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Tools for maintaining not gaining over the holidays

11/4/2019 by Rose Prissel, RDN, and Michaeleen Burroughs, RDN


From November through New Year's, a host of holidays tempt us with festive foods and beverages. It's so hard to resist! You're not alone in trying to fend off gaining extra pounds during the holiday foodfest. A recent study shows that half the annual weight gain in the U.S. happens between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve. The good news is while most people only gain a pound or two, the bad news is they usually don't shed them after the holidays pass. Over the years, those extra pounds add up. 

So this holiday season, make it your goal to maintain not gain. Here are some tips to help you celebrate, but in moderation:

  • Track your progress. That means stepping on your scale before that first special event and writing down your "starting" weight. Now you have a benchmark for the holidays. Then weigh yourself on the same day every week and note your weight. Knowing where you are can help you know if you need to make some extra effort — or pat yourself on the back. 
  • Move more. It's good for your overall well-being (and sanity) during this nonstop season to move in some way just 30 minutes a day. Here are some ideas: 
    • Take a walk and enjoy the holiday lights. 
    • Play in the snow with your kids or dog — or just make snow angels in your front yard. 
    • Schedule your work outs just like you do parties and other holiday activities. 
    • Sign up for a 5K walk/run. 
    • Power walk while you're shopping or take an extra loop around the mall. 
  • Eat well. Start by drinking water to help you feel full and manage your weight. Add fruits and veggies to make the water more appealing to drink. Speaking of fruits and veggies, they'll also help fill you up with few calories — but beware of dips! Put a spoonful on your plate, rather than dip each time. It's tough to fight off the cooking cravings, but try to limit yourself to one dessert a day. Alcoholic beverages pack their fair share of calories, so stick to one-to-two drinks a day, alternating with flavored fizzy waters or mocktails. 
  • Catch enough zzzzs. Cutting your sleep short can lead to weight gain, as well as more late-night snacking. Aim for seven to eight hours a night, sticking to your sleep routine, even on weekends. Alcohol and caffeine can keep you awake, so watch your intake. 
  • Stress less. Easier said than done, you say! Even with an already busy schedule of holiday preparation, connecting with friends and family and maybe special volunteering, aim to fit in 15 minutes a day for yourself. Some activities to help you reduce your stress, clear your mind and create calm might be:
    • Do a mindless chore, like vacuuming, to let your mind wander. 
    • Sip hot tea in front of your lit tree. 
    • Get a massage — even if it's just a chair massage at the mall. 
    • To put things in perspective, make a list of why you're thankful at this time of year. 
    • Learn to say no. Rank your list of holiday traditions and scheduled events. Put your time and energy to those that are higher on your list. Give yourself permission to skip something. It's okay!
  • Monitor your progress. Take a look at what's working for you. But don't get stressed if you slip! Tomorrow really is another day — even during the holidays. 

Rose Prissel, MS, RDN, LD, is a dietitian at Mayo Clinic working in pediatric and adult nutrition, with a focus on preventive care, sports nutrition and weight management. 

Michaeleen Burroughs, MS, RDN, LD, works with patients throughout Employee and Community Health (ECH). Her areas of interest are diabetes and child and adult weight management.