Losing or maintaining weight over the holidays can be a struggle. While the average holiday weight gain is about 3% of body weight, or 3.35 lbs, research shows that although weight gain can be slight for some, it can also last a lifetime.
“Weight management is complex, and can be particularly difficult during the holiday season,” says Domenica Rubino, founder and director of the Washington Center for Weight Management and Research in Arlington, Virginia. “Whether it’s seasonal stress, busy schedules, or cravings for the sweet or savory, we understand how personal this journey can be.”
Dr. Rubino’s team of weight management specialists works to develop individualized treatment plans to improve their patients’ health and wellbeing. “Together, our team is focused on understanding all aspects of individual health and the ways in which they contribute to weight and related medical conditions, such as diabetes,” says Dr. Rubino.
To help you plan for this holiday season, the team is pleased to offer the following tips for weight management:
- Plan a balanced plate. Meal planning combined with a balanced diet can help you (and your family) eat well-balanced meals and avoid cravings. Stack up on vegetables, lean proteins such as chicken and fish, and whole grains during the holidays – and year round.
“Protein and fiber are satiating or filling nutrients, which means they will help keep you full and satisfied, and they also help prevent the ups and downs that can come with consuming more refined carbohydrates, like sugar,” advises Trocchio. “This doesn’t mean you have to eliminate sugar entirely, but rather incorporate your holiday favorites into your balanced meal.”
- Stay mindful. Mindfulness is about paying attention to your experience, cravings and physical cues when eating. How do you stay mindful? Eat only when you feel physically hungry. Eat slowly. Avoid distractions. Appreciate your food. Notice when you’re feeling full. And notice how food impacts your feelings.
“Mindfulness allows for that “pause” when eating or considering eating to decide if you are in fact hungry or not; it gives you a second to make a choice with food in a moment versus being reactive,” says Dr. Rubino. “But more importantly, mindfulness is a tool that can allow you to learn about your eating experiences (without judgment). During the holidays, it may mean the difference between pausing to assess the meal and determine what foods you really want to enjoy versus taking some of everything out of habit.”
- Keep active. Staying active doesn’t always mean hitting the gym. Integrating physical activity throughout your day can help burn calories. Exercise physiologist Rachel Trope’s advice: “Try to find balance in exercise through mobility and stretching. Keeping active through the holidays can have benefits beyond the scale. Movement helps with mood and stress management, so you can almost think of it as a tool to make the holidays more manageable. You can also make it a family event by doing turkey trots, walks around the neighborhood, throwing the football around in the backyard, or taking everyone ice skating.”
Identify coping skills for stress and emotions. The holiday season can be stressful and full of emotions - happy, sad or otherwise. Many of us succumb to emotional eating – turning to food to feel better rather than addressing the true underlying problem. Learn to recognize your triggers during the holidays and try to identify other ways to feed your feelings that don’t involve food. Your “outlets” will be individual to you, but examples include gifting yourself a massage, calling a friend or family member, writing in a journal, or carving out “me” time to read your favorite magazine.
- Create change. Small steps can go a long way to change your habits, even through the holidays. Consider introducing a new dish at holiday meals, one focused on increasing vegetable options. Or try starting new traditions at family gatherings that focus beyond food, such as game nights or sled riding.