by Robert Montenegro, MD, Family Medicine and Bariatrics
This time of year can be stressful enough. If you are working on losing weight or maintaining your weight, the abundance of celebrations, rich and savory foods, and an almost endless supply of desserts and treats can give you extra anxiety. There is a misconception that most people will gain around five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. The truth is the average weight gain over the holidays is only around one pound. Many people gain no weight at all over the holidays. My first tip is this, please do not stress about food this holiday season and enjoy the holiday for what it is! Fat gain requires overeating for many days and weeks and months. Savor your experiences and your memories, and even enjoy some of the food.
Face it, people hate limiting or completely avoiding many of the foods they love. Avoiding your favorite comfort food is especially difficult because many are made only once a year. I want to assure you it is possible to enjoy a guilt-free holiday and avoid packing on more than one to two pounds.
First, I will address the food. Stop stressing yourself out about food and what you can and cannot have. This year, make the holiday about family, your traditions, and your conversations rather than feeling guilty about the rich foods associated with holiday celebrations. Adding to the discussion at the table will slow down your meal and help you feel satisfied after one plate of food. When enjoying your meal, start by eating your protein and vegetables first. This is actually a good habit to be in all the time. Put your fork down between bites and savor the flavor and texture of the food. By the time you get to carbohydrate-loaded potatoes and gravy and other side dishes, your stomach will most likely be satisfied. You can enjoy a bite or two of some of your favorite foods without over-indulging. Skip the temptation to go back for a second helping. It is okay to enjoy dessert, just limit desserts and sweets to your favorites and savor your few bites.
Second, add a little extra activity to your day and month. Get up and move the best you can. Take a walk if the weather cooperates, or play a game that involves moving around. Increasing your steps and length/intensity of your workouts these next few weeks will help burn some extra calories and leave you feeling a little more joyful.
Third, remember moderation. Not only with food and treats, but also with alcohol. Remember how quickly alcohol calories add up, so go easy on the drinks. Drink water or sparkling water between alcoholic beverages. This way you will stay hydrated, limit calories, and have something in your hand while others are having a drink.
Finally, shift from a mindset of weight loss to weight maintenance. If you are eating the right way more than 95% of the time, the other 5% is not going to make a significant difference in the grand scheme of things. It is okay to allow yourself a couple of cheat meals. While you do not need to measure exact servings or count every calorie, you still need to use some common sense and judgement. Remember there are really only a few large meals this season to savor your favorites.
If you do gain a few pounds, please do not lose hope and throw in the towel on all your previous achievements. Get back to your healthy lifestyle by eating whole and healthy foods, moving your body, and drinking approximately half your body weight in water every day.
Talk with your healthcare provider about practical methods you can use to lose the weight and keep it off throughout the New Year. If you need to lose more than a few pounds and are having trouble reaching your goal, we have a comprehensive medically supervised weight loss program designed to help you lose weight and maximize your well-being. Learn more…