Don’t let Christmas turn you into a statistic. The holiday weight gain can stay away this year.
You know that it is coming every year – the inevitable, average 5 to 10 pound gain (or more) that accompanies a host of Christmas parties, Hanukkah celebrations, and New Year’s Eve bashes. You don’t have to suffer form this yearly tradition any longer, though.
Here are 7 super easy ways to avoid the holiday bulge, and still have plenty of fun while doing it:
1. Fill up with Fruits and Veggies Instead of Fruitcakes and Holiday Cocktails
One of the easiest ways to eat healthfully while not having to completely abstain from all the holiday treats you love is to start with the good stuff. Instead of grabbing Grandma’s sugar cookies or another piece of Aunt Sarah’s chocolate pie, eat as much organic broccoli, kale, spinach, apples, oranges, goji berries, and seaweed (etc.) as possible. This will fill you up, give you energy, and make turning down that second dessert much easier.
2. Stay Hydrated
Also be sure to drink plenty of water and green tea (also a calorie burning boost) since staying hydrated is all-important in the winter months and will help you not to eat when you are really just thirsty.
3. Reduce Stress
Put off that feud with a family member, and don’t worry about getting all the shopping done. There are better ways to spend your time this holiday season – in ways that won’t add to your stress. Stress can make you pack on the pounds and compromise your immune system. It raises cortisol levels and makes your body hold on to every morsel you eat.
Get some time in the sun to reverse SAD (seasonal depressive disorder) symptoms, or smell some citrus. No matter what, definitely find ways to reduce stress to keep your middle from burgeoning. One piece of good news – dieting actually stresses your body out more, so it is o.k. to indulge – as long as you do so in moderation.
4. Make the Holidays More Fun with Physical Activity
There are so many great holiday traditions that could be started or carried on that are better for you than sitting around all week in your pajamas (though this is a good stress-reliever, too!) Is it snowing outside? Try some winter sports that the whole family can enjoy and burn off those extra helpings of sweet potato casserole. Skiing, snowshoeing, and skating are great calorie-burners. Snowman building games are fun, too. Live in a more temperate climate? Try Christmas wrap relays or caroling through the neighborhood. Make sure you spend some time moving every day, even on holiday.
5. Sleep In
Do you get extra time off from work this holiday season? Use it for sleep! More than half the nation is sleep deprived, which contributes to obesity levels. Here’s some extra motivation to catch up on your zzzz’s.
In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers asked that a group of men sleep for 12 hours a night but didn’t allow them to sleep the next night. They then had them eat an opulent buffet the following morning.
The researchers measured the subjects’ energy expenditure following this action—the calories they burn just by being (not doing exercise or even standing up). When the men were sleep-deprived, their general energy expenditure was 5% less than it was when they got a good night’s sleep, and their post-meal energy expenditure was 20% less. If you really want to burn those extra calories form the holiday office party – get some sleep!
6. Haul that Christmas Tree
Strength training is the number one way to increase your metabolism. By adding lean muscle tissue, your body will burn more calories every day, even at rest! Even if you’ve been running around getting all your holidays shopping and errands done, you still need to strength train. Add some weight lifting to your next gym workout, lift the kids to put the star on top of the tree, or light the Kwanzaa candles on the upper most mantle.
7. Eat Smaller Meals on a Smaller Plate
Those dinky paper plates they use at parties just might save you from holiday weight gain. The average American eats portion sizes that are way too big, and therefore, many more calories than they actually need. People will almost always eat more and drink more when given plates and cups that are over-sized. Fast food companies know this and use it to ‘up-size’ their sales while they slowly kill you with too many empty calories.
Portion sizes have also increased over time. You can see examples here. It doesn’t take much to make the change, either. A two inch difference in plate diameter — from 12″ to 10″ plates — would result in 22% fewer calories being served, and consumed. The take away – pick the little plate at family gatherings and parties.
Avoiding the holiday bulge doesn’t have to turn you into a scrooge. Follow these simple steps and you can be sure to keep your physique svelte through the season.
Christina Sarich is a humanitarian and freelance writer helping you to Wake up Your Sleepy Little Head, and See the Big Picture. Her blog is Yoga for the New World. Her latest book is Pharma Sutra: Healing the Body And Mind Through the Art of Yoga.