While the holidays are an exciting and joyous time, they can also lead to unnecessary weight gain for many people. The extra pounds that people pack on during the holidays are quite common, but that doesn't mean that they won't affect your health. In fact, recent studies have shown that many people fail to lose those extra pounds over the following year, contributing to slow and steady weight gain as a person gets older. This could potentially lead to an individual becoming overweight or even obese, so it's important to be vigilant of your holiday weight gain and take steps to prevent it. In this article, you'll discover the most common reasons for holiday weight gain and tips for staying at a healthy weight.
1. Food Availability
It's no surprise that the traditional holiday foods are a contributing factor to holiday weight gain. Some of the traditional treats and desserts for Thanksgiving, Christmas and other winter holidays are packed with calories and fat. Things like pecan pie, pumpkin pie, holiday cookies, candies and more are all things that people may encounter regularly during the holiday season. The availability of these foods, even if you aren't the one making them, can lead to poor eating choices during the holidays.
How to Avoid It: Don't stop yourself from eating these treats entirely or you might find yourself binging on them later. Instead, be careful about portion control. Choose one dessert instead of trying a little of everything that's offered. You can also look online for healthy ways to make your favorite desserts. Often times, a few ingredient substitutions can significantly cut back on the amount of calories and fat in a particular dish.
2. Lack of Exercise
There are a host of reasons that contribute to people working out less during the holidays. Traveling to see family and friends, and going to holiday parties can cut into your workout schedule, and fewer hours of daylight combined with colder weather can limit your outdoor activities. Additionally, the exhaustion of shopping for gifts, making elaborate meals or planning big parties can lead to less energy left for exercising. When less exercise is combined with a few bad food choices, it doesn't take long for the extra pounds to start showing up on the scale.
How to Avoid It: It can be hard to avoid the busy schedule that comes along with the holidays, but that doesn't mean you have to cut out exercise entirely. Even if you're busy on a particular day, try to fit in at least half of the exercises you would have done on a normal day. Also, add in more exercise in little ways to make up for lost time. While shopping, park further away from stores and take the stairs instead of the escalator.
The holidays can be filled with stress, whether it's trying to get your holiday cards sent out on time or finding the right present for your spouse. Additionally, many people deal with emotional stress associated with their families during this time of year. The holidays also mark a peak in issues for many people who deal with depression, known as the holiday or Christmas blues. In many cases, this stress can lead to a lack of sleep, overeating or putting off physical activity, all of which can contribute to weight gain.
How to Avoid It: Cut back on your obligations during the holidays if you feel your busy schedule will seriously stress you out. Additionally, those who deal with mental struggles or emotional issues during the holidays should consider seeing a therapist in the months leading up to the holidays. Taking these steps before stress occurs can keep you mentally healthy while also helping you make the right food and exercise choices during the holidays.
4. Less Sunlight
During the winter months, some people suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. This temporary episode of depression is affected by lack of exposure to sunlight, among other things. People with this condition have an increased appetite and a lack of energy, both of which can result in holiday weight gain.
How to Avoid It: Make the most of the hours of sunlight by going outside for lunch or getting a quick walk in before work in the morning. You can also buy special lamps which provide extra light to ease the symptoms of SAD. You can also see a doctor to find out if drugs may help with your condition.
Some people are more predisposed to winter weight gain, perhaps because of genetics. Some researchers believe our bodies tend to keep extra weight during the winter months to echo the weight gain that was needed hundreds of years ago for people to survive through the cold weather.
How to Avoid It: While a few extra pounds may be part of your body's natural cycle, your weight gain should never be dramatic due to this biological factor. Allow yourself a pound or two of fluctuation, but be sure to keep eating healthy and exercising regularly to prevent any further weight gain.