8 Ways to Not Gain Weight Over the Holidays

The holidays should be a time for celebration, not a time of weight gain stress. Learn how to enjoy the holiday season while maintaining a healthy weight.

8 Ways to Not Gain Weight Over the Holidays

Sweets and treats are available in abundance during the holiday season, meaning that the merriness may not be the only thing that’s multiplying. Weight gain can happen quickly this time of year, so naturally you may be wondering how to avoid holiday weight gain.

Read on to find out how much weight is gained over the holidays, and how to not gain weight over the holidays. 

How Much Weight Do People Gain Over The Holidays?

It’s no wonder people vow to be more physically active, lose weight, or join a gym starting in January. Holiday weight gain can happen, and it can feel tricky to balance healthy habits with enjoying holiday food. 

Holiday weight gain, meaning weight gained from Halloween through New Year’s Day, isn’t just a problem around the holidays. While holiday weight gain is only around 1 to 3 pounds on average, habits developed around the holidays may add to a person’s annual weight gain (which can be more significant). Holiday weight gain may account for up to half of the weight that an average person gains in a year. 

If you’re worried about maintaining a healthy weight over the holidays, working with a registered dietitian may help. A dietitian can help you have your pumpkin pie and eat it, too, while also encouraging healthy habits. 

How To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

One study published recently suggests that intermittent fasting may help people with weight management during winter holidays. However, there are risks to intermittent fasting and it may not be a great fit for everyone. 

For example, if you have diabetes, maintaining good glycemic control is important. Holiday eating can not only to cause weight gain and overeating patterns, but also impair blood sugar control. While this may not be a problem for the average person, it can be dangerous for someone with diabetes. 

In other words, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach for balanced holiday eating. Finding a strategy that works for you individually is key! 

Here are eight strategies to try for weight management over the holiday season. 

1. Have Smaller Meals Instead Of Skipping

With all the options available at holiday dinner, you can enjoy a little bit of everything when you keep portion sizes small. Skipping meals can make you overeat later on. 

Instead, have small meals at the time you would normally eat. Then, allow yourself to enjoy all your favorite festive foods and drinks during the holiday feast! 

2. Take Your Time 

Feasting too fast can not only be uncomfortable, but it can also lead to overeating. Eating quickly can override your body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.

Slow down by chewing foods thoroughly, setting your utensils down between bites, and drinking enough water between and before meals. 

3. Indulge With Intention 

While a decrease in exercise over holiday months may contribute to weight gain, experts suggest that an increase in food intake is more likely the cause. It’s even possible that the systems that control internal hunger cues can even become compromised. 

Indulging, but in intentional and mindful ways, can allow you to stay in tune with your body and enjoy seasonal treats.

4. Enjoy Exercise

Exercising during the holidays can have amazing benefits, including: 

• Lowering the risk of high blood pressure 
• Mediating insulin sensitivity 
• Preventing an increased body weight

Walking can be a great way to stay active over the holiday, and to appreciate holiday lights and decorations around the neighborhood. If you have a smartwatch, aim to hit at least 10,000 steps each day between holiday activities and your favorite form of exercise.

Alternatively, you could get up for 10 minutes every hour and walk around. 

5. Add More Produce To Your Platters

Plenty of fall and winter produce options are both delicious and nutritious. Try adding one or more of the following to your holiday meals: 

• Apples 
• Broccoli 
• Carrots 
• Cranberries 
• Green beans
• Pears
• Sweet potatoes 
• Winter squash

Remember, recommendations don’t change just because it’s a holiday. It’s still good to get at least five servings of fruits and vegetables daily. 

6. Switch Or Swap Ingredients

Simple swaps can make many options healthier. Look for ways to decrease added sugars, salts, and saturated fats in your ingredients, such as: 

• Create crunch with sliced, unsalted nuts (as opposed to fried onions or candied nuts) 
• Replacing butter or margarine with a heart-healthy alternative (i.e. olive oil in mashed potatoes or applesauce in quick-baking breads and muffins) 
• Trade sour cream and mayonnaise for fat-free or Greek yogurt 
• Using low-sodium vegetable broth 

7. Satisfy Thirst With Water First

Alcohol and sugary drinks can be tempting, but it’s best to reach for water first when you’re thirsty. Water can help you hydrate for holiday parties and keep up with festivities.

If you do drink alcohol, be sure to moderate your consumption and have a designated driver on hand. 

8. Stay Accountable To Yourself

To prevent weight gain, it can be helpful to self-weigh at certain intervals during the holiday season. Whether daily, weekly, or monthly, pick an interval that works for you and helps you keep a healthy mindset about food. 

Additionally, joining a workplace program can promote progress. Consider joining a program that has the following types of interventions: 

• Information about amount of physical activity recommended 
• Lasts 10-12 weeks (through the three months of holiday season) 
• Regular weigh-ins (i.e. twice weekly)
• Self-monitoring 
• Team-based or team challenges 
• Weight management advice

The Bottom Line On Holiday Weight Gain

Instead of picking one “right” strategy, try a combination of strategies that work for you! Finding different ways to manage weight can help you stay on track with your wellness goals during the holiday season.

When in doubt, you can call upon a professional (i.e. doctor or dietitian) to help you navigate holiday weight management. 

References:

Belsare P, Lu B, Bartolome A, Prioleau T. Investigating Temporal Patterns of Glycemic Control around Holidays. Annu Int Conf IEE Eng Med Biol Soc. 2022:1074-1077. 

Bhutani S, Wells N, Finlayson G, Schoeller DA. Change in eating pattern as a contributor to energy intake and weight gain during the winter holiday period in obese adults. Int J Obes (Lond). 2020;44(7):1586-1595. 

Fahey MC, Klesges RC, Kocak M, Wang J, Talcott GW, Krukowski RA. Do the holidays impact weight and self-weighing behaviour among adults engaged in behavioural weight loss intervention? Obes Res Clin Pract. 2019;13(4):395-397. 

Kaviani S, vanDellen M, Cooper JA. Daily Self-Weighing to Prevent Holiday-Associated Weight Gain in Adults. Obesity (Silver Spring). 2019;27(6):908-916.

Mason F, Farley A, Pallan M, Sitch A, Easter C, Daley AJ. Effectiveness of a brief behavioral intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period: randomized controlled trial. BMJ. 2018;363:k4867. 

Olson K, Coffino JA, Thomas JG, Wing RR. Strategies to manage weight during the holiday season among US adults: A descriptive study from the National Weight Control Registry. Obes Sci Pract. 2020;7(2):232-238. 

Ramirez-Jimenez M, Morales-Palomo F, Ortega JF, Moreno-Cabañas A, de Prada VG, et al. Effects of Exercise Training during Christmas on Body Weight and Cardiometabolic Health in Overweight Individuals. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2020;17(13):4732. 

Wilson MG, Padilla HM, Meng L, Daniel CN. Impact of a workplace holiday weight gain prevention program. Nutr Health. 2019;25(3):173-177. 

Zorbas C, Reeve E, Naughton S, Batis C, Whelan J, et al. The Relationship Between Feasting Periods and Weight Gain: a Systematic Scoping Review. Curr Obes Rep. 2020;9(1):39-62.

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