Plan ahead to beat holiday weight gain


Holiday time means breaking bread with loved ones and enjoying sweet gifts from well-meaning neighbors and co-workers. But those indulgences can add up. In fact, American adults will gain an average of one pound during the holiday season.

One pound might not seem like much, but over the years those pounds add up, creating a new baseline weight. This extra girth can take its toll on personal health and contribute to conditions like diabetes, heart disease and stroke.

Make a nutrition plan

Telling yourself that you’ll deal with the extra weight after the new year is often ineffective. Instead, avoid putting the weight on in the first place by:

  • Prioritizing healthy foods such as vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. By filling up on the healthy foods first, you’ll have less room for sweets.
  • Being extra vigilant about counting calories. If you consume too many calories in the morning, choose a low-calorie option for lunch and dinner. Also, give yourself weekly “cheat” calories that you can use whenever you want. But when they’re gone, they’re gone.
  • Filling up on water. Unsweetened caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea are also OK, in moderation.
  • Eating several smaller meals throughout the day to keep you feeling full.

Find motivation for movement

With many extra obligations during the holidays, exercise often takes a back seat. But physical activity not only combats weight gain, it helps elevate mood and reduce holiday stress. Prioritize movement by:

  • You may have to give up something this time of year. Scale back on party time or wake up just 15 or 20 minutes early to find a few extra minutes for exercise.
  • Breaking your exercise routine into a few shorter sessions. Three 15-minute walks are just as effective as one 45-minute walk. You don’t need a trip to the gym to add some movement in your day.

Focus on prevention

Most people will make — and quickly break — their resolutions for diet and exercise. Don’t fall into the trap of thinking you’ll overcome your holiday indulgences after the New Year. Instead, focus on making small, achievable goals aimed at preventing weight gain altogether.

You can learn more about nutrition dos and don’ts, including 17 Diet Myths, from the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition.