November 26, 2021 by JUSTINE SCHWARTZ
Many of us have been led to believe that the holidays are synonymous with weight gain, causing us to fixate on it more, develop unhealthy habits, and ultimately gain those extra pounds after all. It can be a vicious cycle, and you’re basically manifesting the thing you don’t want to happen to happen. But leading health experts suggest that it can be so much easier than that; by changing your mindset, being deliberate about having balance and, above all us, remembering what is most important during holidays–spending time with loved ones!–you never need to worry about buying a new pair of pants just because of grandma’s pie. Here are there tips for ensuring that you net out where you started this holiday season:
Treat Big Meals As A 'Splurge'
"Just as you balance your spending and savings, you must balance your food choices," Bethenny Frankel explains in her New York Times bestseller Naturally Thin. "Make smart investments in healthful foods that fill you up. Then when you really want to splurge, go ahead. A splurge comes with a price. You have to balance that splurge by cutting back a little bit afterward, until your accounts are in order again."
Thanksgiving dinner, for example, is one of these splurge meals, therefore you'll need to plan ahead by cutting calories before and after, nutrition experts agree.
"Treat Thanksgiving as one meal on one day, and not a 4-day holiday," Craig Primack, MD, FACP, FAAP, FOMA and Diplomate of the American Board of Obesity Medicine tells us. "Try to go for a walk after dinner to start the digestion process and officially end the meal," he suggests. "Treat but don't overeat!"
"Remember your body takes everything as an average," health and wellness expert Dr. Matt Chalmers tells us. "If you cut back calories and increase physical activity for the week you can enjoy more. Take a couple hundred calories out the days before and after and just move a little more, and you can have the foods you want on the actual day. The problem most people get into is they make no changes before or after. The increase in calories, and especially, the sugars make a big difference."
So, how does this relate to exercise, for example? If you normally go to the gym, spend a little extra intensity on your workout and a little more time, Dr. Chalmers says. Or, if you do not go to the gym start walking a bit and that will help.
Never Go To A Party Hungry
Don't plan to show up at any of the holiday parties that may be happening again this year with an empty stomach and a big appetitie.
"There will almost never be healthy options [at parties] and you will eat too many bad foods if you are hungry," Dr. Chalmers warns.
"Don’t show up to a party with an empty stomach," board certified internist and bariatric specialist Dr. Amy Lee of Nucific agrees. "Prepare yourself by not showing up starved."
Watch The Alcohol
It can be easy to get carried away with alcohol consumption, too, doctors warn.
"Don’t down alcohol, just because it is free," Dr. Lee advises. "Not only are we acquiring calories, but once we are buzzed, our inhibition goes out the door when it comes to appetizers, etc.
"Alcohol is one of the biggest reasons we gain weight all by itself," Dr. Chalmers agrees. Also, once we have had a couple drinks, our moderation on other bad foods goes away." So true!
Enjoy The Quality Time With Loved Ones
Holidays are about the people first, the food second. Engage in quality conversations during meals, rather than obsessing or focusing solely on the food, experts say.
"You can relish and enjoy every bite of your food without acting as if you are having the last meal of your life. If you focus on the company, the conversation, the environment, the atmosphere, and having a calm and relaxing time, you will have a much better experience, and enjoy your food even more," Bethenny advises in Naturally Thin.
"When we go home for the holidays, more often than not, we are going to eat some comfort food made from our parents or family members," Dr. Lee explains. This can include comfort foods that are high in calories and fats, but are "traditions" none the less. Some of these foods you can really only have a small portion of--but you don't want to offend your mother-in-law! So, what do you do in those scenario? Rather than overeating out of politeness, Dr. Lee suggests taking a different approach: "This is what I typically do: I dish it up, eat super slow and make sure I do eat all the healthier options on the table as well; so at least you are still engaging and showing that you are eating."
And sometimes you just have to throw the worry out the window, knowing that there are more important things in life than the weight that's on the scale. "While [weight gain] is avoidable [during the holidays] if you create a plan, do not worry about it," Dr. Chalmers says. "The most important thing is that you spend time with your family and friends and enjoy yourself. We have all noticed how fragile and important that is. If you gain a few pounds from a day of eating you can easily lose it from a week of small cutbacks and a little more movement."