Healthwatch by Shyft

Managing Holiday Weight Gain: Myths v/s Realities

Managing Holiday Weight Gain: Myths v/s Realities
Content
Content

December marks the height of the holiday season – with Christmas, end-of-year celebrations, weddings and general festive spirit. But it also brings in a challenge familiar to those of us who are trying to manage weight gain or stick to consistent nutrition routines: holiday weight gain.

If you’re finding it difficult to keep on track of your health and fitness goals this time of year, you’re not alone.

Is holiday weight gain real?

Unfortunately, yes. Research has shown that most people tend to have weight gain over the winter holidays (from mid-November to mid-January). This is because of a number of factors –  reduced activity during the colder winter months, increased alcohol intake, larger portions when it comes to holiday foods. There are also several psychosocial factors involved. We tend to meet with friends and family more during this period, we have a more relaxed, social eating environment – all of these play a role in holiday weight gain.  

The good news is, the actual extent of holiday weight gain might be less significant than most of us believe. Very few people tend to have drastic weight gain – most studies suggest that this weight gain is under 1 kg, and typically range around 0.5 kg. However, this does vary from person to person. With some individuals, especially those already overweight or prone to obesity, these gains are more. Over time, this can lead to increased gains. 

Strategies to manage holiday weight gain

So, is holiday weight gain inevitable? No! Studies have found that making small behavioral changes can go a long way in avoiding excessive weight gain during the holidays. Here’s how:

Learn to recognize portion sizes

Perhaps the single biggest factor when it comes to overeating, especially during the holidays, is not controlling portion sizes. When food is laid out in a buffet, whether it’s at a holiday party or a wedding, it’s easy to overload your plate – and we tend to eat everything that we take, leading to overeating.  One quick behavior you can adopt to manage this is to choose a smaller plate and avoid going for seconds. For calorie-dense foods like ice-creams, cookies, and desserts, choose a small ‘custard-cup’ size bowl. 

More often than not, recommended portion sizes are much smaller than you think. One quick tip is to use your hand to measure your portion sizes. Here’s a quick guide:

Hand sizes as guide for portion sizes

Balance your plate

What goes in your plate can significantly impact your holiday weight gain. Holiday meals are typically laden with carbs, but it’s important to balance your meals with proteins and fiber. Proteins have been proven to reduce calorie intake by promoting satiety – or the feeling of fullness. Fiber – mostly in the form of vegetables, fruits and legumes – also promotes fullness, aids digestion and is a great source of vitamins and micronutrients.

An easy guide to follow is to fill half your plate with vegetables and fruits – the more colorful, the better (richer in antioxidants). A quarter of your other half should be filled with protein. Remember to choose a leaner protein (like chicken) over fattier meats wherever possible, and a grilled or baked option rather than a breaded, battered or deep-fried one. The other quarter of your plate can be carbohydrates. Choose complex carbohydrates (like whole wheats, beans and brown rice) over simple ones (pasta, white rice, bread or mashed potatoes) wherever possible. Limit the amount of high-calorie sauces or gravy you consume. 

Choose your dessert wisely

When it comes to dessert, remember that looks can be deceiving. You might think an apple pie is ‘healthier’ because it has fruits in it but a pumpkin pie might actually be a better choice – since it has about 100 calories fewer in a slice because it doesn’t have a top crust (more crust equals more calories). Similarly, when choosing between Christmas cookies and milk chocolate, you might think they’re about the same, but cookies have a lot more icing sugar on it, which makes their overall sugar content much higher than a piece, or even two, of chocolate. But, if you’re faced with a choice between fruit cake and chocolate cake, a slice of fruit cake might be a marginally better option since it has more fiber in it from the dried fruits, and a lower sugar content. 

Use substitutes wherever possible

If you’re hosting at home, use substitutes to make your end-of-year dinners a little healthier. For example, if you’re roasting chicken, skip the lard or fat (butter/oils) and dry roast it to significantly reduce calories. Consider making sweet potato bakes or mash instead of normal potatoes – even though they’re slightly higher in calories than regular potatoes they take longer to digest as they’re complex carbs, and are richer in nutrients like antioxidants like beta carotene and Vitamin C. Use cooking methods like broiling and baking instead of frying. For thick soups that use heavy cream or recipes that call for cream cheese, consider greek yogurt instead to up their protein content. 

