For 6 years, from November to January 1, I hosted a free Holiday Challenge designed to keep us all moving and maybe just a bit more aware of our food choices. It was a fun way connect with other sweaty women who shared our goals.
During that time I learned so much about what motivates each of us to show up for our workouts, what most commonly knocks us off track and yes some of our biggest fears…including holiday weight gain.
What’s funny is that during that time I was mislead like so many others to believe the stat that “the average American gains 6lbs from Thanksgiving to New Years.”
Because many of us started working out with weight loss as a primary goal, I noticed that around the holidays a little fear started creeping in to the group.
There were nerves about:
- constant parties
- favorite foods being piled high on the tables
- over scheduled life stress causing us to dive in a little more readily
- how to make workouts happen while traveling
Add to that every magazine cover warning us about holiday weight gain and telling us how to avoid it…we basically believed it was a war we needed to wage!
We needed to fight back to prevent the bulge.
But what were we fighting?? The fear…nope, usually we turned food in to enemy.
Holiday Weight Gain Stat
First of all, NEWS FLASH, most studies show the average person only gains 1 pound, not the long ago reported 7-10. And because we’re active and focused on our health, that pound goes away pretty quickly post holiday season.
Second, you’ve got to eat.
You should enjoy the holidays.
Food is not the enemy and we all know thinking of it that way not only makes us miserable, but doesn’t really excite us to stay focused on the healthy choices either.Shifting the mindset around holiday food to avoid the supposed weight gain and the stress! Click To Tweet
Tips to Avoid Holiday Food Stress
As one might surmise my Thanksgiving post won’t focus upon how to eat less on this special day. In fact, based on the above I hope you realize it’s entirely up to you and just one day! We aren’t talking about a lifetime of second stuffing servings.
That being said, I know that in the first few years after I lost weight, there was some nervousness for me. Would I fall back in to my less healthy habits after weeks of indulging? I share that to say, it’s ok to feel exactly how you feel, but hopefully you can use some of these tips to let go of the fear.
These are things I’ve learned and some great tips from the MindPump podcast that I hadn’t thought of previously.
1. Stress Makes You Fat
Well there we go, that was blunt. But I figured we might as well start with the big one because I think simply knowing that your emotions around food can actually impact your body is eye opening!
According to many health coaches, when you feel guilty about eating a food that sends out stress signals, yup you know cortisol. This slows down your digestion, inhibits absorption of nutrients and of course the cortisol increase releases glucose that you don’t need and well on and on which leads to weight gain.
That’s right, by chilling out about the whole situation you might crave less sugar, store less fat and enjoy it all more.
2. Slow it Down
One of my favorite tips in the Running for Weight Loss Guide is to put your fork down between bites. At any meal this helps to slow you down, but can be even more important at big holiday meals or parties.
Often we’re standing around the kitchen chatting and snacking for hours, or sitting at the table together for a long extended chat. Simply slowing down means you won’t get up and have that sudden OMG my stomach is uncomfortably full feeling.
Bonus points because chewing your food more helps to improve digestion.
3. Bring the Healthy Dish
Tired of feeling like there’s nothing remotely healthy at your big get-togethers? Be the one who brings it!
If you know it’s a long night of snacking and drinking, why not bring the veggie and hummus tray.
If you know they only make veggies drowned in butter, why not bring the roasted brussels sprouts.
There’s really no rule to say you can’t! And then you’ve got something to help with tip 4.
4. Start with Protein and Veggies
Buffets are one of the easiest places to overeat because we can constantly stimulate our mouth with different flavors, which seems to keep tricking our brain in to not recognizing we’re full.Photo from Twin Cities Eater
Additionally, when we see others heading back for seconds…err thirds, we feel less guilty about our own extra indulgences. It’s an interesting phenomena as to why couples and friends often gain weight together.
A few scientists did some buffet research and found these tips to help:
- Scout the options before filling your plate
- Start with a smaller plate
- Move the items you want to gorge on away from you (i.e. the stuffing cannot sit in front of me! Pass it down.)
