The holiday seasons are a moment when family and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company — and eat all types of delicious foods. And it’s no surprise that keeping a healthy weight can be even more challenging throughout the holiday seasons than during the rest of the year.
A 2014 study shows that adults in Western societies gain an average of one pound (0.46kg) between mid-November and mid-January, and most of that weight is gained over the holiday season.
One pound (0.46kg) may not seem like a lot; however, most individuals don’t lose this extra baggage. Consequently, holidays — no matter the time of year — may be one of the biggest contributors to your total annual weight gain.
One thing is for sure; holiday weight gain is not inevitable. But science suggests you can control holiday weight gain; in this article, you discover 30 easy tips to avoid holiday weight gain and stay gorgeous throughout the year.
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Holiday Weight Gain Statistics
Every country and culture has its way of celebrating holidays; however, people celebrating holidays worldwide share one central feature: sharing food.
An international team of researchers studied people celebrating Thanksgiving in the United States, Easter in Germany, Golden Week in Japan (from April 29 to May 5), and Christmas in all three countries. The research wanted to see if holiday indulgences were routinely linked with weight gain.
The group of researchers observed 2,924 adults in their 40s for one year. About one-third of the German and American participants and one-fourth of the Japanese were females. The volunteers weighed themselves daily using “smart scales,” which sent the readings to a computer log.
The team found that participants’ weights were about 0.5% higher ten days after Christmas in all three countries than ten days before. The participant also gained an average of 0.2% to 0.3% over the other holidays. The research was issued on Sept. 22, 2016, in the New England Journal of Medicine.
The researchers advised that people tend to retain about half of their holiday weight gain. In this study, volunteers’ average weight of about a pound or two can mount over the years.
A 2016 study issued in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average American’s weight increases by 0.4 percent over Christmas and 0.2 percent over Thanksgiving. In total, Americans gain around one pound during each holiday season. The researchers observed that most of this weight gain happens in the ten days following Christmas.
You might think that gaining a pound might seem like a small price to pay for your favorite holiday treats; however, the researchers point out that what makes the holiday weight gain so problematic is the fact that you’re most likely to keep the extra weight after the holiday season. In other words, all that holiday weight gain will accumulate.
Another 2000 study shows that the average holiday weight gain is 0.37 kg. The researchers also noted this gain is not reversed during spring or summer months; the net 0.48 kg fall/winter weight gain appears likely to increase body weight that frequently occurs throughout adulthood.
Researchers have discovered that people gain about a pound from November to January and also that people don’t tend to drop that winter weight by the next year. After a few sugary Christmas seasons (and the year’s other indulgent celebrations, birthdays, and anniversaries), those pounds (kgs) add up.
Best Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Even though, for most of us, gaining weight during the holiday is inevitable, there are a few things you can do minimize gaining holiday weight.
Here are a few helpful tips to avoid holiday weight gain:
1- Never Go to Holiday Parties Hungry
Experts say planning can help you maintain discipline in the face of temptation. The general recommendation is to try to have a nutritious snack beforehand.
If you arrive hungry at your holiday party, drink some water before filling your plate.
2- Never Shop Hungry
Whenever you decide to go shopping either at the mall or the grocery store, it’s never wise to do it on an empty stomach.
Research from the University of South Carolina observed that being hungry makes you desire to purchase products, even non-food related items, which means you are more likely to spend than you hoped.
You are more likely to indulge in all those free food samples when you shop hungry.
3- Find an Accountability Buddy
One tip to avoid holiday weight gain is to find someone to look over your shoulder and help you stay on track. For instance, you can connect with a friend or family member who you can check in with you daily to discuss your healthy choices.
You must pick this person wisely. Try to find someone with similar health and fitness goals equally dedicated to staying healthy during the holidays. Also, choose someone positive who will act as a cheerleader and a teammate, not a judge.
The main idea is to encourage and support one another instead of pointing out mistakes or faults.
4- Plan in Advance
Planning can help you avoid holiday weight gain. Whether you are the party host or a guest, check what foods will be served or bring your dish.
It can also help gather a list of healthy holiday recipes to avoid wasting ideas when bringing food to a party.
5- Choose Protein
Holiday meals are usually rich in carbs but low in protein.
Including some protein with every meal is essential, as it boosts fullness and may help avoid holiday weight gain. Check the article to help you choose healthy food: 32 Foods That Burn Belly Fat Fast – Based on Science
A study found that eating protein with meals may automatically reduce calorie intake by reducing hunger and appetite.
Good protein sources include meat, poultry, fish, and some plant-based foods such as beans and quinoa.
6- Fill up on Fiber
Fiber is another vital nutrient that helps fullness.
A study observed that increasing dietary fiber consumption with fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes could help fight worldwide obesity.
