“It’s the most wonderful time of the year!” It’s also a good time for a little talk about holiday weight gain. I don’t think anyone would deny that sharing delicious food and festive drinks with friends and family is part of the fun of the season. And no one can deny that many of us gain a few pounds over the holidays. The good news is that the average holiday weight-gain (which people generally believe to be around 5 lbs) is exaggerated. Most people actually gain between 1 to 2 pounds over the holiday season. The bad news is that that weight is usually never lost again. Ever. So, while a pound or two might not feel like a big deal right now, year after year, that weight adds up! Studies now suggest that “holiday weight gain” may be an important contributor to the rising obesity epidemic.
I would never suggest that anyone deprive themselves completely of their favourite holiday treats, but I am suggesting that you don’t have to abandon all your healthy eating habits from now until January 1st.
So, what can you do to avoid falling into the Holiday Weight Gain Trap? Here are a few tips:
1. Drink plenty of water. Many people reach for food because they think they’re hungry, when actually they’re just thirsty. Try it and see if it helps.
2. Moderate alcohol intake. If you’re drinking alcohol, have a glass of regular or sparkling water between each drink. This will slow down your alcohol consumption, and you’ll thank me the next morning when you are not completely dehydrated.
3. Move your body. Try to get out for a walk, run, bike or swim most days or do whatever type of exercise you enjoy. Get your family active over the holidays by suggesting a group walk, hike or skate or have a tobogganing party.
4. Watch portion sizes. I know that seems obvious, but really start paying attention to how much you put on your plate. Try taking a little less than you normally would and then see if you’re still hungry. I bet you’re not.
5. Don’t arrive hungry. It might sound odd, but eating something healthy before heading out to a party or a meal will help you maintain control when you are presented with temptation.
6. Eat more vegetables. Look for ways of adding veggies to your day, for example instead of offering chips and dip to guests, offer them veggies and dip (try including raw turnip and mushrooms along with the usual carrots, broccoli and cauliflower).
Enjoy your holiday and take good care of yourselves. I wish you all a very happy holiday and a healthy New Year!
Shannon Sponagle is a Nutritional Consultant practising on the South Shore of Nova Scotia and online at www.shannonsponagle.com. She is also Ambassador for Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution and a huge fan of her local farmer’s market.