The holidays are a time to spend with family and friends, but food is a central part of the holiday tradition for most people. This includes candy on Halloween, huge portions of turkey and pie on Thanksgiving, and cookies galore for Christmas. Along with all the food, many people tend to be less active during the months between October and January. It can be a challenge to get up and workout before the sun rises. Colder weather can make it harder to get outdoors. Evening workouts can often be skipped due to holiday parties and other obligations. With an increase of food and decrease in activity, the energy balance equation is often tipped towards weight gain. The average holiday weight gain is estimated at about 2-5 pounds. Research suggests that many people never lose the weight they gain over the holidays and, although a 2-5 pound gain does not seem like much, it can add up over the years and lead to a significant problem a decade later.
What can you do to avoid the holiday weight gain? If you are reading this blog, you are probably concerned about your health so that is a great first step. The holidays can be a challenging time because it involves managing your health while also dealing with many temptations and indulgences. It is important to remember that avoiding holiday weight gain can be achieved without becoming a scrooge and completely avoiding all holiday festivities. You can do his by coming up with strategies to keep you motivated to stay active and balance your food intake.
If you Google “avoiding holiday weight gain,” you will likely find several suggestions that are helpful and I have likely suggested many of these ideas to my clients over the years. Many of these suggestions don’t really address problems that might be getting in the way of success. For instance, one common suggestion is to get moving and be more active during the holidays. This is great, but what if this is a struggle for you during the holidays? You may benefit from the strategy of problem solving.
Step 1: Identify the barriers to success
You may be aware of the steps to problem solving. The first step involves identifying your barriers. What do you struggle with during the holiday season that prevents you from staying on track with diet and/or exercise? Do you struggle to wake up in the morning for a workout? Do you struggle with the plethora of baked goods and candy that people bring in to work?
Step 2: Identify what is in your control
When identifying barriers it is important to recognize what is in your control and what you can’t control. If you want to wake up early to workout, you can’t control the weather. You can, however, control when you go to bed the night before and making sure you set your alarm. Another example is holiday parties. You can’t control what other people bring, but you can control what you bring to the party and what you do once you get to the party.
Step 3: Come up with several solutions and make a plan
The next step is coming up with a plan. How are you going to overcome these barriers? It is often good to have more than one option and the options must be achievable and realistic. That way if you try the first option and it does now work, you can try another option. In the example the baked goods at work, you may want to have several options. For instance you can try to avoid the break room or make sure that you bring plenty of healthy snacks to keep you fueled and balance your blood sugar to avoid cravings. You likely do not have control over what people bring to the office to share, but you can always bring healthier snacks to share with everyone. A fruit or vegetable tray can be healthy options.
Step 4: Document your plan
It might be helpful to write your problem in a notebook or white board or in your calendar. This way you can document your plan and refer back to it as needed. This can also help provide motivation when you need it, especially if you write it somewhere visible such as a note on your refrigerator.
Step 5: Monitor and evaluate your progress
Another important step is to monitor your progress. You can do this by setting goals for yourself based on your plan. If you struggle to workout in the morning during the holiday season, you may want to set a goal for the number of days per week you plan to wake up and go to the gym. Will it be every morning or 3 days per week? Make sure it is a behavioral goal and make sure it is specific and measurable. That way you will know if your strategies are working.
These steps should help you stay consistent and prioritize your health during the holiday season. Don’t let the holidays be an excuse to eat and drink whatever you want and avoid exercise. If you are consistent with exercise and healthy eating, then those few indulgences likely won’t make much a difference on your waistline.