Holiday weight gain is American as pecan pie. While it might not happen to your vegan cousin who won’t eat anything on the table or your Uncle John who never gains weight no matter what he eats on top of his daily six-pack, it’s fair to say it happens to all of us.
Also, many of us have special diets such as low fat or low carb, that we bend just a little during the holidays.
Here are some tips for managing the inevitable while still having fun
Faithfully follow your diet and exercise regimen before, during, and after the holidays, knowing that the rules will be broken on special event days. Don’t let yourself take such a break from your healthy regimes that you forget how to follow them.
Have a good meal of fruit and yogurt, or similar, before every holiday party. If you have to drive a long way, bring a smoothie with you. Never arrive at a party hungry. Make sure what you eat beforehand will keep you fairly full for a while.
Avoid taking decadent leftovers home, and if you are throwing the party yourself, give as much of them away as possible. It’s okay to accept proteins and other things that fit your normal diet.
If you’re attending multiple events, try a one day juice fast in between them to make sure your stomach’s capacity doesn’t expand when you’re overindulging.
If you have a special diet, such as low sodium, move to a no sodium diet between events and for a little while after them. Make sure your palate doesn’t adjust back to over consuming salt.
If you normally consume a low carb diet, stick to no carbs in between and for a few weeks after the holidays to gain back some traction.
Likewise with low-fat diets. If you are following a program, such as Atkins, you may want to go through the beginning steps again after the holidays to regain some ground.
Double up on your exercise routine for a few weeks after the holidays. If possible, throw in something extra, like a hike, skiing trip, or long bicycle ride. If you have a dog, take extra long walks.
Try a short food cleanse diet after the holidays. This diet involves consuming no red meat, no alcohol, no processed foods, and extra fruits, grains, and veggies. The holidays may keep you hungry for a while and a food fast is a good prelude to a juice fast.
A few Don’ts:
Don’t torture yourself. If you have been doing really well on a diet and totally blow it over the holidays, depression may make you want to eat more or even feel like giving up. Torturing yourself at the parties by trying to stick to a diet can depress you just as much. Go for moderation and give yourself a hall pass.
Don’t try a fast right after the holidays. You’ll feel exceptionally hungry after having eaten all that rich food and a sudden fast can really mess with your metabolism.
If you don’t have a regular exercise plan, New Years can be the worst time to begin an extreme plan such as Crossfit, buy an exercise machine, or start going on daily jogs. The first part of the year can be very intense at work, and the weather may not cooperate. Try some yoga classes or a video exercise routine that you can easily do at home before moving up to something more intense. Don’t set yourself up for failure.
Happy Holidays! Have some memorable fun and remember that it is all under control in the end.
Joe Humphries is a contributing writer and media specialist for Orangetheory Fitness. He regularly produces content for a variety of fitness blogs.