When it comes to baking, consider halving the sugar content that the recipe asks for, or replacing butter with mashed bananas and all-purpose flour with oats flour. Add dried fruit to your cakes instead of chocolate chips or marshmallows. 

Be mindful while snacking

Snacking mindlessly at a holiday party can lead us to consume way more calories than we intend to. At home, the more accessible your treats are (laying out cookies or other sweet treats v/s keeping them in the kitchen), the more likely you are to mindlessly snack on them.  Remember to pay attention to your hunger cues while snacking. 

All snacks are also not created equal. If you’re choosing between chips and dip or cheese and crackers at a party, while their calorie counts might be similar, cheese will provide you with significantly more calcium (30 g of cheddar or a low-fat cheese will have about 200 mg, almost 20% of the recommended daily intake), and it’ll also likely keep you full for longer. Pairing it with fruits (like apples or pears) instead of crackers makes your snack fiber-rich as well. 

Similarly, choose dried fruits like figs and dates – which are both rich in iron, potassium and magnesium – instead of cold cuts or sugary snacks. 

Studies have also conclusively proven that eating rate affects energy intake. In other words, eating slowly and being more mindful while eating can reduce your overall calorie consumption. 

Cheese and crackers are a healthy choice

Watch your beverage intake

Beverages, including alcoholic and sugary drinks, are a big factor when it comes to holiday weight gain. If you’re consuming alcohol, skip the tonic or sugary mixer and choose sparkling water or soda instead. For cocktails, consider adding flavor with vanilla, lemon or cinnamon instead of using sugar syrups. For traditional holiday recipes like eggnog or hot chocolate, substitute the heavy cream or milk with lower calorie options.

Don’t ‘save up’ for bigger meals

Contrary to popular belief, ‘saving up’ for a big dinner by starving through the day can actually be counterproductive. Fasting yourself can lead to slowing down your metabolism, resulting in more of your big meal to be stored as fat – since your body thinks you’re in survival mode. It can also lead to overeating or eating too quickly when you actually have your big meal. Instead, having a protein-rich breakfast and a moderate lunch, and having some fiber-rich snacks, like a whole fruit, ahead of your Christmas party can actually help you make better choices when it comes to eating. 

Takeaway

Don’t be too hard on yourself! Remember that everyone responds differently to food. Some might find it easier to resist temptations, while others might be more drawn to the social aspect of eating. The trick is to find what works for you, and enjoy the festivities with a balanced and conscious approach.


Author:
Shyft Health

Shyft

linkedin
Shyft is your trusted source for health and wellness insights. We collaborate with a network of writers and health experts to curate evidence-based content. This content is further vetted and reviewed by our team of internal experts. Our platform is dedicated to providing you with reliable, accessible health information so you can make informed choices for a healthier life. read more

Over 20,000 customers have reduced their symptoms and improved their health by consulting Shyft's Clinical Nutritionists. When are you starting?

READ MORE ON :

Article By:

Our experts continually monitor the health and wellness space, and we update our articles
when new information becomes available.

Read more

Continue to read on a range of topics related to Exercise, Nutrition, Mental Health and Sleep Health.

What Do Multivitamin Tablets Actually Contain?

As the world moves to quick commerce and quick answers, it’s not uncommon to look for quick solutions to solve nutritional deficiencies. The popularity of multivitamin tablets points to the same. Between 2000 and 2017, retail sales of nutritional vitamins have more than doubled from $17 billion to over $36 billion. 52% of Americans state now that they take a form of dietary supplement, with over 65% of the UK public saying the same thing. The first one-a-day multivitamin appeared… Read more

What Do Multivitamin Tablets Actually Contain?

What Do Multivitamin Tablets Actually Contain?

As the world moves to quick commerce and quick answers, it’s not uncommon to look for quick solutions to solve nutritional deficiencies. The popularity of multivitamin tablets points to the same. Between 2000 and 2017, retail sales of nutritional vitamins have more than doubled from $17 billion to over $36 billion. 52% of Americans state now that they take a form of dietary supplement, with over 65% of the UK public saying the same thing. The first one-a-day multivitamin appeared…

book

4 minutes

|

calendar

27 Apr 2023

Understanding The Paleo Diet

4 minutes

06 Apr 2023

Understanding The Paleo Diet

Have you ever wondered how the hunter-gatherers had so much energy to live in all extreme conditions and thrive? Do you want to experience the benefits of the diet they consumed before modern farming emerged? The paleo diet, as it is called in the nutrition zone, consists of foods that individuals could obtain by hunting and gathering in the past. What is the Paleo Diet? The Paleo diet is essentially a keto diet but packed with all the benefits that… Read more

