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Maintain Don't Gain: 12 Tips for the Holiday Season

The holidays are fast approaching. What a perfect time to come up with a solid plan to navigate the season to “maintain, don’t gain!”  The average adult gains between 5-7 pounds in between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Here are a few ideas that you can incorporate into your “maintain, don’t gain” strategy.

  1.  Keep a nutrition and fitness journal.
    Keep a daily food journal of all your snacks, meals and beverages. It would also be helpful to shop and do your meal planning every Sunday to set yourself up for success weekly. This way you will not be tempted to get fast food or go to the vending machine on your lunch break when things get busy with daily routines and holiday prep. In addition, pencil in your workouts for the week like appointments.  If you have them scheduled like a doctor’s appointment you’re less likely to skip.  Better yet, find a workout buddy to make things more fun and hold you accountable.
  2. Sneak in an extra cardio workout.
    Sneaking in an extra 10 mins of cardio throughout your day will also help burn a few extra calories. For your regular workouts, set yourself up for success by packing your gym bag the night before and place it in the car so you don’t forget it.
  3. At holiday gatherings leave the room where the food is placed once you have eaten and socialize with friends or play a game in a space away from the dining area. Physically being around holiday food invites constant snacking which adds up to extra calorie quickly. Eat only what you really like and eat mindfully.
  4. After the feast, celebrate with an activity.  Gather friends and family for a walk, bowling or ice skating. Speak to your friends and family about your goals during the holiday season and ask for their support to stay on track.
  5. Don’t go to a holiday gathering starving.  Just like it’s never a good idea to go grocery shopping on an empty stomach, it’s not a good idea to go to a holiday party hungry. Eat a small snack or meal before you go. The idea of not eating all day to “save up calories” almost always backfires! Bring your own dish to any gathering. That way you know you have at least one healthy option available. 
  6. Find your workout soulmate. Try different exercise tools, machines and classes. Get a trainer for a few sessions to spice things up for a fun new workout. Attend a new class, consider a 30-min class like CXWORX or Sprint during the holidays when you are pressed for time.
  7. Decide before you go to the holiday gathering HOW MUCH and WHAT you will eat. Stick to the choices that you planned on eating. If you use a tracker like MyFitnessPal you could even put your food in before you leave for the event. Stay away from foods that are hard to track such as dip. 
  8. Dress your best in flattering, form-fitting clothes during the holiday season. Reward yourself with a new holiday outfit rather than cookies! It’s tempting to hide in baggy clothes. You’ll be less apt to overeat if you wear something that makes you look and feel great!
  9. Manage holiday stress.  It’s tempting to overschedule yourself. Attend the events that are most meaningful to you. Shop early in the season to avoid last minute stress due to crowds and lack of time.
  10. Don’t drink your calories!  Allow yourself one drink with your meal rather than starting with drinks before your meal. When you start festive drinking prior to a meal, you’re more likely to lose your inhibition and make poor nutritional decisions.
  11. Maintain your normal sleep schedule.  Lack of sleep raises the level of stress hormones in your body and you will feel hungrier.
  12. Water, Water, WATER! Commit to drinking at least 64 ounces of water each day, especially right before meals to help keep your appetite under control. During the colder months, it's fairly common for us to actually be dehydrated and not consume enough water on a regular basis (we just don't always realize it because we aren't sweating like the hotter months). Keeping our H2O levels up will help minimize overeating, minimize bloat from any over-indulgences that DO happen, keep energy levels up, and so much more.

Written by: Health & Wellness Directors Amy Weisbrodt and Stefanie McLaughlin from the Gateway Region YMCA

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