According to a Consumer Reports article, 35 percent of Americans say what they dread the most about the holidays is weight gain.
In reality, however, on average an adult gains about a pound between Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Sounds doable, right? Well, shedding that pound is another thing. According to the report, most people fail to shed that extra pound, which over time can create weight concerns and other health issues.
Lori Howard, a wellness consultant at BCBSND and Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, explains how to not only help you maintain your weight, but also ways you can actually reduce stress and anxiety, too.
For Howard, three key elements to maintaining weight and stress levels during the holidays include: Be realistic, exercise and be mindful about your food choices.
“Making a game plan, especially when you have a special event going on, is important,” Howard says. “That includes eating breakfast. You can always eat lighter at other meals. Just don’t skip them.”
Howard says it’s also helpful to have a snack an hour before an event, just to prevent overeating.
Plan time for physical activity
Not only will it help you stave off that pound of festivity fat, but it will also reduce your stress levels.
“Make a point to take breaks and use those breaks for activity,” Howard says. “If you have 15 minutes to go for a quick walk, please do.”
Other quick bursts of exercise, including ones that can be done right at your desk, include:
• Using the restroom farthest from you
• Parking farther away from the building, even if it’s cold
• Getting up and dumping out your recycling bin
• Desk exercises: chair squats, chair jogging, swimming motion with arms
“The goal over the holidays is if you don’t have as much time, the little bits count, even just five to ten increments at a time when you can fit it in,” Howard adds.
So-called micro-workouts now have customizable apps for your mobile devices, too, many that don’t require equipment. The free Johnson and Johnson 7 Minute Workout app, for instance, includes 72 exercises with more than 1,000 variations.
But Howard advises that you don’t need to rely on technology to get those minutes in, either. “If you’re out shopping, pick up the pace a little or carefully pick up the pace from your car to the building,” she says.
The holidays might not be the right time to start a weight-loss program, for instance. It’s recommended to maintain your weight but also to enjoy yourself, too.
“Just be realistic with your time,” Howard says. “Our to-do lists can be long at this time, but still leave time for yourself. Get plenty of rest and sleep at night. This is where the planning comes in. Get help from other family members, even if it’s having your kid stick the stamps on the holiday letters.”
However, it might be a good time to reflect on the past year and see when you were successful and when you weren’t. This might help you make goals for the coming year when you can start fresh.
And let’s just be honest: Indulging is going to happen. Howard says to use a smaller plate or keep foods on the inside ring of a dinner plate. “Serving spoons are ambitious. Rather than taking a full helping, use the tip of the serving spoon to dish up your serving,” she adds.
A few other tips:
Pick you favorites or foods you don’t get very often. If you’re getting mashed potatoes year-round, maybe skip it.
Keep the gravy and cranberries on the side. Dip your fork into the sauce rather than smothering your food with the gravy or other sauce.
“After the main meal, even if it’s standing and doing dishes, try to incorporate movement to help digest,” Howard says. “Clear off the table, go for quick walk or go up and down the stairs. It will help you feel more energized and help you get more steps in.”
Other tips for indulging without overdoing it
Eat Breakfast, preferably within an hour of waking: “Never skip meals to save for a bigger meal later,” Howard says. “Instead, make a plan to get more physical activity or eat lighter during the day.”
• Use your plate as a guide
• Keep all food in the inner ring of the plate or use a smaller size plate
• Make a maze with your plate. In other words, don’t let your food touch
Stick to your favorites
Take bite-sized servings
“An extra 100 calories per day, from early November to New Year’s Day, is almost a 2-pound weight gain,” Howard says.
Consider tradeoffs to help maintain weight
• Get an extra 15 minutes of physical activity per day
• Cut calories elsewhere to compensate for a treat
• Eat light at the next meal but don’t skip it such as filling up on low calorie vegetables.
• Take every opportunity to get more movement in during the day: Use the restroom farthest from you, take stairs, park far away even in the cold, fidget at your desk or in meetings, pace while standing in line
• Eat a snack an hour before your event
• Focus on the fun of socializing and networking
• Mingle away from the food table
• Limit alcoholic drinks
• Plan ahead
• Bring something healthy to a potluck
• Fill up on fruits and vegetables (make it half of your plate)
• Don’t go back for seconds
• Slow down: It takes 20 minutes for the brain to recognize fullness
• Take small bites
• Put your fork down in between bites
• Fast eating can lead to indigestion and acid reflux