Where did my body go? It’s a common question in January, but it doesn’t have to be. It’s a problem, especially if you’re American. Americans like to focus on self, but let’s not discount our global friends in Finland, France, Germany, and Japan who say they feel the same pain. In January, likely you’ll be wondering… What have I done? The holidays are spent in the moment of good tidings and lots of delicious food, but leave you wondering what you could have done differently to avoid weight gain. Approaching the holidays with foresight instead of hindsight can make a big difference. Let’s start by busting a myth you probably believe.
Debunking the Myth
Most people gain 7–10 lbs over the holiday season. It’s a widely believed myth and it’s not true. It may feel like you’ve gained a lot of weight. The pants feel tight and become hard to button. You probably feel sluggish, irritable, and anxious as a result of indulgence. The extra pounds put on between Halloween and Christmas can take up to 5 months to lose.
The holiday season means different things to different people. It is loosely defined as mid-November through mid-January. The holidays come around once a year and everyone wants to feel special. Eat special. Drink special. All those allowances lead to a perception of gaining a lot of weight. During the 6–8 week binge, most people gain 1–2 lbs, not 5 lbs or more. And, the good news is that most people reduce the weight they have gained very quickly after the holidays are over.
How Do We Know?
This study by The Institute of Health suggests people don’t gain as much weight as they think they do.
Nearly 200 adult participants are weighed before the holidays, during the holidays, after the holidays, and again in Spring to Fall of the following year. The net gain is 1–2 lbs.
Now that we’ve busted the myth we’re ready to deal with the reality of the situation and start the New Year in a better place. Hopefully a place that doesn’t have you running for a gym membership in January only to stop using it in February. Most gym members don't use their membership throughout the whole year, but you don't cancel the service.
Get a Gym Membership if You'll Use It
If you’re one of the few who really do go to these gyms, you end up getting a great deal. All the people who are at home sitting on the couch are essentially subsidizing your membership, allowing you to pay way less than what your gym services actually cost.
Why are people so susceptible to this arrangement, year after year after year? Probably because the New Year is a great time to reprioritize with good intentions. But while gyms may take advantage of our good intentions, they often do so with our permission. Many people often want to be locked into an annual gym contract, believing that paying a big sum upfront will guilt them into going to the gym later.
You probably only have a couple of pounds to lose, If the season meant more merriment than usual it’s time to get back on track.
Practice any of the following with regularity and you will choose well to eliminate at least some holiday weight gain:
- Eat healthier
- Make it lifestyle
- Be Proactive
Develop a Healthy Diet
There are a multitude of diets to choose from. There are weight loss plans with scales and points, celebrity diets, no carb diets… the list goes on. Preferences and food sensitivities make choosing a diet nearly impossible as a one-fits-all approach.
Nutrition and health experts put their heads together to create a list of 38 best and worst diets. The DASH diet receives high marks for the sixth year running. Highly mentioned are the Mediterranean, and the Mind diets. Diets judged as poor performers are Atkins, Paleo, Dukan, and Whole30 diets. Here’s the complete list.
Most diets are a short-term solution. They require a high level of intensity and are not successful for long term change. Let’s look at other options for lifestyle changes.
Go on a Detox
There are a plethora of detox treatments available. You can enlist the help of a 3-day detox, or 21-day detox. Too many holiday sweets? A sugar detox might help.
Are you stressed from holiday parties, events, and family members? It’s time to break down the cortisol that hangs on to extra weight around the waistline. There are almost as many detox options as there are diet choices. Here’s a quick one: If you want to slough off toxins and burn fat add some lemon juice to lukewarm or warm water to start your day.
Drink it 30 minutes before you ingest anything else to wake up your body and get it ready to burn fat.
Here’s my personal recipe with three simple ingredients:
- Juice of one lemon,
- add, ½ tsp turmeric for immunity,
- add 1 tsp pure maple syrup or raw honey.
Boost again at midday if you are sluggish.
Move to Keep Your Shape
Sure, you can strength train three times a week, and if you’re a health enthusiast you probably already do this, but if you want to keep from gaining weight this time of year you’re looking for simple solutions.
Start simply, if exercise doesn’t sound like a blood-pumping good time. Take a brisk morning walk around the neighborhood before hitting the shower to start your day.
Not an early bird? Make it an after-dinner stroll or power walk.
Pick an activity you enjoy like swimming, dancing, kickboxing, cycling, and have fun.
There are plenty of free apps to get you moving in the comfort of your home without a gym, specialized equipment, or an audience. Find your favorite app and block time on your calendar. Moving is as easy as spending less time on social media and using the device in your pocket.
If you work in an office setting, nix the elevator and take the stairs. Or, email less frequently and walk over to a coworker’s desk to ask a question.
Make it a priority.
You schedule meetings and conference calls because they’re important. Schedule time to take care of you — You are even more important.
Be accountable to a workout buddy, or have someone check in for your progress report on a regular basis.
Make Better Food Choices
It’s easier to eat healthy when processed foods and added sugars are eliminated.
Stay out of the aisle while grocery shopping. Shop the perimeter of the store or local market for real food and leave the processed food on the shelves.
Read labels. The ingredients highest on the ingredient list have the largest quantities. The FDA has redesigned labels to make it easier to know what is in your food. Labels are easier to read and reflect portions sizes a person consumes in one sitting.
Think Ahead. Let the crockpot be your friend on nights filled with meetings and activities. Set the timer so your meal is ready to eat when you walk in the door hungry.
You don’t need another thing to do in the morning, so prepare the meal the night before and store it in the fridge. In the morning place the cold crock in the shell and let it warm up as the shell heats up. Don’t place a cold crock in a hot shell. It’s likely to crack.
Make it Lifestyle
Moving and eating healthier means you are on the right track. Simple changes allow for a lifestyle change instead of making it a fad. Cooking at home, and taking lunch to work, instead of eating at restaurants will improve your health. Knowing what is in food and how it is prepared is an education that takes time and commitment.
These year-round tips are especially helpful during the holidays.
- Don’t go on an empty stomach. If you are going to eat holiday food have a healthy snack before you go.
- Limit alcohol intake. Holiday spirits are loaded with calories.
- Don’t hang around the buffet table
- Keep one hand “busy” by holding a glass of water so it is more difficult to chow down. Drink water first if you are not certain you’re hungry. Wait 30 minutes.
- Reduce portions. Check to see if you’re hungry by eating smaller portions. If you’re still hungry go back for a small plate of seconds. During holiday gatherings food is usually in abundance and not quickly put away.
- Eat veggies first. When you’re hungriest your most likely to eat veggies, so eat them first, before you fill up on other things.
- Politely decline the invitation. If you think it likely that you’ll overindulge at a certain party, it’s best to skip out altogether.
If you don’t want to repeat last year’s holiday habits put these tips to use right away. Get a buddy who will hold you accountable to eating better into next year.