The most wonderful time of year; the holiday season. What isn’t there to love about family gatherings, decorations, cozy clothes, delicious food and sparkling drinks? It’s easy to get caught up in the holiday spirit the moment the pumpkins start showing up outside our favorite stores, but before we know it, it’s New Year’s Day and we are struggling to fit into our once comfortable pair of jeans.

The key to outsmarting holiday weight gain is being proactive. If you are one of the many people who struggle with post-holiday guilt, you are not alone. The good news is, it doesn’t have to be this way every year. You can prevent the feelings of guilt and frustration with just a few simple techniques.

Why Are You Overeating, How Can You Stop?

First and foremost you must acknowledge your major weaknesses and the reasons behind your overeating. Maybe it’s boredom with time off of work or school. Maybe it’s the temptation of your favorite comfort foods all around you. Or maybe it’s the social aspect and you become so caught up in sharing stories that you forgot how many cubes of cheese you ate, or how many peppermint brownies were on your plate. Whatever the case, if you are able to identify why and when you are overeating then you can make a conscious effort to stop.

Tips for making a pre-holiday plan to continue your healthy lifestyle:

  • Do you typically gain weight after the holiday season? If yes, write down why you think that is.
  • Keep a mental note of those reasons and refer back to them when you find yourself in a similar situation this holiday season. Ask yourself if it is worth it in the long run.
  • Don’t take home leftovers.
  • Give yourself positive reinforcement.
  • Create a goal to reach by New Year or New Year’s Eve. For example, maintain current weight, don’t miss a workout, don’t eat the cheese ball at mom’s party, etc.
  • If you achieve that goal, have a reward for yourself.

Don’t Skip That Trip To The Gym!

When the holidays and the cold weather coincide, gyms become deserted and everyone’s workout routines come to a screeching halt. If you want to keep the holiday weight off and still feel like yourself come the New Year, do not skip your workouts! It’s easy to forgo the gym when we feel overwhelmed with holiday to-do lists and family gatherings, but this is one task you should not skip. Not only will it help you keep your healthy lifestyle in check, but exercise is also proven to release stress. And who doesn’t need a little stress relief during the holiday?

Tips for keeping up with your workouts during the holiday:

  • Recruit a friend to help keep you accountable.
  • If your gym is closed for holidays, workout at home or at the park.
  • Try to incorporate some cardio into every day. Whether it is a brisk walk with the dog, or a few rounds of burpees in the living room, every little bit helps.
  • Go for a walk before and after a dinner party.
  • Come up with a reward for not missing a single workout, and use that as motivation.
  • If you miss a day, don’t beat yourself up, but don’t let it become a pattern.

Eating Your Favorite Foods Without The Guilt.

Everyone can agree, one of the best things about the holiday season is the food. From Halloween candy, to Thanksgiving dressing, to Christmas ham and New Year’s drinks, there are so many delicious options it’s hard to control the overwhelming urge to eat everything in sight. The problem with these situations is that our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. We get carried away with eating a little bit of everything, or a lot of everything, and we don’t recognize that we are full. There is nothing wrong with indulging on comfort foods once in a while, but a healthy balance is a must. Don’t deprive yourself of your favorite homemade goodies, but don’t overeat them either. Don’t forget the key to successful dieting is moderation.

A trigger for unhealthy eating habits during the holidays are the infamous pumpkin spice and peppermint. Each fall, pumpkin spice makes a raging come back and hangs around until the New Year. There are pumpkin spice flavored coffees, breads, cookies, and even gum. Then comes peppermint. These nostalgic flavors have us wrapped around their metaphoric fingers and we *have *to have them. If you become a frequent coffee shop visitor during these times, try to modify your favorite holiday drink with less sugar and fat. You might be surprised to find out how many pumps of these syrups are put into one small cup. Try cutting the number of pumps in half, opting for non-fat milk, and holding off on the whipped cream and crushed candy cane toppings. You don’t have to deny yourself these temporary indulgences, but you can help yourself out by making a conscious effort to create a healthier version.

Tips for eating healthy during the holidays:

  • Don’t go up for seconds. Stick to one plate of food.
  • Don’t drink all of your daily calories or sugar intake. Choose water over juices or cocktails.
  • Eat a healthy snack before a party to curb your appetite and keep you from overeating.
  • Bring gum with you to help from continuing to eat.
  • Don’t skip meals after a party because you feel guilty for overeating or eating unhealthy. Instead, eat small, well-balanced meals of fruits, vegetables, and protein.

Hosting a Healthy Party.

If you are the host of a holiday party you should feel free to use it to your advantage. Don’t feel pressured to only serve the typical unhealthy holiday dishes and desserts. Get creative by offering healthy alternatives and introducing new recipes to your guests. This can be as simple as eliminating a sweet potato, brown sugar and marshmallow casserole with plain baked sweet potatoes. Or by not providing sodas and juices, but flavored or infused water instead.

Tips for hosting a healthier party:

  • Eliminate sugar or butter where it is not necessary. For example, don’t spread butter on bread or rolls, and don’t top desserts with more sugar or powdered sugar as a garnish.
  • Use skim or non-fat milk when possible.
  • Try to use raw or unaltered fruits and vegetables as much as possible.
  • Give away your leftovers, or freeze them for later use.
  • Focus on the guests! Have games or social projects ready to go so there is more to do than just eat.
  • Cut dishes such as pies or brownies into smaller portions.

New Holiday Traditions.

Many people revert to the couch and movie marathons as an immediate reaction to time off and cold weather. Unfortunately, overeating is commonly associated with snacking while watching TV or movies. By all means every family should have a relaxing movie night during the holiday at some point, but try to limit the TV time and find more lively and rewarding activities instead.

A great tool for families, big and small, is to create holiday traditions that get you up and active. Whether you are an outdoor family or a family that enjoys local performances, there are plenty of options to choose from if you research around your area.

Active and fun ideas for the family this holiday season:

  • If you live in an area that gets snow during the holidays try sledding, skiing, snowboarding, snowman building contest or snowball fights.
  • If you don’t live in an area with snow, use it to your advantage! You can play at the park, take long walks, volunteer to walk dogs at animal shelters, have a picnic, or take a bike ride.
  • Opt for a real Christmas tree and find a farm that allows you to hike the property and cut them yourself.
  • Enjoy hot chocolate at a local coffee shop together.
  • When you have a movie night, make healthy snack choices or limit portion sizes.
  • Attend a play or ballet performance.
  • Go ice skating.
  • Drive or walk neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights.
  • Sign up for a holiday road race.

Enjoy the Holidays!

A healthy holiday isn’t all about counting calories and hitting the gym. It is easy to get caught up in the fast pace of the holiday season, but remember to slow down and enjoy the moments you won’t get back. Enjoy your family, your time off, your favorite foods. The holidays only come around once a year and they are meant to be shared with loved ones. The gifts, the shopping, and the wrapping duties are secondary to making memories.

Tips to enjoying every moment of the holidays:

  • Take photos
  • Keep a journal
  • Slow down
  • Watch your children play
  • Watch your family interact – especially if you rarely see them
  • Don’t make too many lists
  • Don’t make shopping your main priority
  • Don’t make cleaning your main priority
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise
  • Laugh

Micah Larsen

Micah is a traveling swim coach and personal trainer, depending on the season. She is also currently working on her Master of Science in Athletic Administration and Coaching. Micah loves to live an active lifestyle, whether she is competing in open water swims, running a road race, practicing yoga, or biking with her dogs. The main objective in her career is to... Read More

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