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6 Ways to Maintain Your Weight This Holiday Season

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By Nessreen Rizvi, M.D.
It’s okay to enjoy your favorite foods during this time of year, but to avoid gaining weight over the holiday be sure to have a plan for eating healthily and make time to exercise.

This time of year marks a few months of gatherings with family and friends, exchanging gifts and indulging in your favorite holiday treats.

But before you forgo your fruits and veggies for cookies, stuffing and other holiday favorites, keep this in mind: The weeks leading up to Thanksgiving are the lightest you’ll weigh all year.

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that in three countries studied – the United States, Germany and Japan – the greatest amount of weight gain happened around major holidays. For the U.S., that weight spike took place from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.

You should enjoy your favorite foods during this time of year – but that doesn’t mean you have to follow trend and gain weight that will take you until about April to completely lose, the study’s authors say.

So how can you maintain? Here are a few key tips:

  1. Don’t skip meals. A lot of people will not eat all day leading up to a holiday party to ‘conserve’ calories – but this doesn’t work. By the time you get to the party, you’re so hungry you make poor food decisions and overeat, leaving you worse off than if you would have eaten on your regular schedule. If you are headed to a party, fuel yourself throughout the day with lean proteins, fruits and veggies, and complex carbohydrates – such as brown rice or quinoa – to keep you full. That way, when you get to the party, you aren’t setting yourself up for failure – especially when there is so much temptation.
  2. Bring a healthy side dish. When invited to holiday get-togethers, bring along something healthy. That way, you’ll know for sure that there will be at least one healthy option. Some type of salad, veggie tray or fruit plate are all great, health-conscious options that will help you enjoy the party without feeling guilty.
  3. Stick to a “regular” routine. The holidays are a hectic time of year, but that doesn’t give you permission to put your healthy eating and workout regimes on pause until the coming year. While you might not have time to hit the gym for an hour every day, even doing 15 minutes of some sort of cardiovascular activity mixed with strength training can help keep your body active and your mind health-focused. As for food – in the end, it’s all about calories in versus calories out. Choose your foods wisely to help keep you full so that you don’t splurge on unhealthy goodies.
  4. Avoid the alcohol. The holidays are about creating memories with the people you love most, and that can include alcohol. But is it worth it? Alcohol contains more calories than most people realize. In addition, these calories aren’t going to fill you up or keep you from eating. In fact, alcohol is more likely to cause you to lower your inhibitions – and go to town on the Christmas cookies.
  5. Look at the whole spread before you eat. Think of a holiday meal – you grab your plate and go down the line, filling up your plate as you go. Instead, look at the whole spread first before making your food decisions. By doing this, you can make decisions about what you want to primarily fill your plate with, which should be proteins and veggies. Then, pick your sides – which may be unhealthier, but because your plate will be full of healthier options, you eat the less healthy foods in smaller portions.
  6. Think twice before going for seconds. When it comes to eating, the best advice is to slow down. A lot of times your stomach doesn’t realize it’s full before you go up for seconds. After you eat, walk around, mingle and wait a bit to see if you’re actually still hungry. If you are still hungry, choose proteins and veggies (see a pattern here?) which will help keep you feeling full and guilt-free. Taking time to drink a glass or two of water while your stomach digests is another way to determine how hungry you still are.

Come January 1, if you have found you’ve gained a bit of holiday weight, be realistic about your weight loss goals.

It’s always nice to have your resolution, but you want to set a goal you can actually stick with and achieve. Just like during the holidays, you don’t want to completely deprive yourself – a reasonable plan is to save your dessert and other indulgences for a weekend treat – not every day.

Dr. Nessreen Rizvi is an internal medicine physician and sees adults at Henry Ford Medical Center – Columbus in Novi.

Nessreen Rizvi, M.D.

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