Family. Friends. Presents. Food. What's not to love about this time of year?
Christmas is among many people's most treasured holidays. And it's certainly one of the best tasting ones, as fresh baked goodies like cakes, pies, and cookies are seemingly everywhere.
The holidays are made to be enjoyed, so there's nothing wrong with indulging a bit. But,if you're not careful, the gains you made this past year toward your health goals may be offset thanks to one-too-many sugary treats and all too little physical activity.
If this sounds familiar, you're not alone. Holiday pounds aren't just common in North America, but throughout much of the world. In a 2016 study published in The New England Journal of Medicine, all 3,000 individuals whose health statistics were tracked gained the most between October and the first week of January, CBC News reported. Not one person lost weight during this period.
Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab, told CBC's "On The Coast" that while early October is typically when people weigh the least, the amount of food that's available in the last 10 weeks of the year frequently leads to people putting on an extra few pounds. This can cause discouragement for the upcoming year, a time when people should be optimistic about their health goals.
Enjoying all that comes with the holiday season is about balance and listening to your body's internal cues. Here are a few strategies that can help you have an indulgent Christmas without going overboard.
1. Take a Stand
If you're off from work — as many people tend to be during the holiday season — you probably have a lot that you'd like to accomplish. All too often, though, laziness can get the better of us. Make your vacation more productive by planning out what you'd like to get accomplished. This will keep you active and on your feet. In fact, even if you're at parties and interacting with friends while celebrating, avoid taking a seat if you can. The body naturally burns more calories while standing — the equivalent of one food calorie per minute versus sitting, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Mayo Clinic. That translates to an energy expenditure of approximately 2.5 kilograms of body mass over one year.
2. Cut Out the Condiments
There isn't just a lot of food around at this time of year — there's also an abundance of add-ons that go along with it, such as sour cream for the potatoes, butter for toast and hot vegetables, and chocolate syrup to top off decadent desserts. Instead of loading up on these excess calories, keep it simple by eliminating these accompaniments. Steering clear of condiments — or at least the high-calorie ones — can help you treat yourself without feeling like you're cheating yourself.
3. Stick To Meals
One of the biggest reasons why people tend to pack on pounds during the holidays is because big meals are often preceded by snacks and hors' d'oeuvres, like deviled eggs, mixed nuts, cheese and crackers, and other common appetizers. There's nothing wrong with having some of these pre-dinner finger foods, but resist the urge to splurge. Save your calories for the meal, which is typically where more wholesome, nutrient-dense foods are served, such as hearty vegetables and lean cuts of meat, like turkey and chicken.
4. Eat Until You're Full
The body has cues that tell you when you've had enough to eat. But all too often people fail to acknowledge them, simply because the food tastes so delicious. Tap into your sense of appetite by listening to your body. It will let you know when you've had your fill. Over-indulging is not only bad for your long-term health goals, but can lead to more immediate side effects, like stomach aches and drowsiness.
5. Get Some Exercise Daily
Given that there's so much to do during the holidays, exercise often gets put on the back burner. Remember that even a small out amount of exercise is better than none at all. Even if it's just 20 minutes of vigorous walking, do it. You can get back into the normal swing of things when the holidays are over.
Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year's aren't around long; you should enjoy them while they're here. But nothing good comes from too much of anything. Staying balanced can help you have a happier and healthier holiday season.