The holidays don’t have to be a roadblock on your journey to managing your weight. As a dietitian and mom of two with a history of weight fluctuations, here are my 10 realistic strategies for weight management during the holidays.
Whether you’re on a weight loss journey or finally made it to your goal weight, the holidays don’t have to be a stressful time wondering if you will put the weight back on. Some of these might seem obvious – but it’s nice to have a reminder right before this season of madness begins.
10 Best Tips For Managing Weight During the Holidays (realistically)
1. Fill Up On Protein and Veggies First
Fill your plate up with veggies to make it appear like a high volume meal. Research studies have shown that consuming a large volume of low-density foods, such as soup, veggies, salad or fruit can enhance the feeling of fullness and lead to overall decreased energy intake (3).
This tip works in the sense that if we eat the higher protein foods and veggies first, we might feel full quickly and prevent ourselves from overeating.
2. Don’t Skip Meals
It might seem like skipping meals could help you balance out your calories throughout the day, but this can actually have the opposite effect. If you’re ravenous before a large holiday dinner begins, you might find yourself mindlessly snacking on appetizers or snack foods. These little bites can truly add up.
Instead, focus on consuming low calorie, high protein meals that will keep you full and satisfied prior to those larger meals you’ll be spending with your family and friends.
3. Practice Mindful Eating
Eating mindfully takes practice, but can be extremely useful during the holidays. Picture this: you have a huge plate of all your favorite foods – and you want to enjoy them. You try them all, savoring each and every little bite. However, you recognize when you’re starting to feel full – and you’re happy to stop eating because you feel satisfied.
Mindful eating teaches us to listen to our body when we are hungry, and stop eating when we are full. It has been shown to decrease symptoms of binge eating and promote positive behavioral changes in our eating habits.
4. Drink A Lot Of Water
Aim to drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water this busy holiday season – even a glass right before meals may lead to a few less bites.
5. Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Ah, yes – with family dinners, work events, and meals out with friends comes the temptation to have a few drinks. There’s nothing wrong with that!
We should be able to enjoy ourselves while also maintaining a balance to prevent holiday weight gain. Planning in advance can help with this. Decide which nights you are going to imbibe more so than others, and try to limit that to 1-2 days each week.
If that’s not going to work for you, select alcoholic beverages that are lower in calories. For example, avoiding the cocktail list at restaurants and choosing something like a vodka soda.
6. Stay Consistent With Your Fitness Routine
You don’t have to spend extra hours working out, it’s more about maintaining a consistent fitness routine. It should be one that works for you and your lifestyle.
If it’s harder to get to the gym during the holiday season, working out at home can have similar benefits. Check out my favorite YouTubers for women for challenging but convenient workouts. Other ideas? Take more walks, try mini-workouts throughout the day or have cardio dance parties with your kids to holiday music.
7. Have Realistic Expectations
It’s definitely possible to continue your weight loss journey during the holiday season, but let’s be honest – it’s not an ideal time for our weight loss goals. If you are someone who has been consistently losing 2-3 pounds per week you may have to lower your expectations a little and aim for just one pound a week.
It’s just a short amount of time! For sustainable, long-term weight loss and maintenance it is best to set realistic goals that will last a lifetime. Don’t give up or be too restrictive – instead, be consistent.
8. Don’t Focus Too Much On The Scale
There are so many factors which can affect our weight on a daily basis, so you should never weigh yourself daily. However, it can sometimes be a helpful tool for weight management. Look for consistent, steady, gradual changes every 2-4 weeks.
I will note that one study found that daily self-weighing and having that visual feedback helped prevent holiday weight gain in obese individuals.
If you think this would work for you, just try not to be too hard on yourself due to the number of factors that can cause weight fluctuations. Actual fat gain takes time, whereas an extra 5 pounds of water weight can happen quickly during the holidays.
9. Manage Sleep and Stress
It’s no secret that the holidays are busy, exhausting and stressful. Finding ways to manage the stress and prioritize sleep can have a huge impact on your health.
Various research studies have examined the relationship between sleep and weight loss. It has been found that people who are sleep deprived are more likely to experience late-night snacking and choose unhealthy snacks (6). Both sleep and stress trigger the hormone cortisol, which may cause you to hold on to fat.
Read these tips for additional help on how to decrease stress during the holidays.
10. Plan Ahead and Make Lists To Hold Yourself Accountable
Whether it’s meal prepping and planning, or writing down your workouts for the week – having some kind of organizational tool will help to hold yourself accountable. While splurges are okay on those special days during the holidays, it doesn’t mean you have to let yourself go the entire holiday season.
Something like this weekly and daily checklist which prioritizes workouts and meals for the week.
Summary of Weight Management During the Holidays
It would be great to have it all, right? A fun holiday season filled with your favorite food and drinks while still maintaining your weight. Easier said than done!
However, some of these tips for weight management during the holidays might work for you. Don’t let the possibility of weight gain get you down. Instead, focus on how to get back on track.