Holiday Weight Gain Won’t Happen To You – If You Do These 12 Things
There are 12 reasons people may have holiday weight gain. Thankfully, though, we have 12 fixes so it doesn’t happen to you.
The truth behind holiday weight gain
Blame hygge. Blame the cold. Blame the chocolates and eggnogg. But the real issue for holiday weight gain is hibernation. This is when we avoid going outside and we tend to over indulge on comfort foods!
Exactly how much weight are we gaining? Clinical pharmacist and nutritionist, James B. LaValle, points to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that reported Americans gain an average of 1.3 pounds during the holiday and winter months. Granted, our neighbours to the south celebrate Thanksgiving a lot closer to Christmas and Hanukkah than we do. But what we do share, he says, is the fact that it may take up to five months to lose holiday weight gain – if we don’t actively pursue to burn it off.
Keep reading and you will learn about why we experience holiday weight gain and how to prevent it.
#1 You’re just not exercising as much as you should
There is a reason this is the number one reason for holiday weight gain. We are staying indoors more and that leads to less physical activity, says LaValle. And then with holiday parties, get-togethers, shopping and so on, our tight schedules move fitness down on the list of priorities.
The holiday weight gain fix: Aim to stay fit. “Make sure you get at least 30 to 45 minutes of exercise four to five times a week,” says LaValle. No time? “Do power walks in the mall, take dance lessons, go to yoga classes, get on the treadmill in the gym, do whatever you can to get your body moving.”
#2 Your body is seriously cold
Studies report that a lower core body temperature is a contributing factor in obesity. Why? Some experts suggest that a low temp (below 37 degrees Celsius) means a slow metabolism.
The holiday weight gain fix: Other than boosting your metabolism with these tips, you can also simply help your body get warm. Wear clothing appropriate for cold weather, suggests LaValle. “Double up on socks if needed and wear gloves when driving or outside. Keep your core body temperature toasty warm.”
#3 Holiday foods are just too indulgent
Research shows that we tend to eat less vegetables and consume more calories in the winter, as well as more fat and saturated fat, says LaValle.
The holiday weight gain fix: Be conscious about what you are eating. Choose healthy, well balanced meals that are low in carbohydrates and high in lean protein and fresh vegetables.
#4 Our body hurts more in the winter
“Joint pain and chronic inflammation can occur at any time of the year, but it is in these cold and wet months when inflammation and pain is at its peak,” says LaValle. He points to studies that show that symptoms of osteo- and rheumatoid arthritis become more severe during wet weather. “Worse yet, is chronic pain that can lead to moving less, more stress and weight gain, so keeping pain and inflammation under control is very important.”
The holiday weight gain fix: “If inflammation and joint stiffness and/or pain is a problem, take curcumin to help your body better respond to inflammation,” he says. “If the pain is unbearable, see your health care provider.”
#5 You’re not sleeping enough
“Most people have trouble sleeping because they can’t shut off their brains from the stresses of the day,” says LaValle. And the holidays bring on new agitators. You might feel there just isn’t enough time or money to get you through the season, he suggests. Not to mention holiday parties that have us out later than usual, which end up affecting our nighttime routines. “If you sleep only sleep five hours a night come winter, you may gain weight and increase food cravings. Other issues like hormonal imbalances, cardiovascular problems like increased blood pressure can pop up, too.”
The holiday weight gain fix: For sleep issues, first try exercise, mindfulness or even deep breathing to download the stress of the day, suggests LaValle. “Sometimes stress can’t be avoided but you can work with your body to overcome the effects of stress.” Your health care provider might suggest the hormone supplement melatonin, which can help synchronize the sleep cycle so you go to bed earlier, he adds.
#6 You are vitamin D deficient
Although the majority of Canadians are vitamin D deficient year-round, the rates increase in the winter months, especially as when our daylight hours shrink around the holidays. With a lack of sunshine and going outdoors less often, our vitamin D levels suffer during the winter, says LaValle. A lack of vitamin D has been linked to sleep problems, as well as depression, weight gain and other problems related to the immune system, diabetes and inflammatory and autoimmune conditions.
