Holiday Eating – Now What?
I will be writing some articles on how to keep your weight in control over the Holidays. Holiday eating is a killer. Halloween through New Years can be a killer for your new found health. In a study, the researchers found that half of annual weight gain in the U.S. occurs during the holiday period. You have worked hard all year don’t let it go to waste in the last few months of the year. Recipes, health tips, easy exercise will be included.
Avoiding holiday weight gain may sound as feasible as Santa fitting down billions of chimneys on Christmas Eve, but we promise there are logical strategies to stay on track. Many of us experience weight gain during the festive winter months, but packing on a few pounds in December is far from inevitable . Don’t get us wrong—the holiday season is all about celebrating, having fun, and indulging. So pass the eggnog and yule log (in moderation) and let’s tackle how to navigate holiday party food spreads, hectic schedules, and sidelined gym routines—without turning into Mr. Scrooge.
How to prevent holiday weight gain
Now that we’ve established how important it is to avoid weight gain during the holidays, let’s look at some strategies for keeping it off. Remember, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to diet and nutrition. The recommendations I’m making here are not for normal weight, healthy individuals. They are for people that are already overweight and/or have a tendency to gain weight easily. In those cases, we might suspect that the homeostatic system that regulates weight is impaired in some way, and a specialized approach is required.
Some of these recommendations may surprise you if you believe that calories don’t matter and weight gain is not possible as long as you’re eating a nutrient-dense, low-carbohydrate diet. I used to think this was true myself, but after further research and more experience working with people, I now know that it is not. If you’re confused about this, please don’t get frustrated. We have all been there.
A food is rewarding when it makes us want to eat more of it. Palatable and reward usually travel together, but there are exceptions. For example, most people think steak tastes good, but it doesn’t tend to encourage eating beyond satiety.
Choosing foods that are lower on the reward value scale during the holidays is one way of spontaneously reducing your calorie intake. But what makes a food rewarding? There are several factors, including:
- sugar, fat and salt content
- calorie density
- certain textures (fat that melts in mouth, crunchy, soft/easy to chew)
- free glutamate
- certain aromas
- variety of flavors, textures, foods
- many other flavors can become rewarding when associated with above nutrients
Looking at that list, it’s not hard to see why holiday meals would promote overeating!
With that in mind, here are some tips for eating more simply during the holidays:
- Don’t add additional fat to your food. Skip the gravy and don’t put butter on your mashed potatoes (if you’re making them yourself, use less butter or cream in the first place). I personally add milk that is 1 or 2% and cream cheese that is 1/3 the calories. It is still yummy but less calories over all.
- Reduce the variety of flavors, textures and foods you eat. Choose a main dish and one or two sides and stick with that.
This one is easier said than done, right? The best way to accomplish this for most people is to focus on reducing the energy density of the food they consume. Energy density is defined as the number of calories in a given weight of food. A Paleo diet contains foods that are typically low on the energy density scale: animal protein, fruits, vegetables and tubers. A holiday feast contains foods that are typically high on the energy density scale: stuffing, bread, pie, cream, butter, gravy, etc.
Here are a few tips for reducing energy density:
- Add extra vegetables and starchy tubers (without added fat).
- Add extra protein to your meal.
- Chew your food thoroughly. This increases satiety.
- Cook a Paleo holiday meal and minimize energy dense foods typically associated with the holidays.
Exercise may not be a great strategy for weight loss, but it’s likely that physical inactivity helps prevent an increase in the body fat set point, and studies have consistently shown that exercise prevents weight gain and maintains leptin sensitivity in animals.
In the U.S., at least, holidays tend to be associated with a lot of TV watching, especially among sports fans. That means additional time sitting on your butt, which isn’t a particularly good way to burn calories.
So make sure to get plenty of exercise during the holidays. Take long walks after meals, add some extra workouts, stand whenever possible instead of sitting, and reduce your TV time.
I hope this will give you are start. Watch for more articles, tips recipes etc on this website or my Facebook page. https://www.facebook.com/fitatanyagewithdeb/
Please feel free to add in the comments and other tips you have come across that help you.
Your Partner in health,