It’s one of the toughest times of year if you’re trying to lose weight or keep weight off. There are lots of food-related activities associated with the Christmas holiday, and most people don’t want to miss out on their favorite holiday dishes or treats just because they’re watching their weight. This is, of course, why so many people postpone their weight loss resolutions until January 1. But, if you’re determined to stick to your weight loss commitments even during the month of December, you probably need to begin strategizing in order to ensure success.
Blount Memorial registered dietitian Chelsi Cardoso says it all starts with a plan. “When it comes to losing weight or maintaining weight loss during the holidays, you want to form a strict plan of action to help navigate the entire season and the potential obstacles and temptations it brings,” Cardoso said. “A good way to start is by weighing yourself twice per week, which is enough to make sure you’re staying on track without removing the fun of the holiday season altogether. Be sure to weigh yourself first thing in the morning you’re your stomach is empty. Also, if you’re going to a big holiday buffet, be extremely picky, and watch those portion sizes. Be sure to only pick the foods you know you enjoy, and skip over the less-important foods,” she said.
“For many people, stress also gets in the way of a healthy lifestyle over the holidays,” Cardoso continued. “Negative feelings such as anxiety, sadness or frustration can trigger overeating and inactivity, but the trick is that positive feelings of happiness and can prompt overeating and inactivity, too. All of these are attributed to stress – or the removal of stress – so the key is to minimize stress as much as possible. Practice saying ‘no,’ delegating holiday tasks to others and staying organized. When stress does hit, avoid self-medicating with chocolate or second helpings of food,” she said. “A better response would be to go for a walk, which helps relieve stress and contributes to a more active lifestyle,” she explained.
Cardoso says other issues with weight management over the holidays arise from specific locations. “If you’re going to be eating at restaurants this season, check for low-calorie options,” she said. “If you can, try to plan what you’ll order before you get there. When ordering, be sure to ask if dishes can be cooked a different way, or if they can be prepared without added oil, butter or salt. Also, don’t be afraid to ask for foods that aren’t on the menu. You also can split a main dish with someone, or order appetizers or children’s menu items to keep portion sizes smaller. Remember, most restaurant portions are larger than the optimum size, so stop before you clean your plate and you’ll have leftovers to take home,” she explained. “As for going to other people’s houses, take a low-calorie dish to share. It is possible to stay on your diet with grace, even while dining with your loved ones,” she added.
Finally, Cardoso says, sleep is more important than you might think. “While Santa is pulling the all-nighter on Christmas Eve, remember to try to get some sleep yourself. Sleep deprivation is linked to weight gain. When you’re lacking sleep, your body has a decreased ability to regulate the hormones that help your brain determine hunger and fullness,” she explained. “It’s just as important to get adequate rest as it is to eat a healthy diet and exercise regularly,” she added.