5 Ways to Beat Holiday Bulge (Without Gaining the Holiday Blues)
LIVESTRONG's tips on staying Happy, Healthy and Fit This Holiday Season
By August McLaughlin
Ah, the holidays. The time for togetherness, food, stress, and weight gain? If weight loss tops your holiday wish list or if the fear of weight gain is sucking the fun out of the season, it's time to treat yourself to a large serving of attitude adjustment. Even the busiest holiday bees can keep it all under control and under bulge with some choice management methods and a healthy mindset.
If you know you have a holiday party in the evening, exercise that day, eat healthfully leading up to the party and do not skip meals.
Lauren Schmitt, RD
Become a Healthy Grazer
Severely restricting calories or skipping meals can dampen your mood, increase your appetite and ultimately lead to weight gain.
Eating smaller, balanced meals and snacks at regular intervals throughout the day can enhance your blood sugar and energy level while preventing excessive hunger. This is particularly important when you have a holiday event scheduled in the evening. "If you arrive at the party hungry, disaster awaits," says registered dietitian Lauren Schmitt. If you eat healthy snacks throughout the day, you won't be ravenous when you arrive at a dinner party. Schmitt suggests topping your plate with smaller portions than you're accustomed to, then putting your fork down and assessing your hunger partway through the meal. If you're no longer hungry, stop eating. But what if the food tastes incredible? What if it's the tastiest morsel ever to cross your lips? "Remind yourself that you can always have it again, just not right now," says Schmitt.
Holiday Survival Kit
Would you go to work without your purse or briefcase? Would you camp without a tent? Planning ahead is equally important when it comes to achieving your wellness goals. A well-stocked holiday survival kit can help ensure your success.
Schmitt suggests carrying a small notepad to track your daily food intake, a bottle of water, healthy snacks -- such as fresh-cut vegetables, nuts or seeds -- and a pedometer to track your steps and motivate you to keep moving. Keep a written record of your goals and include items that motivate you, such as a book or photograph.
Whatever your holiday survival kit contains, do your best to make it appealing and motivating. The more enjoyable you make the process of battling the holiday bulge, the more likely you'll be to meet your goals.
Manage Your Stress
Emotional stress can lead to poor food choices, overeating, weight gain and guilt.
Eating for comfort or other emotional reasons rather than hunger is normal and harmless if it happens occasionally. If, however, you are a habitual emotional eater and have weight to lose, the holidays can trigger multiple challenges and result in weight gain, according to Geneen Roth, workshop leader and author of eight books, including "Breaking Free From Emotional Eating." Roth explains that coping with holiday stress with food only provides temporary comfort. If your food cravings increase along with your stress load, seek alternate means of comfort and relief. This may mean going for a walk, practicing yoga, having coffee with a friend, getting weekly massages or taking a warm bubble bath. Whatever your non-food-related sources of comfort and relaxation are, practice them. Consider it a gift to yourself that can help improve your dietary behaviors and prevent you from becoming a Grinch this holiday season.
Run and Play
Active playtime can burn calories, distract you from snack foods and draw you closer to your loved ones.
Staying active throughout the holiday season is crucial. If you find treadmills and sweaty gyms unappealing, fear not. You do not need to "go out and run a marathon to get fit," says Jodi Kealoha, fitness trainer and owner of Jodi K's Luv UrSelf Fitness. "The holidays are a great opportunity to play with children and animals." Walk your dog. Build a snowman. Play hide-and-seek with the wee ones in your family. Kealoha also recommends running your errands -- literally. Wear your sneakers to the mall and grocery store and park far away. Then walk briskly, jog or run to your destination. Making fitness fun can allow you to exercise without feeling as though you're participating in a grueling workout. If you enjoy dancing, dance. If you enjoy hiking, hike. Incorporate a variety of enjoyable activities into your lifestyle for maximum benefits.
Get Your Zs
Healthy sleep habits can prevent excessive hunger, mood swings and lethargy.
Sleep is your body's time to restore itself. Sleeping too little is directly correlated to how much you eat and exercise, according to the National Sleep Foundation. Aim for seven to nine hours of sleep nightly, even during the busy holiday weeks. Your bedroom should be dark and comfortable, and your caffeine intake should not carry on into the evening. Eating a large meal close to bedtime can also disturb your sleep. "If you're unusually hungry at night [after normal food intake], go to sleep," says Kealoha. "Remind yourself that you can always eat more tomorrow."
Focusing on the positives in your life, rather than your waistline, can improve your physical and emotional well-being.
Don't become anxious when you see tables filled with delicious food, and avoid focusing on any dietary restrictions you've set for yourself. Instead, focus your attention on the people around you. Practicing gratitude can be key for weight loss or weight maintenance success, according to Laurie Tossy, professional wellness coach and author of "Refuse to Diet: Weight Loss Success Starts With Your Mind Not Your Mouth." Grateful people can lose weight more successfully, Tossy explains, and they can enjoy their lives a whole lot more. She recommends feeding your soul and mind with grateful thoughts each night before going to sleep and every morning upon waking. A similar principle can be applied to holiday parties. Make a concentrated effort to feel and express gratitude to the host of the party, to your friends and family, and for the healthy foods you can enjoy. Appreciate the simple facts that you are alive, well and included in activities with loved ones. In the end, your own health and the ability to maintain it is that ultimate gift of the season.