Avert the Inevitable this Holiday Season

Let’s face it, the holidays are a time for celebration, and with celebration comes many opportunities to indulge in mouthwatering food. In fact, about 75 percent of Americans’ yearly weight gain occurs during the holidays. One study conducted over a year span showed a weight increase of 0.7% in the participants between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. If the average weight of an American woman is about 166 pounds that would be over 11 pounds of weight gain, which is significant.

When thinking about how to control holiday weight gain, conisder your genetic makeup. There are certain genes that have the potential to impact how we perceive and desire particular foods and influence our eating behaviors, such as excessive snacking and difficulty feeling full. For example, variants in the ANKK1 and DRD2 genes, which result in a reduced density of dopamine receptors in your brain, have been associated with eating and addictive behaviors. If you have certain genes related to eating behavior traits such as: snacking, eating disinhibition, satiety, huger, sweet tooth or food desire there is no doubt you will have to be more diligent in keeping your goals in mind.

Consider these weight control strategies; they’ll come in handy!

Hydrate

Begin your day with a large glass of water and try to carry a water bottle with you when you’re on the go. Fresh cucumbers or orange slices are a delicious way to infuse your water with flavor if you need an extra kick!

De-stress

The holiday season is full of joy, but can also be a stressful time of year. With increased obligations and working extra to fit everything in, you may not be able to catch your breath. Before diving into the season head first, find what de-stresses you and prioritize it at the top of your to-do list. It may only take 5-10 minutes to recharge on some days and 30 minutes on others. Find your happy and peaceful place.

Savor the Flavor

Slow down and taste your food to improve digestion, increase nutrient absorption and promote mindfulness. Although we can feel the stomach filling up as we eat, it can take 15-20 minutes after food is first consumed for satiety signals to reach the brain. Slow down and listen to the cues your body is giving to better understand its needs.

Plan Balanced Meals

Plan ahead and avoid the temptation to skip or restrict. Skipping meals or restricting calories to “save for later” can result in overeating and poor food choices. Instead, eat 3 balanced meals and 1-2 snacks that focus on lean protein, healthy fats and non-starchy veggies.

Go for the Greens

Most people consume twice as many grains (some processed) as they do greens, which should be reversed. Veggies are packed with fiber, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that your body needs. Sneak more vegetables into your diet anywhere you can and get creative!

Moderation

Most look forward to this time of year for the delicious prepared food that may only present itself during holidays. Try to identify what your favorite dishes are and have a small amount, just enough to keep you satisfied. After all, the first few bites are the tastiest. If you avoid your favorites completely, it may lead to overeating later on.

Drink Sensibly

Choose healthier drinks made from simple ingredients such as wine, beer or a spirit straight up. Choose natural sweeteners like fresh fruit or natural fruit juice. Pinot Noir is a top contender due to it’s high concentration of the antioxidant resveratrol.

Stay Active

The holidays aren’t just about food-they are a time for celebration with your family and friends. Make a point to stay active all together by fitting in festive and fun activities. Search the internet for fun, local 5k walks or runs that help support a cause.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and self-awareness is a powerful tool towards behavior change. While the statistics are alarming, you can make choices to support your overall well-being and avoid (or lessen) weight gain during this time of year.


References

  1. Cunningham, E. What’s the Latest on Holiday Weight Gain? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2013 Nov;113(11):1576.
  1. Helander E, Wansink B, Chieh A. Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. N Engl J Med. 2016 Sep 22;375(12):1200-2.
  1. CDC/National Center for Health Statistics
  1. Doehring A et al. Genetic Diagnostics Of Functional Variants Of The Human Dopamine D2 Receptor Gene. Psychiatric Genetics. 2009. 19, 259-68.