The purpose of the holiday hold’em challenge is to maintain your weight over the next two months. In the stressful holiday times, let’s not focus on losing lots of weight or trying to make huge changes. Instead, let’s aim to maintain weight. It’s a more reasonable goal and less likely to leave you frustrated at the end of December, but at the same time it encourages you to focus on making smart choices. Plus, when New Year’s Resolutions roll around, you won’t be setting a goal to drop the holiday weight you gained!
Let’s get real for a second. There are tons of misconceptions floating around the internet about people gaining 10-20 pounds over the holidays. This isn’t true. You see, most people only gain a pound or two on average over the holidays. But the problem is many have a hard time losing that weight the next year. If this happens every holiday season, it adds up and becomes really detrimental over time (think an extra 10-20 pounds every 10 years).
Plus, those who are already overweight may be more likely to gain additional weight over the holidays compared to those who are normal weight (and this applies to children as well). About 15% of people gain 5 pounds or more each holiday season.
And last but not least, even if weight doesn’t change, some studies show that body composition changes. People stop working out as much during the busy holiday season, so they lose muscle mass and gain fat mass. Their weight may be equal, but their body composition becomes significantly less healthy.
The National Weight Control Registry tracks individuals who have successfully lost weight, and more importantly, maintained that loss over time. But even individuals who have been successful over years with weight loss still often struggle to maintain weight over the holidays. In fact, one study reports that about 38% of previous successful weight losers still ended up gaining more than 2 pounds over the holidays. Those who are successful at maintaining their weight over the holiday period use several strategies that you may find useful:
Create a better exercise routine. This can come in several forms, like exercising more minutes per week or incorporating high intensity intervals into your normal workout time to increase calorie burn.
Pay attention to your weight if you’re concerned. Many individuals regularly weigh in on the scale (for example, once a week) so they notice early if their weight is starting to creep up. While I don’t recommend weighing in everyday – especially if that number on the scale tends to affect your mood and causes you to “shame spiral” – a once a week weigh in can be useful for staying accountable.
Stay tuned into your eating habits. Be aware of the often oversized portions served at the holidays, as well as the abundance of super sugary/fatty treats that are high in calories. Remember mindful eating – eat when hungry, and stop when you are full. Along the same lines, don’t eat something if it’s not delicious to you. Also, you may want to keep a food journal to have a better awareness of your eating habits during this time.
Control your environment as much as possible. This helps set you up for success. For example, if you lose all willpower around cookies and pies, keep them out of the house the majority of the season. Indulge in your favorite treats on Thanksgiving or Christmas, but then send the leftovers home with your guests. If you find yourself subject to great portions at the holidays, try using a smaller plate to help control that. Skipping the gym often after work? Change into your workout clothes before you leave the office and head straight there before going home. The list goes on and on.
My challenge to you is to avoid weight gain throughout November and December! If you want some accountability, email me your weight this week. Then I’ll follow up with you the first week of December and the first week of January via email to ask for your latest weigh in. Sometimes it’s easier to stick with your goals when you know you’ll have to check in with someone later!