The holiday weight gain fix: Take a vitamin D supplement (vitamin D3 if you’re vegan or vegetarian). LaValle recommends: Take 5,000 IU daily, although some people may need more (ask your healthcare provider). He notes that most multivitamins have vitamin D, but they may not have vitamin D3. Vitamin D3 is the most absorbable and useful form and the form recommended for you to take.
#7 You have the Winter Blues
Not everyone is happy about the holidays. The cause might be seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.). LaValle describes SAD as “a form of depression commonly seen during the holidays and over winter.” It’s happens when we are low on serotonin, the “calming” neurochemical in the brain. “This can lead to increased anxiety, nervousness, problems sleeping, mood disorders, as well as cravings and binge eating – all proven to lead to weight gain.”
The holiday weight gain fix: Those affected by SAD are most likely low in vitamin D. Also, a natural way to support serotonin levels is with the amino acid 5-HTP. LaValle often recommends 50 to 100 milligrams up to 2 times a day. For more serious mental health issues like depression, seek professional help.
#8 You are stressed!
There is a lot to do this time of year. And who has time for it all? And it has to be perfect, right!? The holidays are both a time of joy and a time of stress. And it is also when we over commit ourselves. “Stress alters brain chemicals like serotonin,” says LaValle. When serotonin levels fall, cravings increase. It can also affect our metabolism too.
The holiday weight gain fix: “One of the best ways to deal is to have good time management,” says LaValle. Plus, then you won’t be mindlessly eating or eating on the run. For stress-related eating, he has himself used the plant-based supplement Relora, to deal with stress hormones and stress-related eating.
#9 Lots of big, celebratory meals
We all overeat during the holidays, but and that can be a cause of holiday weight gain. And “Overindulging on meat and sugar can leave you feeling bloated and gassy,” says LaValle.
The holiday weight gain fix: “First, make a plan,” he says. “Drink a green drink or a protein shake before going to an event where you know lots of food is going to tempt you.” The protein will make you less hungry. Also consider probiotics and digestive enzymes to help with bloating and gas. (LaValle is a spokesperson for Wakunaga, a maker of supplements, including Kyo-Green Powder and Kyolic Aged Garlic.)
#10 Endless snacking
Chocolates, candy canes, cookies, oh my. Not to mention chips, pretzels and cracker. The office snack table is at its busiest this time of year. LaValle says: “A study of the blood sugar control of type 2 diabetics during winter months reported that hemoglobin A1c levels – HgA1c, the measure of glycemic control – increased significantly during winter months, leading to an increase in diabetic complications.” And in the healthy individual, that may mean extra weight.
The holiday weight gain fix: “One of the best things you can do to avoid the sleep feeling after meals is to eat less starch and sugar,” says LaValle. “Less bread, stuffing and sweets will prevent blood sugar from spiking and crashing. When your blood sugar spikes up and down it causes more inflammatory chemicals to be released in your body. Inflammatory chemicals trigger insulin resistance and leads to storing fat and losing muscle.”
#11 Your immune system is weak
“The immune system can be taxed more during the winter, so keeping your immunity primed and ready to fight during these months is extremely important in keeping the weight off,” says LaValle.
The holiday weight gain fix: It’s all about sleep, hygiene and watching our sugar intake, says LaValle. He also recommends supplements for boosting the immune system, such as Kyolic aged garlic extract and vitamin C.
#12 You’re drinking too much
We’ve all been known to raise a glass or two (or more) in December. And those drinks add up. LaValle says that beer, wine and most liquors have about 100 to 150 calories per serving. “The empty calories associated with beer, wine and alcohol can contribute to not only weight gain, but to sleep and liver/detoxification problems as well.”
The holiday weight gain fix: “If you’re going to indulge in alcohol, set a reasonable limit on your consumption during the holiday season,” he says. “This can have a significant impact on the winter weight gain.”