The holidays are upon us! It’s a time to celebrate, reflect, connect … and feast. Here’s the question: how can we fully embrace the season without entering the new year looking like Santa? According to a report in The New England Journal of Medicine, between mid-November and mid-January the average American adult gains about a pound. While that may not seem like much, this weight is typically not lost and contributes to overall ongoing weight gain. But fear not! Here are five easy ways to avoid the “Santa Syndrome”!
- Get Active! A lot of holiday traditions can be fairly sedentary, such as going out to eat, watching holiday movies, etc. Make sure to balance your calendar with plenty of movement – such as walking by light displays, going ice skating, or signing up for a fitness challenge at work or the gym. If the weather outside is frightful, taking a walk in the mall can be delightful (and doubles as a way to cross some gifts off your list!)
- Don’t Stress! The hustle and bustle of the holidays, gloomy weather, and family dynamics can easily create a powerful cocktail of anxiety and/or depression. However, besides taking a toll on the immune system, stress also boosts cortisol levels, which can throw off your metabolism and cause cravings (often for calorie-dense food). Protect yourself from turning into a Scrooge by making a plan for self-care during this time, including healthy meals, adequate sleep, and time to relax and decompress.
- Indulge in Moderation! Keeping portion sizes small and snacking to a minimum is important year-round, but can be especially challenging during the sea of baked delights that rises during the holidays. It may not be jolly, but maintaining awareness of the calories you consume can help keep that waistline from expanding. This exercise calculator is a handy tool for determining how many minutes of jumping jacks it would take to burn a certain number of calories. To put things in perspective, it would take a person who weighs 150 pounds two minutes of intense jumping jacks to burn the calories consumed in a single mini candy cane (17 calories). You can test other food items here: https://www.sparkpeople.com/resource/calories_burned.asp?exercise=111
- Get Your Fill of the Good Stuff! While many holiday foods tend to be carbohydrate-heavy, proteins and fibers create a sense of satisfaction or “fullness”. Make sure your plate is laden with healthy proteins, vegetables and fiber-rich foods before reaching for those rolls and desserts. Using small plates and avoiding returning for seconds can also help ward off those extra calories.
- Get Creative! There are plenty of non-food-related holiday activities in which you can partake, such as: making crafts and/or gifts, volunteering to serve a charity, singing carols, decorating the house or office, visiting holiday train/light displays, playing board games with friends/family, and writing/sending cards to spread cheer.
Wishing you a very merry holiday season and a happy new year!