Yes, You Can Avoid Weight Gain Over the Holidays!

How to Control Holiday Weight Gain: Tips and Strategies

The holiday season is a time for joy and celebration, but it can also lead to overindulgence in food and drink. Maintaining a healthy weight during this time can be a challenge, as studies have shown that people tend to gain weight during the holiday season. However, a recent study published in The BMJ suggests that a brief behavioral intervention can help prevent holiday weight gain.

The study involved 272 adults who were randomized into two groups: an intervention group and a control group. The intervention group received a four to eight-week behavioral intervention aimed at increasing their restraint of food and beverage consumption. The intervention included regular weigh-ins, weight management strategies, and information on the amount of physical activity required to burn off the calories in typical holiday foods and drinks. The control group received information on healthy living. Results showed that the intervention group lost an average of 0.3 pounds, while the control group gained 0.8 pounds.

To prevent weight gain during the holiday season, the study participants were encouraged to follow ten tips:

  • Keep to your meal routine and try to eat at the same times each day.
  • Choose low-fat foods when possible.
  • Aim for 10,000 steps each day.
  • Choose fresh fruit or low-calorie yogurt instead of high-calorie snacks.
  • Check food labels for fat and sugar content.
  • Be cautious with portion sizes.
  • Stand up for 10 minutes every hour.
  • Choose water or calorie-free drinks and limit alcohol consumption.
  • Focus on your food and avoid eating in front of the TV or on the go.
  • Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

The study also highlighted the importance of physical activity in preventing weight gain. Understanding the amount of physical activity required to burn off the calories in festive foods can help with making healthier choices. For instance, the study provided the intervention group with a chart showing the approximate amount of activity needed to burn off the calories in certain foods.

In addition to these tips, there are other strategies to prevent holiday weight gain. For instance, marking all the holiday events on your calendar and planning ahead can help you make healthier choices. If the event is not at your home, eating lighter on that day can balance out the extra calories consumed at the party. If you are hosting the event, serving plenty of raw vegetables and fresh fruits can help promote healthier choices.

The workplace can also be a hazard during the holidays, with holiday lunches and office parties making it difficult to make smart food choices. In such situations, opting for lower-calorie options and reducing calorie intake at dinner can be helpful. Also, moving holiday cookies and candies to a high-traffic area can help spread the goodies around.

Finally, starting new traditions that do not revolve around food can help keep you and your loved ones healthy during the holidays. Attending a holiday concert or show, or catching up with a friend over a yoga or Zumba class can be a great way to celebrate the holiday season while keeping your health in mind.

In conclusion, while preventing weight gain during the holidays can be challenging, it is possible with a little bit of planning and effort. Incorporating healthy habits and making smarter food choices can go a long way in helping you maintain your weight and stay healthy during the holiday season.

William H. McDaniel, MD

Dr. Robert H. Shmerling is the former clinical chief of the division of rheumatology at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), and is a current member of the corresponding faculty in medicine at Harvard Medical School.

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