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November 19, 2018 / Emily Polson

How to Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays

Winter cranberries and pinecones board

The holidays are a notorious time for weight gain. Whatever routine you had for healthy eating and exercise, it’s out the window once your nights and weekends are filled with family reunions, festive work parties, and holiday shopping. The added stress and fatigue don’t help your motivation either, so it’s easy for the number on the scale to climb steadily upward if you’re not careful.

You don’t have to miss out on holiday fun just to maintain your diet, though. Here are some helpful tips for how to avoid weight gain during the holidays.

Bring a Healthy Dish to the Potluck

It’s hard to be in control of your diet when you’re eating poluck-style at a holiday party. Focus on what is in your control: your contribution to the potluck. Bring a dish that fits your goals for healthy eating so that no matter what the other options are, you still have something delicious you can dig into guilt-free.

Adjust Recipes for Baked Goods

Healthy eating doesn’t mean you have to miss out on your favorite baking traditions. You can still avoid holiday weight gain by swapping out certain ingredients or using the opportunity to experiment with healthier recipes. To cut back on sugar consumption, try these eight holiday cookie recipes that use alternative sweeteners.

Eat Mindfully

When we’re rushing around during the holidays or filling our plates at a family reunion, it’s easy to overeat. You can avoid this tendency by slowing down and being more mindful of the food you’re consuming, says a 2013 study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. You don’t even have to count calories to avoid holiday weight gain. Just give your stomach and brain time to communicate fullness to one another so you don’t eat more than you need. A good rule of thumb is to wait 20 minutes before deciding if you’re still hungry enough for seconds.

Use a Smaller Plate

Another strategy to combat overeating is to use a smaller plate. If you know you can’t help but fill your plate, give yourself less surface area to heap food onto. This also forces you to be pickier when choosing your food, which will in turn lead you to make more mindful choices in what you eat.

Be Wary of Leftovers

You can loosen up on your diet for one night if you’re eating mindfully and controlling your portions. But if you’ve got enough leftovers in your fridge to last for a week, you may run into trouble. If you’re hosting, pick up some holiday-themed tupperware to fill with leftovers and send home with your guests as a parting gift. If you still end up with way too much leftover food, stick it in the freezer rather than the fridge so you’re not tempted to polish it all off right away.

Take Your Exercise Routine on the Road

If you travel over the holidays, you likely don’t have access to the same gym, equipment, or exercise classes as you’re used to. If there’s snow or ice where you’re traveling, going for a jog outside might not even be the most feasible backup plan. This doesn’t mean you have to give up on exercise altogether and surrender to holiday weight gain, though. Our guide to making an exercise routine in a hotel room helps you stay fit wherever you go. No space? No problem.

Be Active with Friends and Family

Eating together is a given during family gatherings, but why not make exercise part of the fun, too? Going on a walk through the neighborhood or a local park can be a low-intensity, post-meal activity for family members of all ages. See if there are any holiday-themed races in your area, and get a friend or family member to take part with you. Or, make you niece’s day when you agree to play Just Dance with her on the Wii. Indoors or out, find a way to combine family fun with fitness this holiday season.

Emily Polson

Emily is a writer, reader, and traveler from Iowa who has visited twenty-one countries and lived in three. Her first publication was an article in Muse magazine about her summer job as a corn detasseler. She’s a Slytherin, an amateur ukulele player, and a Peter Pan enthusiast. You can follow Emily on Twitter @emilycpolson.

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