Merry Christmas and let’s pack on the pounds!
Holidays are times of plenty and food is no different. The goal is to enjoy yourself without digging a hole too big to escape from in the new year. I’m not going to advocate that you should attempt to calorie count over Christmas, or vilify any of the foods of the season that you enjoy, but I am going to recommend that you moderate your amounts instead of having a free for all smorgasbord. The question is: How do I maintain weight loss and minimize gain during the holidays?
Holidays revolve around family and feasts. We all come together to enjoy the holiday season and perform a little family bonding. The origin is from the Christian religion but did not involve presents or a feast. The Romans held winter festivities and feasts around the same time of year. The traditions merged to bring us what we have today and placed particular importance on food.
Estimates of how much we overindulge on Christmas Day are nearly three times the amount you need to live for 24 hours. I have read that the average is around 5,000-6,000 calories in the United States. That’s over one pound gained in just one day. Plain and simple, that total is more than a secret stash that we are storing for a long winter nap. The sad fact is that this does not include the next 2-3 days of leftovers that pack on the pounds.
Christmas is a time of joy and a happy celebration. Some of my favorite memories come from time spent with my father watching Christmas Day football as the feast was digesting in my belly. Although Christmas is full of temptations for anyone trying to maintain or lose weight, I hope this article will inspire you to use my tips to avoid having to hit the “restart” or “do-over” button on your diet on 26 December.
Recommendations to control the Christmas holiday feast:
Holiday Parties are public enemy number one. Whether at work, a friend’s house, or while visiting family, the concept is the same. These are energy-dense foods that will pack on the pounds. The line weaves through a buffet of heavy sauces and starches that are a minefield that will certainly disrupt your diet. Eat the fresh vegetables without ranch. Have a snack of fresh broccoli, cauliflower, or celery before you arrive. You cannot get fat on these vegetables unless you saturate them with butter, cheese, or ranch. Better yet, make healthy food to bring to the party. At least you’ll know there is something there that won’t blow your diet. If you must try something that is possibly unhealthy, take a spoonful instead of a cup, bowl, or plate.
- Lose weight before the holidays. Don’t wait until the New Year. Start in October and shed a couple of pounds before the holiday season. We can call it to damage control. This way you won’t have to suffer through the misery of depriving yourself of your childhood favorites throughout the holidays.
- Eat before you shop. Eating first or packing a lunch are two of the most important of all the tips. The lunches you are going to eat at a restaurant are likely not healthy choices, and they are usually foods of convenience. You are stressed by the less than nice shoppers who just won’t get out of your way. There is no doubt why alcohol use is up during the holidays. Plan ahead and bring lunch or eat before you hit the shops.
- Drink water. Avoid sugary drinks and stay hydrated. Thirst can be confused for hunger. I do not need to stress how much water helps you lose weight, but it also helps promote satiety.
- Just keep moving. Don’t be a couch potato. Get off the lazy chair and have some fun. Go for a walk with the family instead of making an imprint on the sofa for the entire day.
- Eat Slowly. Don’t just keep forking it in there. Give your belly a chance to feel that it is full. We all enjoy the food, but slow down and enjoy the flavor. Drink plenty of water between bites. The fact is that if you eat slower, you will eat fewer calories.
Limit the egg nog. Eggnog is one of the most calorie-dense drinks of the holidays. It can have over 500 calories per cup if you add bourbon. I usually have 1-2 cups for the whole holiday period. If you partake, keep it to a mild roar.
- Sliver the dessert. Limit the amount of dessert you eat and if you must try each dessert, try a spoonful or sliver of each. Be very careful because these are calorie-dense.
- Relieve your stress and keep calm. Stress increases your cortisol and the risk of overeating. You may be feeling financially pinched, tired from lack of sleep, and visits with family are not always tension-free. There is a reason that family holidays usually involve whiskey. You might need a little to get through the holidays, but keep it to a limit. Alcohol is calorie-dense and lowers your inhibition and may lead to overeating.
- Acknowledge the challenge and be honest. Write down what you are eating. I am not suggesting you keep track of calories, but eating can get out of control. If you write it down in a journal, you are less likely to go “hog wild.”
- Eat plenty of vegetables. Snack healthy, and I recommend raw vegetables. If you can gain weight eating raw broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and celery, I will shake your hand and call it a day. You cannot gain weight with fresh raw veggies unless you smother them in fat.
- Relax and enjoy the holiday! Weight loss is a journey, and there will be bumps in the road. Get back up and dust yourself off. Don’t get down on yourself because positivity and self-confidence are essential for success. Don’t look back at the mistakes and don’t let 25 December become a seven-day free-for-all.
So who cares about putting a few extra pounds on over Christmas? It’s only once a year. We all should be concerned because each pound is a higher risk. The problem with the United States is the holiday season primarily consists of nearly two months of celebrating that starts Thanksgiving and continuing until the beginning of January. If you celebrate the whole time, you will pack on the pounds.
The bottom line: A bit of smart damage control won’t spoil the festive spirit and may reduce your weight gain and help keep you from spiraling out of control as you enter the New Year. Bood choices and prevent weight gain and smaller portions can help also. Let the feast begin and enjoy the family!