Understanding The Paleo Diet

Understanding The Paleo Diet

Have you ever wondered how the hunter-gatherers had so much energy to live in all extreme conditions and thrive? Do you want to experience the benefits of the diet they consumed before modern farming emerged? The paleo diet, as it is called in the nutrition zone, consists of foods that individuals could obtain by hunting and gathering in the past. What is the Paleo Diet? The Paleo diet is essentially a keto diet but packed with all the benefits that…

book

4 minutes

|

calendar

06 Apr 2023

Healthy Dining Out: Tips and Tricks for Sticking to Your Diet

Sticking to a healthy diet can be challenging, especially when dining out. With the availability of delicious yet unhealthy options on restaurant menus, it can be tempting to indulge in your favourite dishes. However, with a little planning and mindfulness, it is possible to enjoy a nutritious meal while dining out. Here are some tips on how to stick to a healthy diet when eating out. Choose the Right Restaurant When it comes to dining out, choosing the right restaurant… Read more

Featured

Healthy Dining Out: Tips and Tricks for Sticking to Your Diet

Healthy Dining Out: Tips and Tricks for Sticking to Your Diet

Sticking to a healthy diet can be challenging, especially when dining out. With the availability of delicious yet unhealthy options on restaurant menus, it can be tempting to indulge in your favourite dishes. However, with a little planning and mindfulness, it is possible to enjoy a nutritious meal while dining out. Here are some tips on how to stick to a healthy diet when eating out. Choose the Right Restaurant When it comes to dining out, choosing the right restaurant…

book

4 minutes

|

calendar

06 Aug 2023

Featured

CALORIE COUNTING 101

4 minutes

06 Apr 2023

CALORIE COUNTING 101

“Eat less, exercise more” is the norm to lose weight. But is it as easy as it sounds?  The popular school of thought says that weight loss is all about burning more calories than you eat. However, you can only burn a certain amount of calories in a day. What you can adjust according to preference, is the number of calories you consume. Yet, it is not that simple. In the modern world of food, regulating your caloric intake can… Read more

CALORIE COUNTING 101

CALORIE COUNTING 101

“Eat less, exercise more” is the norm to lose weight. But is it as easy as it sounds?  The popular school of thought says that weight loss is all about burning more calories than you eat. However, you can only burn a certain amount of calories in a day. What you can adjust according to preference, is the number of calories you consume. Yet, it is not that simple. In the modern world of food, regulating your caloric intake can…

book

4 minutes

|

calendar

06 Apr 2023

Recipes to manage Weight Loss, approved by nutritionists

View all
Understanding Metabolism

Mushroom Matar

A delightful combination of tender mushrooms and green peas cooked in a flavorful blend of spices.

13 INGREDIENTS

|

60 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Stir Fry Mixed Vegetable

Sauteed vegetables smothered in a quick sweet and savory sauce - a delicious option perfect as a main course or side.

11 INGREDIENTS

|

30 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

White Chicken Curry

A milder yet delicious version of the classic chicken curry.

3 INGREDIENTS

|

45 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Beetroot Paratha

A healthy and nutrient-dense red colored flatbread recipe made with beetroot puree. Perfect to be served with any choice of dry or gravy based curries.

8 INGREDIENTS

|

30 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Thai Massaman Tofu Curry

An aromatic curry with tangy, luxurious taste made with a variety of whole spices.

20 INGREDIENTS

|

30 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Berry Smoothie

A refreshing and healthy combination of fruit and yogurt with the goodness of coconut water.

5 INGREDIENTS

|

10 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Chicken Clear Soup

A light, hearty and delicious soup with a boost of iron.

7 INGREDIENTS

|

30 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Drumstick Soup

A nutrient dense soup with the strong aroma & flavour of drumstick.

6 INGREDIENTS

|

30 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Bajra Cauliflower Roti

A nutritious accompaniment for your meals!

7 INGREDIENTS

|

30 MINS.

Understanding Metabolism

Hara Bhara Kebab

A quick starter and snack combinibg the power of spinach and peas

8 INGREDIENTS

|

60 MINS.

View all