For those of you who have been living your best lives, while also staying on track with your personal health goals, it’s important not to let the holidays throw you off your game. The good news is that while some Americans may gain between five to seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, the majority of people only gain a pound or two during the holidays, according to a UT Southwestern Medical Center registered dietitian.
A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain published in The New England Journal of Medicine concluded that the average holiday weight gain is 0.37 kg or less than one pound, which is less than what’s commonly asserted. So, now that you know a lot of what you’re hearing about holiday weight gain is overblown, allow yourself to relax and enjoy the holiday season. These five tips will help you stay on track during the holidays.
Tip 1: Come Up With A Plan
For a lot of us, the holidays can interrupt our regular routines. There are usually holiday parties to attend (in-person or virtually this year), long work days in order to complete projects before the end of the year, and of course holiday shopping. By setting aside some time on Sunday night to plan for the week, you’ll have a sense of what’s coming and be able to prepare for it, rather than feeling like you’re playing catch up all week long.
The blog Redefining Strength suggests planning around your holiday commitments. For example, if you know you have a long work day ahead of you and a holiday party that night, don’t stress about needing to get a workout in that day, as well. You can always workout on a different day when your schedule isn’t as full.
“It isn’t bad to indulge in some of the holiday cheer or to skip a workout or two,” according to Redefining Strength. “By indulging we can actually make it easier for us to stay on track for the majority of the time around the holidays.”
So, plan your schedule around your holiday commitments, and make sure to maximize the time you have for yourself.
Tip 2: Prioritize Your Sleep
Staying up later than usual in order to squeeze in everything you need to do this holiday season? If that’s the case, try to wake up a little later than you normally do. Or if you know you’re going to have to rise and grind, make sure to catch some extra Z’s the night before.
A systematic review and meta-analysis led by researchers at King’s College London found that, “Sleep deprivation may result in people consuming more calories during the following day.” So, try to get between seven to nine hours of sleep per night as the National Sleep Foundation advises in order to save calories and make healthier choices.
Tip 3: Be Mindful
Tuning into your body and being mindful is another way to stay on track this holiday season. By practicing mindfulness and taking five deep breaths before your meal, and chewing every bite slowly, you’re more likely to really focus on the flavors, colors, and smells of your food, rather than just eating it for the sake of eating it.
By checking in with yourself and taking the time to process how you’re feeling in the moment, it’ll help you to not have any regrets later. And being mindful shouldn’t only be in relation to food during the holidays. Take the time to be grateful and thankful for the people you love most in your life. Choose to see holiday gatherings as a way to focus on improving relationships and making memories, rather than just seeing holiday parties as a time to indulge in food and drink.
Tip 4: Be Kind To Yourself
Once you’ve created your holiday plan (making sure that you’re getting enough sleep each night), it’s important to do your best to stick with it. However, if you do get off track at any point, don’t be too hard on yourself. Just acknowledge what happened and then move on.
“Don’t throw in the towel after one excessive meal,” says Samantha Cassetty, a national nutrition and weight loss expert, in a Forbes article. “Everyone gets carried away every now and then but don’t let that derail you. You have a clean slate beginning with the next meal… so take the opportunity to eat more healthfully. The more consistent your healthy habits are, the better you’ll feel – now and when the holidays are over.”
Of course, always do the best you can to stay on track, but first and foremost, make sure that you’re being kind to yourself each and every day. If you’re having fun and enjoying your health journey, you’ll be more likely to stick with it.
Tip 5: When In Doubt, Go Back To Basics
If you start feeling overwhelmed thinking about what you should or shouldn’t be doing this holiday season, The Sassy Dietitian suggests keeping things simple and going back to basics.
“If all else fails, remember the basics,” writes The Sassy Dietitian. “Drink water, get to sleep, eat your fruits and veggies, move a little, brush your teeth, etc. The simpler, the better. Health shouldn’t be complicated. You don’t need to count every last macro to be healthy this holiday season.” This same concept also applies to what it is that you love about the holidays. If it’s making a special dessert using a loved one’s recipe, do that and savor the flavors. Above all else, you should feel good about yourself this holiday season and be excited for what’s to come in the New Year.