Last year the New England Journal of Medicine published that on average North Americans gain one pound of weight from Thanksgiving to New Years Day. Of course, this is an average number meaning some gain less and some gain more.
I've thought about this a lot because, in my opinion, Thanksgiving through New Years is the most difficult time of the year when it comes to nutrition counseling. Most of my clients live in absolute fear of gaining weight. To them it means failure, disappointment, and can increase negative feelings about body image. In addition to that fear, stress is at an all time high with holiday travelling, food preparation, and gift giving and focusing on nutrition can almost be debilitating.
What if the focus on the holidays from a weight management perspective was just to maintain? Would that take some of the pressure off or ease the fear of failure? I think it's worth a try so here are some of my tips to maintain through the holidays.
1) When it comes to holiday baking plan accordingly. Your thoughtfulness is wonderful and I'm sure rewarding, but if having excess in your house promotes overeating it may not be worth making that extra batch or two. In most cases two additional cookies a day added to your daily nutrition can add .25 to .5 of weight gain a week. Evaluate your plan and change if necessary. It's okay to allow yourself to be the priority.
2) Do you feel like you overeat when you have a special holiday meal? Why don't you step completely out of your comfort zone and make new traditions by changing up your holiday menu? This allows for the holiday to become less about the food and more about the event.
3) Do you have a lot of holiday parties to attend? Bring your own dish. You can control what is in the dish by modifying the recipe or bringing something that may be a little healthier than the other offerings. When you get to the party assess the offerings and plan to choose small portions of the other dishes. Use your dish as the main staple for your snack or meal.
4) Stay active. If you don't "exercise" routinely that's okay but what simply moving more? The fact of the matter is that physical activity helps burn calories. If you find that you eat a little more during the holidays physical activity can balance the extra calories you are consuming. This doesn't mean you have to hit the treadmill. Do something you like. Physical activity also helps release endorphins which can manage that extra stress.
5) My final tip is to challenge yourself. Plan for ANOTHER holiday meal after the holidays. Invite your friends or keep it small with your family. If you know you can get this meal another time during the year, do you still feel the need to overeat? I often feel people overeat that pumpkin pie because they feel they can't get it any other time of the year.
I think we put enough pressure on ourselves and it's time to make a change. If you are trying to lose weight you can always focus and be very successful for ten and a half months of a year. If the remaining month and a half is maintenance that is still a win. How about maintaining weight and healthy lifestyle changes this holiday? Can you focus on celebrating all the great changes that have become habitual, and allow yourself to enjoy the real reason for the holidays? Who's ready for the challenge? Happy Holidays all!