Holiday weight gain is a real phenomenon, and it’s kind of startling. The average American gains between 5 to 10 pounds from mid-October through the New Year. From Christmas to New Years the weight gain is about two pounds on average. For those of you not very good at math, that’s only six days from Christmas to New Year’s Eve. People who are already overweight or have a higher BMI, tend to gain more weight than those with a closer to normal BMI.
It’s pretty obvious to say that delicious food is the culprit for the exuberance in weight gained during the holidays, but there are actually a few different factors that can be attributed to it.
- Stress: The holiday season breeds stressors, such as financial and familial stress.
- Food: Thanks Captain Obvious. Foods around the holidays are delicious, soul mending, life giving, chill sending…..and fat. If you ate like you did around the holidays year round you would be using a motorized chair on your next shopping trip because your little twigs would not be able to hold the ball of mass it’s supporting. Holiday foods are high in fat and carbs, there’s no two ways around it.
- Routines: Or the lack thereof. This time of year can really mess up our routines. Whether that is in the gym, our sleep schedule, or eating habits.
So do we just roll over and let the inevitable consume us? This is not a foregone conclusion, and we have a say in what we do and we don’t do.
Failure to plan, is planning to fail. Who doesn’t love a good cliché, especially when it fits so perfectly? For 10 months out of the year you know exactly what you will eat at 2 pm on a Tuesday, so why does this diligent planning go to the wayside? Know where and what you will be doing and plan ahead. Avoid going to the mall on an empty stomach. Have an idea of where you could see yourself failing on your diet and do something about it. Plug in foods that fit your goals where needed.
Try to avoid keeping junk food and holiday sweets in the house. Do not take leftovers home from family functions; I repeat, tell Grandma no.
Training and cardio
Yes, continue to train as if you were any other time of the year. I am not talking about training on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas so that you can post how hardcore you are on Instagram. That’s stupid. The holidays are a time when you should be spending time with your loved ones, not in the gym. There are 363 other days of the year to get in your training.
What I am saying here is do not let your training go to the wayside. Prioritize training and make sure when you are in the gym you are hitting it hard and with intensity. If you normally do cardio, continue to do cardio.
I would suggest that you prioritize weights over cardio during this time if you had to choose one or the other. The day before or the day after a large meal try to hit a very large muscle group like legs or back. Your body will utilize those excess calories more productively if you give it a major stimulus. Training legs has a systemic metabolic effect on the body; meaning that the entire body will have a metabolic reaction to training. Use the extra calories you know you are going to consume to push your training a little further. Increase volume or frequency to put those calories to use and grow.
We live in a world of convenience: fast food, cell phones, online shopping….and simple, convenient supplements. We all know the importance of supplements, but do we ever think about how convenient they are and the situations we can use them in. For example, earlier we said do not go shopping at the mall hungry. Say you tried to avoid this but keep seeing all these delicious sweets while shopping. Why not bring a chocolate protein shake with to help curb some of those cravings with something sweet, but will help you stay on track with your goals.
The inevitable is that you will eat poorly at least a few times during this season. It’s somewhat of a forgone conclusion. If this is the case, let’s make our food work for us. Glucose disposal aids store glucose in the muscle as glycogen as opposed to being stored as body fat. When we consume carbs the body produces insulin. Glucose disposal aids help make this process much more efficiently to help ensure we are utilizing the carbs the way we need to. I would recommend taking Redcon1 RPG with every heavy carb meal. Yes, be the guy that brings pills to the dinner table at Thanksgiving. Tell your family it could be worse, at least they aren’t drugs.
Set goals around the holidays that you know you can achieve. If you know that temptations will be too much and you will cheat, don’t say “I am going to lose 10 pounds this holiday season.” Instead try to think in terms of what truly would be a realistic expectation such as “I will maintain my current weight and physique this holiday season.” When people start seeing their goals slip away they typically tend to compound the issue by saying “well I already messed up anyways might as well keep going.”
Somewhat contrary to what was just stated is going the complete opposite direction and accepting mediocrity. Do not just throw all caution to the wind and not expect anything of yourself around the holidays. Try to keep as much normalcy in your routine as possible by being diligent in all aspects of your health journey. Christmas and Thanksgiving are only two days, meaning there are a lot of other days to chase your goals.
Eat Protein First
When consuming large holiday meals try to eat all of the protein on your plate first. This will help bring you to satiety faster than consuming large amounts of carbs. Most of the proteins during the holidays are also high in fat, so they should fill you up faster.
Not only will this help fill you up, but it will also help slow down the absorption of glucose in carbs. Slower absorption also means that blood sugar will not fluctuate as dramatically.
Do Not Drink Your Calories
This goes for any other time of year, but it is not wise to consume calories in the form of liquid. There will be many delicious drinks this time of year (yes, I am talking to you Pumpkin Spice Latte drinker). Try to consume more water around this time of year as well. Many of the holiday foods we consume are loaded in sodium, so make sure you are staying adequately hydrated. Plus, the pumps from all the sodium and water will be great!
With all of the above being said, enjoy the holidays. The holidays only come once a year so enjoy some good food and good company. Try not to dwell too much on how bad everything is, and just enjoy for a bit. It will be good for your mind, soul, and physique. Stress is inevitable, junk food is inevitable, but your goals coming to a screeching halt is not imminent.