For decades, conventional wisdom held that adults in the U.S. gained seven pounds or more during the five- or six-week holiday season. But more recent studies show that the reality is far less than that. Many people don’t gain any weight at all, and those that do generally gain between one half to just under two pounds, with the average being less that a pound. And while gaining weight year over year is a concern that needs to be addressed, these studies should still be welcome news most of us.
If you fret over every holiday meal or celebration, maybe it’s time to relax a little and enjoy yourself a bit more over the next few weeks. The key is to find a balance that works for you. These tips can help you do just that, without tipping the scales too much in the wrong direction.
- Eat mindfully. Slow down and really taste (and enjoy!) your food. This is especially important on special occasions when you don’t want to deprive yourself. If you’re eating a treat that only comes around during the holidays, take time to savor every bite of it. That makes it far more likely you’ll be satisfied with a reasonable portion and won’t feel the need to reach for more.
- Indulge with intention. Not all indulgences are special. Plan ahead with a list of holiday favorites that you don’t want to miss out on. That way you can more easily skip other high calorie items that are available any time of the year, and just focus on enjoying the things you love most.
- Avoid the “all or nothing” mentality. Food isn’t good or bad, and choosing to eat a high calorie, sugary, or high fat food doesn’t mean you’ve had a “bad” day. It also doesn’t mean you should throw in the towel and overindulge for the rest of the day, thinking you’ll get back on track tomorrow. Make the best decisions you can but give yourself a little space for some exceptions throughout the holiday season.
- Don’t focus on a January 1st reset. If your mindset is to enjoy everything now and pay the price with an overly restrictive diet come January 1st, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Instead, just focus on balancing your choices – both healthy and indulgent – and enjoying every day of the season without guilt or fear of what may be ahead.
- Pay attention to liquid calories. It’s not just alcohol that can pack a lot of calories into a glass or cup. Hot cocoa with whipped cream, mulled cider and eggnog (even without alcohol) can all be loaded with fat and sugar. If those are drinks you really enjoy during the holidays, then plan for them and enjoy! If not, try to stick to water or other low-calorie beverages whenever possible. And of course, watch your alcohol consumption. Not only do the calories add up, but drinking too much makes it more difficult to eat mindfully – and more likely to overeat.
- Finally, remind yourself that it’s okay to indulge. As mentioned above, enjoy your holiday splurges without guilt, and then move on. It’s part of living – and it’s the best way to celebrate the holidays every year!
This article appeared in the December 2023 edition of the HealthPerks newsletter.