Holiday Survival Guide

The holidays only comes around once a year. You get time to spend with your family and friends to celebrate. Don’t forget about the food too! Since we only see many of these holiday fares once a year, we often take on the mentality of letting ourselves go ahead and splurge.

The end result?
After the holidays, you step on the scale to a shocking number. Can you seriously be up that much? Understanding what is happening in your body can help you overcome these post-holiday blues and even prevent the sabotage your weight.

WHAT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING DURING THE HOLIDAYS

The average holiday meal is packed with sodium. Think gravy, stuffing and that marinated vegetable salad. Our bodies respond by retaining extra water in order to maintain a healthy blood level. This is considered water weight, and it’s not necessarily permanent. It usually goes away once we return to our normal eating habits.

Eating lots of carbohydrates stimulates a similar response. Mashed potatoes, dinner rolls and desserts. We often don’t go for a workout right after a big holiday dinner (because #foodcoma), so the carbs that aren’t used immediately are turned into glycogen and stored away for later energy use. The body needs about 3 to 4 grams of water for each gram of glycogen it stores, which explains why we gain water weight.

Even if you’re watching what you eat during the holiday season, weight gain can still sneak up on you through excessive alcohol consumption, which typically occurs at various holiday parties spread out over the holiday season. When you drink alcohol, your willpower is lowered and you are less likely to stick to that diet plan. Alcohol also inhibits the body’s ability to digest food, causing it to sit in the intestines for longer. Alcohol is also calorie dense, and reduces the body’s ability to burn fat. Altogether, alcohol makes it easier to gain weight. 

Although one day of indulgence probably won’t cause any noticeable physical changes, overeating during the entire holiday season might. Year after year, most of us pack on at least a pound (some gain more) during the holidays — and keep the extra weight permanently.

HOW TO STAY ON TRACK

Move
Create a calorie deficit by exercising to burn off extra calories before you ever indulge in your favorite foods. Weight training is especially helpful in spiking your metabolism after the activity is done. Eat less and exercise more is the winning formula to prevent weight gain. Increase your steps or lengthen your fitness routine the weeks ahead and especially the day of the feast. Make fitness a family adventure by going for a walk all together after the meal.

Don’t Go Starving 
Contrary to popular belief, skipping meals in order to reduce caloric intake will only make things worse. The hungrier you are going into the meal, the faster you’ll eat and the more you’ll load on your plate. Snack on protein-rich foods and veggies throughout the day to keep your belly full on enough calories that you’ll still have room for all your favorite foods during the meal. If you aren’t famished, you will be able to take time to acknowledge your food and appreciate the eating process, rather than quickly scarfing it down to fill the void. This will help you eat until you’re satisfied but not until you’re full, which in turn can help you reduce your total calorie intake. When you’re eating mindfully you enjoy it, savor it, take time to appreciate it.

Be Vocal
Butter on the green beans, cheese sauce on the broccoli, gravy on the potatoes, cream in the mashed potatoes, full fat ice cream on the pie. All these added things to the basic food items really pack on the calories, most times unknowingly. Ask if there is any way the host can have the sauces, dressings, oil, butter and toppings on the side of the dishes so people can control the amount they put on it. Alternatively, you can ask for portion of the plain vegetables or basic parts dishes be placed on the side for you before these higher calorie things are added.

Police Your Portions
Holiday tables are bountiful and beautiful displays of traditional family favorites. Before you fill your plate, scan the dinner table and decide what you’re going to choose. Then select reasonable-sized portions of foods you cannot live without. Don’t waste your calories on foods that you can have all year long like dinner rolls and mashed potatoes. Fill your plate with small portions of holiday favorites that only come around once a year so you can enjoy desirable, traditional foods. Skip the seconds, try to resist the temptation to go back for more. Leftovers are much better the next day, and if you limit yourself to one plate, you are less likely to overeat and feel guilty. While each of us has our own favorites, keep in mind that some holiday foods are better choices than others. White turkey meat, plain vegetables, roasted sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, defatted gravy, and pumpkin pie tend to be the best bets because they are lower in fat and calories. 

Chill Out
As stressful as managing all this food and alcohol is, it’s best that you try not to stress. During the holiday season, people are stressed, and stress can cause people to eat more. Many people gain weight because they eat for the wrong reasons. The stress hormone cortisol makes the body hold onto calories for longer, making it even harder to burn off the excess fat.

In the end, enjoy the holiday season and all that it has to offer but in moderation. And then, let’s get right back on track towards achieving your goals!

Happy Holidays!

PS. Stay tuned: We will be launching a nutrition challenge in January to help you crush your 2020 weight loss, performance and health goals! You won’t want to miss this!

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