked good to have at the house so you don’t feel restricted. It’s inevitable – baked goods are part of the holiday season. There is no avoiding it. Trying to completely pass on cookies and bars will not only be unsuccessful, it will make you crazy and make you more likely to binge and go overboard when you do finally cave. Instead, have fun exploring recipes with lighter baked good options. I always make oatmeal cookies first (no added sugar/butter recipes are out there, people!), so then I can munch on these throughout the whole baking process. Fruit dipped in dark chocolate or homemade cinnamon and oat granolas are a great way to still get your holiday sweet tooth fix without dumping two tons of margarine down your arteries. That being said, don’t restrict yourself too much! If your advent calendar counts down to grandma’s snickerdoodles more than Christmas itself, then allow yourself to indulge every once in a while so you can still enjoy your favorite things.
- Plan your day in advanced. Holidays get crazy, so think about your day in the morning and plan accordingly. If you know that you need to rush to the mall to pick up that toy that goes on sale at your lunch hour and you won’t have time to go to the food court, pack a sandwich or wrap in the morning that you can eat on the go. Try to take 15 minutes out of your day to relax (youtube yoga sequences are honestly a lifesaver). Clearing your mind helps you focus on things you want to accomplish, combat rising stress levels, and makes it that much easier to eat mindfully during this crazy time.
- Carry healthy snacks with you. Stash them in your desk drawer at work, leave them in your purse, and have your pantry stocked. If you don’t have healthy options readily available to you when life gets crazy, chances are you won’t have time to go out of your way to seek a healthy snack from somewhere else when you’re hungry. I have a snack drawer at work – and yes, some of my co-workers do make fun of me, but they’re the ones reaching for a pizza at 2 pm when I am munching on my salad because my granola bar held me over all morning.
- Be Santa Social! The holidays are filled with seasonal fitness challenges if you know where to look. Grab your gal pals and sign up for a Santa 5k or make a pact to be the last ones on the dance floor during the holiday party. You’ll leave with hilarious memories and you will have danced off the calories from all that eggnog. Last year my friends and I signed up for a Santa Run where everyone got a free beard and there were actual reindeer at the finish line. I mean C’MON PEOPLE, this is Rudolph we are talking about here! I’m already registered for a Hot Chocolate 5k for this year – chocolate at the end of the race, now that’s my kind of sport!
- Embrace winter sports. Easier said than done, I know. But hear me out: there are winter sports for everybody! If you live in a snow-free area, then get out there and enjoy the warm weather. If you are expecting a white Christmas, try to make the most out of it. Ice skating, snow-shoeing, skiing, sledding, building a snow fort, and even shoveling are crazy calorie-burners. Plus you might even *gasp* have fun doing it! Imagine that!
- Enjoy the holidays. So often, we get so busy rushing from one experience to the next, we forget to truly enjoy the holidays. Don’t feel obligated to attend every single thing you get invited to this season. Prioritize your commitments and your time. Allowing yourself to forego some events may actually help reduce some of the stress in your life and allow you to enjoy the events you do chose to attend. It will also give you more “you” time, to plan healthy family meals and embrace your early morning yoga with your girlfriends. You earned it!