The gorge-fest starts at Thanksgiving and seems to continue on until the New Year – the “impossible to resist” homemade baking, the unending buffets, and festive drinks – all tied up in celebrating the holiday spirit. We tend to write it off because “it only happens once per year,” but does it have long terms effects on our health? Are there ways we can be sensible without spoiling the Christmas cheer?
Research shows that the average person consumes an extra 500 calories per day over the holidays, which equates to an average weight gain of about 5 pounds by New Year’s Day. This may not seem like a lot and it isn’t the amount so much as the fact that once the weight is put on it becomes harder to lose. And as the years go by your weight continues to creep up.
So perhaps it is wise to treat Christmas as any other time of year when you have to go to a dinner party or celebration. If we are mindful of a few small things that are not difficult to do, it creates a shift in mindset and behaviour. And, over time, this all adds up to a trimmer waistline.
Here are five small steps you can take to avoid “packing on the holiday pounds”:
Step 1: Be realistic.
A half hour brisk walk may be easier to fit into your schedule than a three hour session at the gym. Doing vigorous exercise in short bursts, even 5 or 10 minutes at a time, can actually be more beneficial than a continuous long session. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park the car at the far end of the mall parking lot, get onto the dance floor at parties, shake to your favourite Christmas music while decorating the tree – these are all easily adaptable to the busiest of schedules.
Step 2: Be mindful.
Being mindful means being in the present moment and perceiving things as they are. How does this apply to the holidays? Well, when drinking take a sip and really taste the drink. When we bring awareness to the sensations that the drink brings us here and now we tend to drink more slowly, drink less and enjoy it more. The same can be said of eating. When we slow down, savour each bite and, after you have finished, actually ask yourself, “am I still hungry?” you’ll probably eat a lot less. Don’t eat just because the food is there.
Step 3: Plan ahead.
Eat something healthy before going to a dinner party so you will not be tempted by second and third helpings. Don’t be afraid to say “no” if pressed by others to eat more. Have a compliment in mind for your host to shift the attention, if needed, such as, “That was delicious and just the right amount. I wouldn’t want to eat any more and spoil it by being uncomfortable.” If eating in a restaurant share courses. You don’t have to finish every dish. Tell yourself that you are there for the company, not to gorge yourself. If drinking, have a plan to get home safely.
Step 4: Balance.
Balance rich foods with healthier options. For example, instead of taking two helpings of mashed potatoes and gravy, take one helping along with a generous helping of vegetables. Choose non-creamy, non-pastry options from the buffet. Go easy on the sauces and dips. There is no need to eat the leftovers all at once. Invite friends over to enjoy them or pack some away in the freezer.
Step 5: Take a break.
Give your liver a break. Have some days over the Christmas period where you do not drink any alcohol. Our liver turns glucose (sugar) into fat which it then sends to our body to store for use/energy when we need it. Alcohol stops this from happening and your liver cells get stuffed full of fat. You can imagine what damage this can cause over time.
In combination these steps can help you enjoy Christmas without the weight gain that so often accompanies the holidays.
If you’d like to learn more about how you can get to your ideal weight by eating foods that optimal for your personal metabolism please call the Wellness Blueprint Health Centre at (306) 781-2222 to book a free Healthy Metabolism Evaluation.