Unfortunately, many common holiday foods lack adequate amounts of fiber. Do your best to eat these 18 veggies that destroy stomach fat, such as vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds.
7- Whatever You Do, Keep Burning Calories
Exercise is particularly critical during the holiday season with larger-than-usual meals. Besides your regular exercise schedule, plan activities like running, walks, hikes, bicycle rides, and dances with family and friends.
The extra calorie burning can help avoid holiday weight gain – and you will enjoy beautiful times together. Try these at-home workouts.
Science suggests exercising can counter some of the metabolic effects of overeating, even if it doesn’t burn all the extra calories you are consuming.
Even if you don’t regularly go to the gym, you can still avoid holiday weight gain by taking every chance to stay physically active. For instance, you can take the stairs instead of the elevator, park your car as far away as possible from the building entrance, or get off the bus a few stops early.
8- Leave Leftovers
If you are the host of the party, package up the leftovers and send them home with your guests. If you are a guest, then refuse the offer of leftovers as politely as possible. Deciding to bring home the delicious pieces will encourage you to continue making poor and unhealthy eating choices.
A holiday meal should be just one meal. Enjoy it; however, try to leave the leftovers alone.
9- Have Ready to Use Toss-Away Tupperware
If you are the host, this will help you avoid holiday weight gain and avoid food wastage.
Before your guests leave, have some Tupperware ready to go. You can fill up containers for friends and family to hand out as they go.
Pros tips: Try to get holiday-themed containers.
10- Stay Calm
The holiday season can be very stressful for some people. A 2017 study suggests that stress can lead to less healthy food choices and may also impact hormones that can prompt you to store belly fat.
According to a recent study, mindfulness practice can help overcome stress (and the hormones) and help reduce cravings. Find time to practice deep breathing or yoga to cope with holiday or family stress.
11- Try To Get Enough Sleep
Insufficient and inadequate quality sleep will negatively impact your metabolism and health. In a 2013 study, sleep deprivation resulting in brain activity changes your desire for unhealthy, high-calorie food.
Another group of researchers theorizes that lack of sleep lowers your motivation to stay on track while also amplifying your cravings, making it doubly challenging to eat well.
12- Snack Carefully
Throughout the holiday season, unhealthy snacks such as cookies and other goodies are readily available for you to take as you desire. Whenever treats are easily accessible, you are more likely to snack carelessly.
At home, you solve this issue by storing treats out of sight. However, that strategy is challenging to avoid in situations you cannot control, like at your workplace or a family party.
Be mindful of your snacking habits. If you find yourself eating just because there’s food around — and not because you are hungry — it is better to avoid snacking altogether.
However, choose real foods if you are feeling hungry and want a snack. Fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds are very filling snacks and don’t contain added sugars or unhealthy fats, leading to weight gain.
13- Practice Portion Control
It can be easy to overload your plate when the holiday season comes. Those who eat larger portions tend to gain weight more quickly than those who don’t.
Portion control is one of the Korean secrets to staying slim and healthy. To overcome this is to control portion sizes or use smaller plates.
To determine proper portion sizes, read food labels and the recommended serving sizes listed on recipes. If you can’t do either, use your best judgment to fill your plate with a reasonable quantity of food.
14- Eat Mindfully
Most of us are often in a rush during the holiday season, leading to multitasking during meals.
A 2013 study found that practicing mindful eating may help lose weight and keep it off without the need for conscious calorie counting.
The researchers found that those who eat while distracted are more likely to overeat. To avoid holiday weight gain, eat mindfully, and minimize distractions, including watching TV, scrolling on your phone, and working.
Try chewing slowly and thoroughly, which will help you better recognize your body’s fullness signals and consume fewer calories.
A 2015 study shows that people who engage in mindful eating practices are less likely to gain weight and avoid holiday weight gain.
15- Avoid Processed Foods
While quick and readily available, processed foods such as boxed mashed potatoes and stuffing often contain excess sugar and unhealthy fats that can lead to holiday weight gain.
To avoid holiday weight gain, opt for whole foods, and cook your meals from scratch, so you can watch your diet and manage your weight.
16- Reduce Taste-Testing
Most of us spend a lot of our time cooking and baking during the holiday season. Taste testing can lead to weight gain; remember that even small bites of holiday dishes can add up in calories.
Always make sure that you aren’t hungry while cooking, as it’s much easier to go overboard on taste-testing when your stomach is growling.
One of the easiest ways to avoid holiday weight gain is to bring your healthy dish to share with others.
This way, you can make sure you will have something to eat that aligns with your weight management goals.
18- Use Smaller Plates
People tend to eat larger portions from big plates during the holiday, leading to overeating. A smaller container is an easy way to control portions.
