December is perhaps the most dangerous time of the year when it comes to weight gain. I’ve heard several different stats concerning how much weight the average person gains this time of year, but for a population that is losing the fight with obesity any weight gain is cause for concern.
And in all honesty, it is tough to navigate the 6 weeks between Thanksgiving and the New Year without putting on a pound or two no matter how diligent you are determined to be.
In order to limit the damage to your waist line this year, you need to have a two-pronged approach to your health this holiday season. According to two professors from Saint Louis University, the best way to avoid/limit holiday weight gain is to be mindful of what you eat and make sure you get regular physical activity.
When it comes to holiday indulgences, Amy Moore, Ph.D, offers a few really good ideas we would all be wise to heed.
- Be Picky--Some snacks and treats you can have any time of the year, so avoid them this time of year. Chips, crackers, and many other snacks aren’t inherently festive, yet they still seem to pop up at holiday parties and family get togethers. Instead of snacking on Doritos, enjoy treats that you aren’t likely to have during the rest of the year like Christmas cookies or that special family recipe that mom only makes this time of year.
- Plan Ahead--If you know you’ll likely be tempted to overeat at a particular party, grab a healthy bite before you go to take an edge off of your hunger. You can still enjoy some of the food at the party, but you won’t be tempted to go back for seconds, thirds, fourths...
- Calorie Free Options--Completely skipping the egg nogs or other holiday drinks may not be realistic, but alternating adult drinks with a glass of water is really pretty easy. The water not only limits your caloric intake, but can also help you feel fuller and prevent a hangover the next day.
While being aware of the foods and drinks you are consuming is obviously important, making sure you are getting some exercise is vital. Here are some tips from Ethel Frese, DPT, to help you keep moving for the remainder of 2013.
- Be Realistic--While this isn’t a tip per se, people tend to drastically overestimate the number of calories they burn during exercise. So being aware that one loop around the block won’t burn 100 calories can prevent you from overindulging and then thinking that a quick walk will balance your caloric equation. It won’t.
- Everything Counts--While a walk around the block may not be the miracle some think it is, you don’t have to feel like you need to run a marathon every day to stay ahead of the scale. Remember, anything you actively do burns calories, so get active! Go build a snowman, start a snowball fight with your nephews/neighbors, go sledding or ice skating. None of these activities really “feel” like exercise, yet all are great ways to get outside and be active. And they will burn some serious calories too.
At the end of the day, both Frese and Moore agree that avoiding holiday weight gain likely won’t happen without a balanced approach of mindful eating and regular activity. While this is an important reminder to anyone trying to lose weight at any time of year, it is especially important for all of us to hear their message as we head into this last month of the year.
And if you do things right, you won’t need to resolve to lose the weight you gained in December on January 1 because you won’t have gained any!