How to Not Gain Weight Over the Holidays

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Holidays, vacations, birthdays, parties, etc. are for celebrating big meals with family and friends. Like most normal people, we all want to look good, lose weight (if needed) and learn how to not gain weight over the holidays or special occasions. What happens afterward the holidays can be a very daunting story. In many cases what starts off as a joyful holiday event can end with bulging consequences. Those who have been on a successful path to weight loss and fitness before the holidays and special occasions, may find that they have gained much of the weight back right after. Consequently, all the hard work previously invested in losing weight is rendered a waste. This is where none of us wants to go, for many will use holiday weight gain as an excuse to open the floodgates of bad eating for the New Year. Once this train leaves the station, it can take a long time to return to where it started – if ever.

Enter Dr. Stephan Guyenet, Neurobiologist and Obesity Researcher…

Recently, I was reading through a brilliant series of articles by Stephan Guyenet Ph.D. entitled “Why Do We Eat? A Neurobiological Perspective.” In the midst of his sciency, yet highly researched and golden information, one particular nugget (that I think we all should well understand) is quoted below:

“Something I’ve noticed over the years is that when you make an animal gain fat by giving it a fattening diet, and then return it to the original healthy diet, it will lose most of the excess fat but frequently retain a portion of it (22, 23). Similarly, in human overfeeding studies, after subjects return to a normal diet, they’ll spontaneously undereat for a while, lose most of the excess fat, but if you read the studies carefully you find that they often hang on to a fraction of the excess fat indefinitely (24, 25). The piece of evidence that pushed me over the edge was a study showing that half of annual weight gain in the US occurs during the 6-week holiday period (26). People gain weight during the holidays by voluntary (non-homeostatic) overeating, lose a little bit of it in January, but hang on to most of it indefinitely.

If the above research doesn’t make you stand up and take note, then by all means, please ignore what comes next, because it will most likely be a waste of your time to read it.

In light of the shocking, yet not all that surprising news (see research quote above) about fat gain during the holidays, I felt it worthwhile to present some solid eating guidelines, which I know to be true and effective for blazing through the holiday maze of fat filled delight.

The following tips will help you prevent setbacks, not gain weight over the holidays – keep losing weight; maintain your level of fitness; and avoid a fat filled depression come the New Year.

12 Eating Tips to Not Gain Weight Over the Holidays:

  1. Intermittent fast on the day of your holiday celebration (at least 16 hours or more). This will help your body to detoxify prior to a large holiday meal. Quite simply, this means that you don’t eat anything all day, other than some raw veggies and drink lots of water. If you really want the best effect, do this also on the day before and the day after the holiday.
  2. Be physically active during your fasting time, ie. a long, fast paced walk or run. This will maximize your body’s fat burning potential prior to eating a large holiday meal.
  3. Hydrate yourself well prior to your holiday meal, drinking water with lemon, green and/or herbal teas. Avoid any fake, sugary drinks or beverages containing artificial sweeteners.
  4. Plan your holiday celebration for night. Delay your eating celebration until the end of the day. This will work well, particularly if you follow steps 1, 2 and 3.
  5. Try to keep your meal low glycemic. Turkey, fresh vegetables, rice or plain yams are much better than cheesy, carb loaded casseroles and sweet dishes.
  6. If you plan on eating pie or dessert, minimize your other starchy sides during the meal, such as potatoes, yams or rice. No need to overload on the carbs. Desserts such as sweet potato and pumpkin pies or cheesecakes are better choices than typical brown sugar or fruit pie varieties.
  7. Image of how to not gain weight over the holidays drinking alcohol

  8. If you choose to drink alcohol, wine is your best choice. Nonetheless, do not drink with carbohydrates or anything sweet. Alcohol can combines best with proteins and vegetables. See my article for best advice on combining alcohol with foods.
  9. Maintain an optimal “hierarchy” of eating when enjoying your meal. Quite simply, this means eating raw vegetables/salads first, then eating your meats and proteins along/combined with cooked vegetables. Eat any starchy or high carbohydrate foods (potatoes, sweet potatoes, casseroles, fruit dishes, jellos, etc.) last, including desserts. This sets the stomach up for optimal digestion from an enzymatic level. It also ensures that you’ll fill up first on foods that will not spike blood sugar and insulin levels. This is key for not storing fat.
  10. If you choose to eat nuts after dinner, do not combine them with sweets, grains or dried fruits.
  11. If you insist on eating a little bit of everything then at least reduce the quantity of each item that you eat.
  12. Do not deny yourself from the pleasure of holiday or special occasion meals. It’s better to gain a pound and enjoy yourself and lose it the day after, rather than feel deprived and miserable. (Just remember that research quote above, though!).
  13. Do not commit “dietary suicide”. If you mess up and binge on all the wrong foods, don’t use this as license to blow your healthy regimen. Instead, stick with steps 1 and 2 above to detoxify your body – you’ll be surprised how effective this will be in getting you back on the right track.

I can all but guarantee that if you follow the above protocol, you’ll cruise through the holidays unscathed, enjoying your wellness – while staying on a healthy course for the coming year. Good luck!

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