Holiday Weight Gain

How many pounds do we really put on? Average weight gain during the holiday season may surprise you. A study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average weight gain is .37kg. More than half of the people in the study gained just over 2 pounds, but some did gain up to 2.2 kg (4.8 pounds). And while on average .37 kgs doesn’t sound like much – holiday weight gain tends to be the cause of the year over year weight gain that adults tend to experience as they age. This is especially significant if you fall into this category of around 5 pounds of holiday weight gain. With that in mind I thought I would share with you some tips to prevent holiday weight gain. These are also healthy habits that you may want to consider incorporating year long.

Plan Ahead

Decide today what you are going to eat tomorrow. If you know you are heading to a function in the evening you may want to skip the take out at lunch. But that doesn’t mean skipping a meal. If you like to do intermittent fasting – keep in mind that fasting makes you hungrier so you subsequently overeat. Not a problem when you are at home with a fridge full of veggies but it might be a dangerous combination around the buffet table at a party.

Weigh Yourself Regularly

Weigh yourself at least 1 – 2 times a week. This is something that makes most people shudder and can be very triggering for some. If that is the case – please skip to the next tip. However, I would like to assert – the number on the scale is simply a measurement. It is not a value statement of your worth! It provides feedback in a way that is not different than taking your blood pressure. An alternative would be to use a tape measure and take your waist circumference. Research has shown that weighting yourself from 2 times a week to daily helped prevent holiday weight gain. This habit helped people modify their behaviour accordingly. Pairing this habit with tracking, planning and self-reflection actually contributed to weight loss. You don’t just want to weigh yourself; you should also write it down! A new study done by a Stanford medical researcher, found that regardless of which weight loss tactic you choose – you will typically be more successful if you track it especially with digital tools.

Track Your Food Intake.

Keeping track of what you eat is also a helpful strategy. I ask all my first-time patients to include a diet diary as part of their intake. I cannot tell how often people will say it was a wake-up call for them. They didn’t realize how few fruits and vegetables they were consuming and how much sugar and ultra processed food was making its way into their diet. A Duke University study found that overweight people who tracked their daily food consumption lost a significant amount of weight and that was without following a particular diet.

Feel Full on Fewer Calories

Most unprocessed and natural foods have a low caloric density. These are foods that help you feel full but don’t rachet up a bunch of waist-line busting calories. A great example of this is the difference between a cup of grapes and a ¼ cup of raisins. Same number of calories but you will feel fuller and more satisfied with the grapes.

Eat Your Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables are high in fiber and water content and help us feel satiated longer. Increased intake of whole fruits and vegetables has been consistently found to be a chief contributor to weight loss, especially for women. Focus on a minimum of 5 servings daily. Focus on the half plate rule. Filling up on fruits and vegetables is an important strategy not only during the holiday season, but all year long as well.

Drink Your Water

Alternate drinking glasses of water with other drinks. This helps to reduce calories and may also help save you from the dreaded hangover after the big party!

Strategies to Avoid Mindless Eating

Several years ago, food researcher, Brian Wansink published the book Mindless Eating: Why we eat more than we think. The following are his tips:

  1. Use smaller plates: We are conditioned to eat a plateful. Now-a-days, our plates are more like platters. Swapping out for smaller plates can help you eat less calories. You won’t know the difference in eating 100 – 200 calories less per day, but over the course of a year this could be the equivalent of 10 – 20 pounds lost.
  2. When you are at a party or a buffet only put two things on your plate per trip. The more variety on your plate the more you will eat. Even if you make several trips, you will typically eat less then if you were to pile it all on your plate at once.
  3. Pre-plate your meals in the kitchen and you will eat 14% less. The more you see food, the more you want to eat food. If you are at a party – don’t spend too much time next to the food table.
  4. Don’t leave serving dishes on the table unless they are filled with vegetables. Another easy way to help you fill up on your veggies!
  5. Don’t buy in bulk – or you will end up eating 48% more. When you buy a bag of chips – we are conditioned to eat the whole thing. Not so much of a problem when it’s a snack pack, but definitely a problem when it’s the Costco sized bag! Portioning out those large bags into smaller snack size packs is one way to reign in eating too much and save money to boot!
  6. When eating at home try to eat in the same room every time and never out of the package. Going to the cupboard and grabbing a handful can lead to a lot of unconscious eating and is hard on the waistline.
  7. Pay attention. Simply bring your awareness to what you are eating. Savor each bite, especially when indulging in a treat. We can actually only really taste the first four bits – after that it is just mindless eating.

The final tip is from Judson Brewer. He is a psychiatrist who utilizes mindfulness for treating everything from addictions to anxiety. Dr. Brewer talks about the simple act of just paying attention to how the behaviour or habit, (or addiction), makes us feel. If you overeat or indulge and afterwards you notice that you feel bloated, have heartburn or experience side effects – that behaviour or habit becomes less desirable.

At the end of the day, most of us know what we should be eating to optimize our health and wellness. I hope you find these tips and tricks helpful hacks to prevent that dreaded holiday weight gain, but to also cultivate a healthy eating strategy to optimize your health throughout the year and in the decades to come.

Feel like you need more help avoiding holiday weight gain this year? Give us a call and you can meet with Dr. Barmby to get some personalized tips and tricks to avoid weight gain in the new year!