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Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

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Depending on the statistics that you look at, “holiday” weight gain ranges from 2- 10, or more, pounds. Some of the variances are how people define the holidays. We would say they start with Halloween, then Thanksgiving, and on into Christmas and the New Year. The fact is that the holidays themselves have about the same to do with gaining weight as any other celebration such as a birthday, anniversary, or wedding. Let’s first address some of the variances in the reported weight gain “facts.” The first is that bloating, or water retention, is not the same as long-term weight gain or fat gain. Bloating is common around large meals or influxes of calories- especially calories that come from inflammatory foods like sugars, processed foods, or really condensed foods like peanut butter. There is nothing inherently wrong with these foods, but they tend to shock the system a bit when consumed in higher-than-normal amounts.

Secondly- bread, pies, potatoes, and other carbohydrate-rich foods are very “hydrophilic” (meaning they attract water). Each gram of carbohydrate that we eat can store around three times its weight in water. This is good for energy and vibrant, hydrated, and tones muscles (muscle is where most of the water from stored carbohydrates goes) however it can temporarily show a bit of an increase on the scale. So, if the vast majority of holiday weight gain is water, then what is the big deal? When you look at this from a macro, or big picture perspective, even a 1-1.5 lb. increase in actual body fat in a two-month time frame really adds up! Even a five-pound increase in actual fat increases inflammation, slows us down, and is being linked to depression if the inflammation is ongoing. 

We do not want to wreck our microbiome and get caught up in that trap. Try eating an anti-inflammatory meal prior, containing gut-friendly food such as fiber, cultured yogurt, or greens. In a rush, some Greek yogurt with blackberries, Fiber One Cereal for some fiber, and a crunch along with some almonds would be great. The fiber will fill you up so not only is your gut ready for a fight, but you will also not feel as hungry either. Another great tip is to prime your dopamine with an early morning run before the festivities, because when we are happy and excited, we tend to converse more which distracts us from food. Lastly, opt for lean protein such as white turkey first, and chew your food very slowly while enjoying the company around you. Focus on people and conversation and allow time for your hunger hormones to tell you that you are full. 

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