The holiday season is filled with great music, good friends, and delicious food. Unfortunately, while most people enjoy (or tolerate) holiday music and spend time with family and friends, the delicious food part can cause a sense of dread and stress for anyone, even the most self-disciplined person. According to recent medical studies, a person can expect to gain anywhere from three to 12 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Day. But there’s also research suggesting that the average weight gain during the holidays is only a pound and that same study also found that half of holiday weight gain is lost shortly after the holidays!

Many expect to gain a little weight around the holiday season and are appropriately equipped to deal with the issue. Gym memberships, daily walks, and holiday-themed 5ks are all helpful. But how can you prepare beforehand for holiday feasts, especially if your weight and diet tend to be connected to your emotional and mental state?

Here are a few ideas to help you get through the holiday season without worrying too much about gaining weight:

  • Plan ahead. Bring something lightweight, like a raw veggie platter with spinach and yogurt dip, if you are invited to a holiday party or family gathering. And be sure to eat from that platter before you dig into any holiday cookies, cakes or pies.
  • Drink lots of water. Some people will drink a glass or a bottle of water before attending a holiday get-together, and that is a good thing to do. But when you arrive at the party, have another glass or bottle of water before you eat. That will help combat the “I am so hungry and must eat everything in sight” syndrome that happens to most people around the holidays.
  • Watch your alcohol intake. Speaking of staying hydrated, ensure you drink water between alcoholic beverages. It will keep you hydrated as well as slow you down between drinks. As easy as it is to want to try all the foods in front of you, it’s equally easy to want to sample different alcoholic beverages: eggnog, punch, and wine. Remember, alcohol can sabotage your self-control and fool you into thinking you still have room in your stomach for a few more slices of pie.
  • Eat slowly. Are you one of those who fill up their plates with so many goodies and eat them like a contest? Slow down, and remember, it is not a race. Eating too fast is a significant reason why people overeat. It can take 15 to 20 minutes for your brain to send the signal to your stomach that you’re full and you need to stop eating. And if you are not careful, you can cram an awful lot of food into your stomach during that time period.
  • Be less sedentary. Don’t forget to keep moving. Not only is exercise good for your heart and bones, but it’s also good for your mental health! Even a short workout can stimulate the body to produce endorphins—the body’s feel-good hormones. Focusing on a yoga routine or jogging around the park can divert your attention from current concerns and damaging self-talk and make everything seem less overwhelming. Unfortunately, when the colder-weather months are upon us, many people stop exercising and start to eat more. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, set a goal of moving 30 minutes a day. Before you say that your schedule doesn’t have an extra 30 minutes, divide it into three 10-minute segments. Simply stretching in the morning and before bed and suggesting a walk to your loved ones can help.
  • Consider intermittent calorie cutbacks. Reducing your food consumption either in advance of a family gathering or holiday party, or the day after not only helps with weight loss (and weight maintenance) but studies also show there are other benefits, including sharper mental acuity. Have some “light” food on hand (like the hard-cooked egg, fruit and Greek yogurt), so you don’t go overboard when you eat again. Aim to go 12 to 14 hours from your last meal to the next. Fasting doesn’t work for many people because they become ravenous and overeat at their next meal.

Take some time to enjoy the holiday season and attend family gatherings and parties without the fear and stress of gaining too much weight. When you plan ahead and have the right attitude, you can focus on the fun and not so much on the food.

If you or someone you care about is confronting these issues, please get in touch with Good Therapy’s team of licensed professional counselors and therapists today at 630-473-3971.