Enjoy the Holidays Without Adding Inches to Your Waist

Holiday weight gain doesn’t have to be the norm. Here’s how to avoid overeating during the holiday season.

Holiday weight gain is commonplace for many. When faced with a season of once-a-year holiday foods, it’s easy to overindulge and accept putting on a few extra pounds as a normal part of this time of year.

Do you go into the holidays with the expectation that you’ll gain weight? This expectation will likely affect your behavior and thus your chance of neglecting your weight-management goals. If you’re convinced that holiday weight gain is inevitable, you’re probably not going to do much to prevent it.

Why It’s So Easy to Gain Weight Over the Holidays

You can probably name some triggers that cause you to overeat in your day-to-day life. Maybe you eat too much when you’re stressed or use weekends as an excuse to eat cheat meals. If you only have one or two food triggers, you can probably manage pretty well most of the year. But when the holidays arrive, it’s not just one or two triggers anymore.

Here are some common holiday overeating triggers. You’ll notice how every one of them seems to be coming at you from all sides during this time (and it goes on for weeks!). It’s amazing we don’t gain even more weight than we often do during the holidays!

8 Reasons Why We Overeat During the Holidays:

  1. Longer meals. Holiday meals tend to be more leisurely. The longer you sit at the table, however, the more likely you are to overeat. You’re bound to grab that extra spoonful of potatoes and second slice of pie. To signal to yourself that your meal is over, try taking your plate into the kitchen or popping a breath mint in your mouth.

  2. Drinking alcohol. A drink or two can loosen your inhibitions – often bringing on the “What the heck, it’s the holidays!” attitude. Your best defense here is setting a limit of how many drinks you will have. Stick to it while also alternating alcoholic drinks with calorie-free beverages.

  3. Exposure to a wide variety of foods. Having plenty of foods to taste and sample can lead to overeating. This is because it takes longer for your taste buds to get bored. To handle this, you can either try to limit your choices or keep portions smaller if you’re going for variety.

  4. Getting out of your usual routine. One reason people overeat on the weekends is because they’re out of their usual routine. The holiday season can seem like a weekend that lasts for a month, but it’s unlikely that you’ll overindulge in every one of your meals during this time. Try to stick to your usual eating routine and make a commitment to stay on track with exercise, too.

  5. Stress. Holiday time is fun, but it can also be stressful. If stress is one of your overeating triggers, you’ll want to find other ways to calm down. Try to carve some downtime for yourself so you’re not overcommitted, and be sure to set time aside for the best stress buster of all: exercise. Rather than turning to food when you’re stressed, have a cup of tea, call a friend, take a walk or meditate for a few minutes instead.

  6. Family-style meals. When serving dishes are placed on the table – as they often are at holiday meals – overeating is encouraged. Second helpings (and thirds…) can easily occur. After getting your first helping, try passing bowls and platters of tempting foods to the opposite end of the table to get them out of your line of sight.

  7. Serving yourself from large containers. Research in behavioral psychology tells us that we serve ourselves more food from large containers than we do from smaller ones. Holiday platters are often gigantic, and food is piled up so high that even if you take an enormous serving, it hardly makes a dent. Keep an image in your head of the portion sizes you know you should eat and do your best to stick to it.

  8. Increased exposure to food. Ever notice how during the holidays there’s food everywhere you go? From goodies in your kitchen to gift baskets arriving unexpectedly at your door, you’re exposed to more temptation at this time of the year than any other. While it’s hard to limit your exposure to all these treats, you can change the way you respond when you see them. Rather than letting your impulses get the best of you, stop and ask yourself, “Did I plan to eat this?” If you didn’t plan for it, didn’t want it until you saw it or wouldn’t go out of your way to get it, you should probably limit your consumption of it.