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Simple Steps To Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

a woman holding a heart of snow

The holiday lights twinkle in stores and along neighborhood streets. It’s that time of year where the temptation to indulge is everywhere, whether it is a treat, an extra serving of your favorite dish, or even a cocktail or two. Unfortunately, these little indulgences can add up to a holiday weight gain of 1-2 pounds, which often linger long after the ball drops on New Year’s Eve. If the upcoming holidays make you wonder how well your clothes will fit in January, you will want to read on for some easy ways to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain.

Make a Plan To Avoid Overeating

It sounds simple, but making a plan is key to avoiding mindless eating and overeating at gatherings.

As humans, we often underestimate exactly how much we’ve consumed.  This is especially true during social gatherings and when a variety of foods is offered to us. Here are three key ways to avoid falling into the overeating trap:

  • Go into a meal with how much you intend to eat and aim to eat 20% less than you normally would. If given a bigger plate, push the food towards the center, allowing an empty ring towards the outside. Once you’ve served yourself, you can push the food towards the outside. Although the plate will appear full, you will have actually eaten slightly less.
  • If going to a party, eat something before you go and then position yourself away from the food table. If you are standing by a table adorned with a variety of foods, the tendency will be to eat them even if you aren’t hungry.
  • We tend to eat between 35%-96% more when we are at a table with others.  If eating with others, pace yourself with the slowest eater at the table. This will allow your sense of fullness to catch up and help you avoid the temptation of getting seconds.

Minimize Alcohol

Holiday drinks are often made with high-calorie, sugar-filled mixers- this includes tonic water, which has nearly the same amount of sugar as soda! Often people will underestimate their servings. A “serving” of wine is only 5 ounces (a little more than half a cup), yet most people will pour a glass of wine closer to 7-9 ounces, which is nearly double a normal serving size. The empty calories aren’t the only challenge. When you consume alcohol, your body turns to burn it as fuel rather than fat, and it also reduces your inhibitions. With lower inhibitions, you will likely consume more food because these aromas also appear enhanced. So what can you do if you still want to imbibe this holiday season?

  • Use a tall glass rather than a short one. Studies have found that 20-30% more is poured into short, wide glasses as opposed to tall, skinny ones.
  • When at a party or dinner, have water nearby to sip on, alternating between it and your alcoholic drink. Your mindless need to sip will be satisfied, you will consume less alcohol, and as an added bonus you will be better hydrated.
  • When pouring wine, count slowly to three. This should get your closer to the 5-ounce serving size.

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This post is sponsored by Encompass Integrative Wellness.

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Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent fasting is a way to restrict eating time frames. It has shown promise in terms of weight loss and is less about what you eat and more about when you eat, which makes it great for holiday eating and weight control. However, this is not an excuse to binge when you are eating!  There are several variations of this method:

  • Alternate Day With or Without Whole Day Fasting: While you could completely fast for a whole day, many find it easier to restrict their eating and calories for two consecutive days with no food restriction on the remaining five days. For instance, on Mondays and Tuesdays, your daily intake would be reduced to 500-700 calories with a normal caloric intake occurring Wednesday through Sunday.
  • Time-Restricted Feeding: This is a different form of fasting where you only eat within a certain time window, and “fast” for the remaining. The feeding window could be 8-10 hours, with the fasting window being 14-16 hours. For example, one might consume all their meals between 10 AM-6 PM followed by a 16 hour fasting period where no food is consumed.

Weigh Yourself & Get Support

Several studies have focused on managing holiday weight gain and have found that regularly weighing yourself during the holiday window is an effective means to reduce additional gains. One study, which also had a group support and challenge component, even saw a weight reduction over the studied ten-week time period. So what can you do?

  • Find a scale and weigh yourself today. Then weigh yourself once a week throughout the season. If you find the scale is increasing, alter your approach using some of the tips provided above.
  • Join a local support group or social competition weight loss app. You can do this either by yourself, and compete anonymously, or with a group of friends. These applications also have monetary incentives, where the “winner” gets monetary rewards. Two popular apps are Competish and DietBet.

Avoiding holiday weight gain doesn’t have to be difficult. With a little forethought, you can both enjoy this holiday season and still fit nicely into your clothes in January!

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This post is sponsored by Encompass Integrative Wellness. Encompass Integrative Wellness is an integrative clinical nutrition practice focused on educating and empowering people to embrace food and lifestyle modifications to help them achieve real, sustainable change and live more vibrantly. They offer 1:1 nutritional counseling, group programs, custom educational talks and presentations, and corporate wellness programs. 

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Sources:

Hirsh, S. P., Pons, M., Joyal, S. V., & Swick, A. G. (2019). Avoiding holiday seasonal weight gain with nutrient-supported intermittent energy restriction: A pilot study. Journal of Nutritional Science, 8. https://doi.org/10.1017/jns.2019.8

Spence, C., & Piqueras-Fiszman, B. (2014). The Perfect Meal: The Multisensory Science of Food and Dining. John Wiley & Sons.

Wansink, B. (2004). Environmental factors that increase the food intake and consumption volume of unknowing consumers. Annual Review of Nutrition, 24(1), 455–479. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.nutr.24.012003.132140

Wansink, B., & van Ittersum, K. (2005). Shape of glass and amount of alcohol poured: Comparative study of effect of practice and concentration. BMJ : British Medical Journal, 331(7531), 1512–1514.

Originally published in Dec 2019.

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