It’s the Monday after Thanksgiving, we just weathered a snow storm, and it’s the second day of December. Most of us likely had somewhat of a stressful (even if it was the good kind!) weekend, and we are busy to plan for the next holiday (Christmas — only a few weeks away).
For many individuals, the stress surrounding the holiday season and the start of winter only multiplies when they consider their own health goals or their weight gain / loss in general. It seems that everywhere we look there is a tempting new offer or deal to “Get in shape” or “Finally lose your stubborn belly fat” in time for the New Year. New Year, New You, right? Not so much.
I read an interesting article the other day that evaluated the cycle of weight gain and weight loss for an average person throughout the calendar year. Naturally, humans gain weight around the end of October and into November. They hold on to that weight until May of the following year. After losing that few pounds over the summer while “living their best lives,” they face the same weight gain at the end of October. What gives? Well, it’s the ultimate yo-yo diet: we lose the same few pounds only to gain it again. With that weight gain and loss come the same emotions: frustration, motivation, dedication and then the fleeting feeling of triumph at the end of the summer.
Reading about this phenomenon, the saying “New Year – New You” should really be “New Year – Same You with the Same Weight Gain” because you likely had the same resolutions last year with the same results. But, like every cycle, there is a way to break it. It just isn’t the way that you think.
First and foremost, the holidays should really be a time for joy, celebration and bonding with those you hold dear to you. Rather than punishing yourself for eating a piece of pie or that extra serving of stuffing, it’s healthier for your stress levels to actually indulge, laugh, lay around and enjoy the festivities. Here’s why:
- If you are restricting your diet to the extreme over the holidays, you inevitably will become stressed. No one finds pure bliss in turning down all the fabulous dishes being passed around the table. Stress raises cortisol levels, which can definitely effect the way your body holds on to water and fat. Relax and enjoy!
- Using exercise as a way to “earn” your meal or to punish yourself after indulging is the best way to stop enjoying that form of exercise. If you are forcing yourself through something to get back at yourself, again you are adding stress into your life that is really not necessary.
Instead, follow these tips:
- Enjoy all of your favorite foods over the holidays. Feel free to even eat leftovers for days! Just remember that moderation and balance are key. Eating a lot of sugar leads to craving more sugar, so just understand that you have to offset the cravings by consuming other healthy foods. For example: eat a balanced breakfast of steel cut oats and fruit ahead of your big day of indulgence.
- Expect to feel a little uncomfortable after eating foods that you don’t consume every day. Feeling full or bloated does not mean you will instantly gain 5 pounds or need to workout extra the next day. It just means your body is working hard to digest foods you don’t eat every day (stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, pie.. I could go on). Embrace and expect it, then drink some soothing tea, go for a walk, stretch and try to drink a lot of water. You’ll feel better in no time.
- Find exercise that you enjoy, then do it regularly. You don’t have to go crazy with new, difficult exercises to keep weight off and stay happy. Find something you actually like to do; whether that’s walking around your block with your dog, lifting weights in the morning, or playing basketball after work. Whatever it is, just do it 3-5 times per week and enjoy yourself!
Lastly, I want to point out that the few pounds a lot of us gain this time of year has a lot to do with the dropping temperatures. Just like other animals, our bodies like to prepare for winter by holding on to a little more mass. It’s nothing to beat yourself up over; especially with over-exercising and under-eating. Live in balance, give thanks, enjoy family time and pick your favorite way to exercise!