Ask the Diet Doctor: How to Enjoy the Holidays Without Weight Gain
3 no-fail strategies for staying slim during the season of indulgence.
Q: What are your top three tips for NOT gaining weight over the holidays?
A: I like this proactive approach. Curbing weight gain during the holidays may be the best way to stay lean all year long. Research shows that the average weight gain during the winter holidays is about one pound. That may not seem so bad, but the real problem is that most people don't ever lose the extra pound of weight they put on during the holidays, according to a report published in The New England Journal of Medicine. And it's worse news for people who are already overweight. A 2000 study from Tufts University found that overweight adults gain more than 5 pounds during the 6-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year's.
So, how can you make it through the sweet season without expanding your waistline? Here are three proactive strategies to ensure that your New Year's resolution won't be "to lose the 5 pounds I gained during December."
1. Don't wait until the final week in December. The focus on weight loss really starts heating up between Christmas and New Year's (hello, resolutions!), but if you're waiting until then to start dialing in your indulgent diet, it's too late. Start to focus on being more active and dialing in your nutrition now. Extra diligence during the weeks leading up to the New Year will make up for any unexpected dietary indiscretions that pop up due to holiday celebrations.
2. Enjoy yourself, just not too much. The holidays are a time to enjoy yourself with friends and family. Don't be "that person" eating a boiled chicken breast with steamed broccoli in the corner while everyone else enjoys Christmas dinner. Stick to your plan as you normally would throughout the month so that you can cash in your splurge meals when they count. When the meal/celebration is over, get back to your healthy eating plan.
3. Navigate holiday parties like a pro. There's a good chance you won't have enough splurge meals in your arsenal to cover all the holiday parties you attend. This is fine; it just means that you need to navigate them properly. First, don't stand by the food and socialize; it encourages mindless snacking. Put some food on a plate and then mingle somewhere else. Party food is traditionally a nutrition minefield but there are almost always a few healthy options in the mix. Fresh cut vegetables are standard party fare, as well as shrimp cocktail (a great source of lean protein). Opt for these vegetables and protein-based foods and steer clear of the piles of crackers, creamy dips in bread bowls, and bite-sized puff pastry hors d'oeuvres stuffed with cheese.
One final thought about holiday weight gain: After people undergo gastric bypass surgery, they often work with their support team on not making food the focus of everything they do. This is a good strategy for coming out of the holidays still rocking your skinny jeans.
Dr. Mike Roussell, PhD, is a nutritional consultant known for his ability to transform complex nutritional concepts into practical habits and strategies for his clientele, which includes professional athletes, executives, food companies, and top fitness facilities. Dr. Mike is the author of Dr. Mike's 7 Step Weight Loss Plan and the upcoming 6 Pillars of Nutrition.