Using smaller containers can help you avoid holiday weight gain.
19- Reduce Your Dessert Consumption
During the holiday season, dessert is everywhere. Consuming dessert may lead to excessive sugar consumption, a common cause of weight gain.
Instead of eating every treat in front of you, focus on your favorites, and leave the rest.
To help you avoid holiday weight gain, take the time to slowly eat your dessert, which may leave you feeling more satiated and less likely to overdo it.
20- Reduce Liquid Calories
Alcohol, soda, and other calorie-rich beverages are prevalent during the holidays. These drinks can contribute a significant amount of sugar and empty calories to your diet, causing weight gain.
A study showed that alcohol consumption is often connected to increased appetite and contributes to gain.
If you are trying to avoid holiday weight gain, limiting your high-calorie beverage consumption is better.
21- Start a New Tradition
It might seem like a long shot to get your family moving after a big holiday meal, but building in some activity can make the season healthier and more festive.
It can be something easy and simple such as a big family walk. The idea is to move outside instead of falling into a food coma.
Just get outside with individuals who want to go. When everyone sees you are having fun, they will be more likely to go out and have fun too.
22- Observe Your Emotional Triggers
It’s not just the festive mood that can lead to overeating.
For some of us, the holidays can be stressful and can influence us to eat in ways we wouldn’t normally eat because of stress.
Being aware of your feelings and why you are reaching for that second piece of pie can help you stay on track.
23- Weigh Yourself Frequently
Weighing yourself regularly during the holiday season can keep you on track with your weight goals and help you avoid holiday weight gain.
Research shows that people who weigh themselves frequently maintain or lose weight better than those who don’t weigh themselves.
Try to adopt a habit that suits you best. Some find it helpful to check their weight daily, while others prefer once or twice a week.
24- Serve Food Restaurant-Style During Holiday Party
During your holiday party, try to serve meals restaurant-style. Leave food in the kitchen (away from immediate reach) instead of displaying a basket full of various casseroles and an entire turkey directly on the table.
After finishing your plate, take a deep breath and decide if you want seconds.
A study shows that the quantity of food eaten is strongly influenced by food visibility, the ease of obtaining food, and the portion size.
25- Have a Healthy Snack
Before deciding to go to a holiday party, eat a healthy snack. Try a handful of walnuts with two or three glasses of water can be a great start.
If you don’t have enough time to snack when you get to the party, drink two glasses of water before considering going anywhere near food.
26- Choose Healthy Fats
Substitute things such as butter, animal fats, and fried foods for mono or polyunsaturated fats such as fish, olive oil, almonds, walnuts, or avocados.
You can add avocados instead of mayo on a sandwich and olive oil instead of regular vegetable oil. Rather than chips or candy for a yummy snack, have walnuts and raisins.
27- Drink More Water
Drink more water during the day and throughout your holiday party. Not only does it help you avoid holiday weight gain, but also it keeps your skin looking great.
28- Adopt a Low Glycemic Index Eating
A low glycemic diet suggests choosing foods your grandmother used to eat based on natural foods that keep us filled up.
According to Harvard experts, using the glycemic index can help avoid holiday weight gain.
To help you understand how eating foods might impact your blood glucose level, check out this glycemic index chart for more than 60 common foods.
29- Just Say “NO.”
Many people have an “I’ll start tomorrow” mentality during the holiday season, which can prolong unhealthy habits.
If you’re serious about avoiding holiday weight gain, it may help to say “NO” to anything that does not support your weight loss goals.
Try to say no to certain foods and habits that don’t align with your health and fitness goals.
30- Don’t Be Hard on Yourself
Most of us often abandon our goals after failing to say “NO” to unhealthy habits. However, it is better to move on and make a healthier choice the next time you eat.
Take time to think and assess why it happened. Were you stressed? Did you not get enough sleep? Be kind to yourself. Mistakes happen. Life is all about progress, not perfection.
Is Holiday Weight Gain Temporary?
A study issued in the New England Journal of Medicine observed 2,924 adults from the United States, Germany, and Japan and concluded that holiday weight gain is not temporary.
The study observed that participants’ weights were about 0.5% higher ten days after Christmas than ten days before the holiday season in all three countries. The volunteers also gained an average of 0.2% to 0.3% over the other holidays.
The researchers concluded that people tend to retain about half of their holiday weight gain.
Avoiding holiday weight gain can be a challenge, but it’s also not as hard as you may think. Put these tips into practice and enjoy the holidays with friends and family.
Do not wait for the holiday season to start looking for tips to avoid holiday weight gain. No matter the time of year, decide to adopt a healthy lifestyle, regularly consume healthy food, have enough sleep, and exercise regularly. This will help you avoid holiday weight gain and live a happy and beautiful life.