The holidays can be filled with temptation, cravings, and stress—each of which can make it tough to keep up weight loss during the holidays. A letter to the editor in a 2016 issue of The New England Journal of Medicine showed that we gain the most weight between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. The researchers also noted that while up to half of that holiday weight gain is usually lost shortly after the holidays (hello New Year’s resolutions!), the other half tends to stick around long-term.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
With these simple strategies, you can enjoy the holiday season and continue to be successful with your weight loss during the holidays.
Regular exercise is one of the best ways to maintain your current weight through the holidays, or shed any extra pounds that try to creep on from overindulging in holiday treats! Aim to get at least four hours of moderate to high-intensity exercise each week. That’s about 30-40 minutes every day. The talk test is the easiest way to know your intensity level. During moderate-intensity exercise, you can chat comfortably, but you can’t sing without running out of breath. You can’t say more than a few words during high-intensity exercise without pausing to breathe.
Some ways to get your daily exercise at this time of year include:
- Head to the local athletic club or YMCA for a swim in the indoor heated pool or to play a game of basketball or tennis.
- Escape the winter weather by heading to the gym to lift weights or ride a stationary bike or elliptical.
- Stay warm by walking on the treadmill. Walk at 3-4 mph for moderate intensity or jog at 4.5-6 mph for high intensity.
- You can perform high-intensity exercises at home with the help of apps like Keelo or Tabata HIIT-Interval Training.
- Kill two birds with one stone by bundling up and heading out to shovel the driveway and walkways.
- Hit the slopes or trails for some downhill or cross-country skiing.
- Attend a yoga class or enjoy a session in the comfort of your own home with the help of the free videos from Yoga with Adriene.
- Enjoy other outdoor winter activities like ice skating, snowmobiling, sledding, snowshoeing, building a snowman, or having a snowball fight.
Make Healthy Food Choices
Unfortunately, overeating junk and unhealthy foods is common and has been made to feel normal during the holiday season. For a lot of us, decorating sugar cookies, the smell of cinnamon rolls, and handfuls of seasonal candies are synonymous with celebrating the holidays. We reach for unhealthy options this time of year because we’re stressed, tired, and/or associate these foods with fond memories. There are also endless social pressures to overindulge in these foods during the holidays.
And this focus on food is stressing us out. In a 2020 survey conducted by OnePoll, 47% of individuals said that just thinking about the unhealthy food that will be available at family gatherings made them anxious. Almost half of the respondents also said that feeling guilty about what they’re eating caused more stress than gift-giving or even holiday family drama.
Use these tips to help avoid food-focused stress and keep up your weight loss during the holidays.
Healthy holiday food option ideas and swaps:
Fresh fruit and veggie platters. The options to include in these are endless and you can include a variety of healthy dips and dressings to serve alongside them. Our Creamy Basil Dressing, Cashew Butter Dressing, Broccomole, and Cheesy Taco Dip are all healthy options that work great! With these platters, you’ll be able to eat plenty of foods that not only taste great but also give you a hefty dose of essential nutrients and vitamins that can help keep your body running smoothly.
Healthy swaps. Instead of diving into that sugar-filled, empty-calorie dessert or treat, try healthier options like our Pumpkin Spice Latte Pies, Strawberry Cheesecake Pies, or Holiday Cookies with Icing.
Don’t go nuts. You can significantly reduce the amount of sugar (and unhealthy fats!) per serving by opting for unsalted raw or roasted nuts instead of the candied variety.
Skip the fried options. Pass on saturated-fat-laden foods like mozzarella sticks and spring rolls and enjoy fresher options like shrimp cocktail and summer rolls. If you opt for shrimp cocktail, be careful of regular cocktail sauces. They can be high in sugar. Unsweetened options like the one from Primal Kitchen are a better bet.
Don’t pass the potatoes, please. Traditional mashed potatoes can be surprisingly high in calories, fat, and sodium. Try mashed cauliflower for an option that’s lower in calories and carbs, and higher in nutrients like vitamin C and folate. And top your mash with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream—you’ll get less fat, way more protein, and a nice gut-friendly boost of probiotics.
Share. If friends, family, or neighbors drop off holiday-inspired treats, don’t keep them at home to tempt you. Share them with others by delivering them to your office, church, or homeless shelter.
Be ready to party
Social gatherings with friends, family dinners, and holiday parties are some of the activities that make the holidays so special. The food and drinks that are available at these get-togethers, however, can be less than ideal. More often than not the foods are loaded with unhealthy fats, refined carbs and sugar, and other unhealthy ingredients.
These tips can help keep your weight loss during the holidays on track during these social festivities.
Eat a healthy meal or snack before going. Eating before you head to holiday parties can make you less likely to indulge in unhealthy foods while you’re there.
Travel clean. When heading to a potluck-style get-together, bring a couple of clean options. When it’s time to fill your plate, start with the healthy options and work your way to the less healthy dishes. This way you’ll get a taste of some special treats, but they won’t make up the majority of your plate.
Bring some drinks with you. Flavored sparkling water, sparkling tea, SmartSetGo, and low-sugar kombucha all make healthy non-alcoholic alternatives.
Eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for fullness signals from your gut to reach your brain. Eating slowly gives these signals time and helps ensure you recognize when you’re full and don’t overeat.
Focus on enjoying the company. The holidays aren’t about the food, they’re about the people. By engaging in conversation and participating in activities like playing games you’ll forget about the food buffet—and have way more fun!
You can keep up weight loss during the holidays
Maintaining your weight loss during the holidays can be challenging. But it doesn’t have to be. Again, the food isn’t the celebration, it’s the people and the activities. When we acknowledge that, we can happily replace unhealthy foods with healthier options and still celebrate and enjoy the holidays. As a matter of fact, we may enjoy this time of year even more because by eating healthier foods, we’ll be less stressed, have more energy, boost our mood, and feel better overall.