Here’s a guest post by our amazing nutritionist, Meghan Doherty!
What causes the dreadful 5-10 pounds that most American adults gain from October to January each and every year?
The factors come down to the time of year when the sun goes down earlier, more social gatherings (which means more foods or sweet treats that are out of the norm), emotional eating (comfort foods when it is cold), increased stress and less energy, more eating out than average (especially at malls or parties), broken routines, and too many “cheat” or “allowance” meals.
Here’s how you can avoid gaining weight and losing your progress:
- Set a goal and get your mindset to what you want to achieve or avoid. In this case, your primary concern may just be to MAINTAIN your current weight rather than gaining anything. This can be beneficial to those who are most prone to gaining during the holidays or cold weather season.
Goals may include eating 3 meals per day every 3-4 hours and not varying from your diet besides ONE of your favorite treats (see tip 3). It may also be to exercise in the morning when the sun is up and you have more time so that you do not make excuses after work. Or be specific that you want to weigh 119 lbs by January 2, or workout 30 minutes 6 days per week.
- Track your food and exercise. Start a food journal and create a deficit of calories on days that you know you will be enjoying a sweet treat at a party. Note how you feel and how much you weigh everyday (whether you maintained, gained, or lost and what you felt after eating certain foods or drinking certain beverages.)
- Eat your favorites in moderation! Never skip breakfast, and eat every 3-4 hours but on holiday feasts or parties, measure one small portion (about the size of a golf-ball) of your favorite holiday (not so healthy) food to taste. Limit yourself to only ONE food to try that is off of your normal regimen. Then eat normal portions for the rest of your meal.
- Load up on veggies FIRST, and avoid getting seconds! A salad is a good way to begin your feast and keeps you satisfied so you will not need a second plate.
- Get moving! Even if it is Thanksgiving, get involved in a Turkey Trot or some backyard football or even ping pong or foosball. JUST KEEP MOVING! Have a plan when you will workout, but the sooner you do it in the day, the less likely you will make an excuse to skip your workout.
- Survey the foods that will be served! Have a game plan of what you are going to eat BEFORE you go to the party or restaurant or gathering. If they do not have any good options, bring your own healthy plate, bring a protein shake, or eat BEFOREhand. Have a salad before leaving the house to stay satiated until you get there. Making last minute decisions can cause you to eat more and foods that are not desirable for weight loss.
- Watch your drinks! Besides alcohol (sweet drinks like Baileys, rumchata, wine, eggnog, kahlua, cocktails), juice and hot chocolate are not favorable due to the sugar content. Skip them altogether and save 500+ calories. Or opt for an alternative such as almond milk with chocolate stevia.
- Give out leftovers! Or take some! If you are the host, make sure to not have “morning-after dinner” and keep all the food so that you are eating all of the same holiday food for the next week. Instead, give leftovers to your guests or donate the food to food drives or food waste organizations. If you are the guest, make sure to only make 1 plate and bring the rest home. Portion them in tupperware so that you are meal prepped for the week and do not over-eat.
- Chew slowly! It should NOT take less than 30-40 minutes to eat a balanced meal. Try chewing your food 20-30 times, and sip water between bites. It takes 15-20 minutes for your body to register that you are satiated (or full). If you are still hungry, wait and drink some water or chew gum. If you are still hungry after 20 minutes, go for a walk, chat with some friends, or eat more very lean protein.
- It is okay to say “No thanks!” Do not feel bad for always giving in, because there is no excuse for gaining weight just because you felt pressured to eat something made by someone else. Explain that you had enough or that you are watching your caloric intake. Instead of saying “I can’t”, just say “It looks delicious and lovely, but no thank you. I “do not” want or need to eat that ____(pecan pie)___etc.”
- Pack mint or gum. Keep your breath fresh and your mouth occupied when everyone else is getting seconds or dessert. It is also helpful if you are vacationing to pack protein powder.
- Bring a healthy dish such as salad! Just in case you do not know what others are being served, know that you at least will have a healthy food choice that you and loved ones can enjoy if all else fails. Bring the dressing on the side so that everyone can adjust the amount they want on their salad.
- Drink 100+ ounces of water per day! Also, try some peppermint tea to soothe you in times of stress and help with digestion. Adding mint or stevia is a great idea for a calming drink.
- Take your supplements. Supplementing can be key to avoid the winter blues and to keep electrolyte balance. If you want to burn fat, vitamins and minerals are vital to keeping the weight off during the holidays. Make sure to get 300 mg of potassium, 5000 IU of Vitamin D, 45 mcg of Vitamin K2, and 500-900 mg of magnesium.