- Plan for leftovers then you won’t feel like you’re missing out if you don’t get more right away
- Don’t go in starving, you’ll almost always over eat
There really is no law stating you must feel bloated, lethargic and in need of a nap after your holiday meal. You might and if you do, then you darn well better enjoy every bite and leave the guilt for not taking your dog for another walk in the frigid temps.
But you could also look at the food as a chance to feel good.
- fill your plate with protein and veggies first (more filling!)
- since the meal takes awhile, go back for those yummy carbs on the second trip when you’re already less hungry
- really savor the homemade stuffing you only get once a year
- think about trying to balance protein and carbs in the rest of your meals (read about how that helps weight loss)
- cherry pie is delicious, but is the second slice really going to leave you feeling psyched to run tomorrow? Usually, the answer is we’re eating a bit unconsciously
- know that dairy isn’t your friend? Avoid the cheese tray like I do and save a little space to try a couple bits of that out of this world chorizo mac and cheese.
It’s really just a small mindset shift, to remember you can think about all that beautiful food in a positive way. It doesn’t have to mean weight gain or stress.
5. Take a Walk
Did you know that taking just a 15 minute walk after your meal could help to prevent an insulin spike? Which in turns means preventing holiday weight gain! This is a big part of what I talk about in metabolic efficiency.
So once the meals is over, see if you can get a couple folks to join you for a walk around the block and then perhaps a game with the kids or building a snowman, whatever the weather calls for. And if you’re about to tell me that it’s SOOOO COLD…well good!!
Getting out in the cold helps to rev up your brown fat, which burns more calories. It will also help to wake you up and keep you moving at a steady pace. Lots of great benefits to getting out in the cold.
Is the Stress Even About Food?
And because Carla Birnberg contributed a post on this very topic during one of those long ago Holiday Challenges, I’m bringing it back here because as always it’s insightful and useful!
Onward. Past the numbers to what I think many of us struggle with on these highINTENSITYfamily holidays: the stress of the get together.
The frazzling familial collision of who we want to be/are now versus who we used to be and whom they still view us as being.
Bottom line: as with all things in life the best preparation is to set ourselves up for success (here’s where you skip to the comments should you come from a family whose Thanksgiving is jam packed with sweetness, joy, love and support. seriously.)!
practice a few go-to phrases BEFORE you enter the Thanksgiving experience.
Just like with accepting compliments, you may want to plan out some key responses to memorize ahead of time & just *calmly* repeat them when necessary.
Perhaps try: Thank you for your opinion. I shall definitely keep that in mind. OR Enough about me. You haven’t filled me in on what you’ve been up to! OR That’s an interesting perspective! ORI think my Toddler is about to wet herself. can all serve to distract well meaning (& not so well meaning) friends/family when they’re inquiring about topics you’d rather not discuss.
plan to be the best listener in attendance.
I’m not known for advocating passivity yet sometimes it is the path of least resistance. If you anticipate fights erupting (on anything from politics to food preferences) plan ahead of time to be a nod & smiler (& internal eye roller). I know from experience it’s virtually impossible to drag the nod & smiler into the fray.
be the event planner. Assign yourself the position of bring the FUN back into the dysfunctional!
Bring a white sheet & some sharpies to Thanksgiving dinner & announce that everyone is going to write on the tablecloth things for which they’re thankful. Fun and a time killer!
Perhaps plan a post-meal scavenger hunt and drag a few family members along with you before dinner to sent the whole thing up!
No time for chatting—– there’s a hunt to be planned! Maybe lead the family on an after dinner walk and take turns sharing what you’re most thankful for from the past year. Gratitude & exercise? Whats not to love?
Thanks to Carla for sharing her witty and truthful insights about family with us! A blogger since 2001, she launched CarlaBirnberg.com in 2007 to share her health & fitness knowledge with those who might not have access to one-on-one training.
Do you stress over holiday eating?
What helps you?
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