How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

December 1, 2021
How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

With these tips, the calendar won't influence the number on the scale.

The holiday season is upon us, which for many people adds up to extra indulgences leading to unwanted weight gain. On average, adults tend to gain up to two pounds during the holidays for a variety of reasons. These may include attending gatherings that feature calorie-dense food and drinks, indulging in holiday favorites and elaborate meals, being more stressed or feeling more carefree during this time of year. Additionally, many people tend to engage in less physical activity when it's cold outside or don't find time to exercise due to the extra demands placed on them during the holidays, which can make it harder to maintain weight.

While big family gatherings, holiday buffets and workplace events may be on hold this year due to the pandemic, there are still many temptations lurking that can add up to unwanted pounds. You may still be part of cookie exchanges, have days off from work or try to recreate old family recipes from your own home. Not being as social this year may even cause you to turn to food more than usual as a way to deal with your emotions.

But just because the calendar says December doesn't mean you can't keep your weight in check. With a little effort – and these four simple steps – avoiding weight gain during the holidays is possible.

  1. Monitor portion sizes. It's easy to polish off a tin of gifted caramel popcorn or glazed nuts in one sitting if you aren't paying attention. While those snacks may be delicious, they are often high in calories and can contribute to unwanted weight gain. Pay attention to the quantity of food you consume by measuring out a proper portion size instead of eating food straight from the original packaging.
  2. Limit liquid calories. If festive cocktails are abundant where you celebrate the holidays, you may want to pay more attention to what you are drinking. Alcohol can be a major contributor to weight gain because of the empty calories it offers – the same goes for sodas and sugar-sweetened juices. Stick with water or a calorie-free seltzer during cocktail hour. Or if you can't do without the booze, try a spritzer: equal parts white wine and seltzer. This concoction will cut your calorie intake in half and help keep you hydrated at the same time.
  3. Have a snack before a get-together. This goes against the classic recommendation to avoid spoiling your appetite before dinner, but eating a small snack before an event where you know temptation will run rampant may help you avoid overeating. If you are attending a get-together that will be offering up classic holiday goodies that can pack in the calories, noshing on a handful of walnuts or a piece of fruit before you leave the house can reduce hunger pangs and help you make better food choices.
  4. Stay physically active. It's tempting to sit in front of the TV sipping on hot chocolate at this time of year, especially if typical events are cancelled due to COVID-19. While enjoying a classic movie marathon is a cozy way to commemorate the holidays, balancing sedentary activities with some movement will help support your efforts to maintain your weight. A walk around your neighborhood to see the lights or a family game of touch football in your yard can still get you in the holiday spirit while also getting the blood flowing and burning some extra calories. It's all about balance.

Avoiding holiday weight gain doesn't have to mean skipping occasional indulgences and depriving yourself of what you love about the season. With simple lifestyle tweaks, you can still enjoy holiday traditions with family and friends and treat yourself to holiday favorites without worrying about the number on the scale.

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Date Last Reviewed: October 16, 2020

Editorial Review: Andrea Cohen, Editorial Director, Baldwin Publishing, Inc. Contact Editor

Medical Review: Nora Minno, RD, CDN

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