It used to be that every year, right around mid-October, I’d start thinking about all the ways I was going to not gain weight over the holidays. I’d join DietBets, start restricting my diet, join a gym, buy new workout clothes to motivate myself…you name it, I was determined to do it.
I’d get through Thanksgiving relatively unscathed. Maybe a pound up, but usually I stayed steady. Alas, victory was short-lived, because right after Thanksgiving came Christmas cookie season. My arch nemesis – baked goods! I could forgo the desserts from Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, but show me Christmas cookies and I lose all sort of rational thinking. Gluttony, I tell you, pure gluttony.
Needless to say, by New Years, I would have gained weight that I would then vow to lose in the new year. Well, until Girl Scout Cookie season started in mid-January…damn you cookies!
Determined to stop the cycle of highs and lows (both weight and blood sugar levels!), I discovered some crazy easy ways to not gain weight over the holidays – without feeling like I was missing out!
5 Crazy Easy Ways to Not Gain Weight Over the Holidays
1. Give yourself permission to eat whatever you want – in moderation.
You may know that I’m currently in my client year of Precision Nutrition, so this kind of goes hand-in-hand with their philosophy of eating and dietary restrictions. When you tell yourself foods are forbidden, what do you want to do? Eat more of them! Instead of telling yourself you can’t have cookies or a piece of pecan pie, have some – but in moderation. Instead of having six cookies, have three. Instead of an eighth of the pie, have a sixteenth.
2. Chew your food slowly.
I’m stuck between two extremes when it comes to family dinners. I have one half of the family who eats slowly and the other half who blinks and has a clean plate. The ones who eat slowly rarely go back for seconds and, most of the time, don’t finish everything, because they’re full long before their plates are clean. The ones who devour their meals like ravenous wolves go back for seconds and sometimes thirds, because their bellies and their brains haven’t caught up to one another.
It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to even realize you’ve eaten and are full. By then, quick eaters can go through a few thousand calories and not even register it. Chewing your food slowly – whether it’s a Christmas cookie or a pile of stuffing – gives your brain and belly time to catch up and cue you in on whether or not you really want to keep eating. So, slow it down and you’ll find you eat a lot less!
3. Stand up!
I’m not sure what it is about the holidays, but snuggling on the sofa near the twinkling lights of the Christmas tree while watching Gideon in One Magic Christmas or reciting the lines along with George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life is my kind of thing. Snuggling is great, but when you’re trying to counteract the 3,000 calorie meal you ate, it’s probably not the best way to not gain weight over the holidays.
Instead, make it a priority to stand up and move around before settling in to snuggle. Do a load of laundry, vacuum the floor, wash the dishes, take out the trash – just stand up and move. You gain weight when you take in more calories than you burn off and if you’re just sitting on that sofa, there aren’t a lot of calories being burnt. Move and then enjoy your favorite movie!
4. Challenge yourself.
There are a lot of movie and television show challenges that want you to do a certain number of exercises every time something happens on tv. “Do 10 jumping jacks every time someone says Merry Christmas” for example. Those are great and, if they motivate you, go for it. It’s a fun way to include your kids in on the exercise too! My kids love them, so we have a few different ones we use.
For me, when I sit to watch a movie, I want to watch the movie – not worry about leaping from the sofa every five minutes. So, instead, I challenge myself throughout the day. My favorite challenges to help not gain weight over the holidays are the squat, plank, and crunch challenges. At the beginning of the day, I set my intentions for how many of any one exercise I want to accomplish that day and then I break it down into smaller chunks. If my goal is to do 100 squats, for example, I may do something like:
- 10 in the morning between cups of coffee
- 10 before jumping in the shower
- 15 before sitting down to work
- 10 before lunch
- 10 before getting back to work
- 15 during the mid-afternoon slump
- 10 while dinner is cooking
- 10 before doing the dishes
- 10 before I go to bed
By the end of the day, I’ve completed all 100 and burned some calories while doing it. I switch up the challenges every day to work on whatever area I feel has been slightly neglected lately.
5. Exercise one more day a week.
If you normally exercise three days a week, add in a fourth. If you exercise five days a week, add in a good cardio session on the sixth or stretch everything back out with a yoga class. Whatever your normal activity level is, bump it up a notch. Just do a little bit more.
You don’t have to go from working out one day a week to working out five. Not only is that not sustainable based upon where you’re starting from, it also increases your risk of injury. No one wants to be nursing a pulled muscle during the holidays! And, you know what usually happens if you hurt yourself and can’t work out? You eat the Christmas cookies. Like, all of them. 😉 So, just bump it up a little bit. The increase in activity, along with the things above will help you not gain weight over the holidays and set you up with some pretty decent habits to continue with throughout the new year.
And, if you gain weight over the holidays even after doing all of the things above, don’t beat yourself up. If you wouldn’t berate your friend for gaining two pounds – or 10 – don’t berate yourself. Life is too short and the holidays go by too quickly to be focused on the scale and not on enjoying the time. Even if the holidays aren’t really your thing, the tips above will help improve your mood and help you get through the blues. Friend, go easy on yourself and have an amazing holiday season this year. You deserve it!!