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Help Patients Make Healthy Choices to Avoid Gaining Weight This Holiday Season

how-to-lose-weight-not-gain-gaining-weight-holidays
T’is the season to be jolly! Or, is it really the season to gain weight? For most of your patients, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, but also the time of year for putting on more pounds. Don’t wait for the New Year to encourage patients to lose weight. Guide them to try not gaining it in the first place.

While the winter festivities and get-togethers from Halloween to Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years give us that warm and fuzzy feeling, it usually also means holiday weight gain for those who went too far in indulging their love for sweets and all kinds of rich, fattening festive meals and drinks.

Give your patients some help by providing simple and sensible, practical, and science-backed ways below to steer clear of added pounds this holiday season!   

Stay warm.

What’s does body temperature have to do with eating less during the cold holidays? It’s actually basic science. People tend eat more during the cold weather than the warmer months, mainly because your body’s metabolism works extra hard to generate heat and keep you insulated from the cold. So put on those layers before heading outside to share the holiday cheer with family and friends!

Opt for smaller plates the next time you’re in a buffet.

In a study by Brian Wansink from Cornell University and Koert van Ittersum from the Georgia Institute of Technology, it turns out diners who eat from smaller plates or bowls tend to eat less. By and large, the researchers attributed it to the Delboeuf Illusion: if you’re eating from a large plate, your brain tells you that you’re eating less while putting the same amount of food in a smaller plate signals your brain that you’re consuming enough.

Therefore, the next time you’re serving food at Thanksgiving, dedicate larger plates for the vegetable dishes while less healthier meals should be served in smaller plates. Or, if you’re in a buffet, reach out for the tiny bowl or casserole!

Pick protein first before carbs.

Flaky buttermilk biscuits or crispy fingerling potatoes are without a doubt a treat to the palate. Yet filling up on carbs (especially refined carbs in baked goods) before filling in on your protein-rich meals is one reason why you may be struggling with your body weight. Did you know that a high-protein diet can curb your appetite?

study led by researchers at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science & Policy at Tufts University, revealed that eating refined grains, starches, and sugars were linked to more weight gain.” Here’s an interesting excerpt from the study:

“Our study adds to growing new research that counting calories is not the most effective strategy for long-term weight management and prevention,” said senior author Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.P.H., dean of the Friedman School. “Some foods help prevent weight gain, others make it worse.  Most interestingly, the combination of foods seems to make a big difference.  Our findings suggest we should not only emphasize specific protein-rich foods like fish, nuts, and yogurt to prevent weight gain, but also focus on avoiding refined grains, starches, and sugars in order to maximize the benefits of these healthful protein-rich foods, create new benefits for other foods like eggs and cheese, and reduce the weight gain associated with meats.

Rather than filling in your plate with refined carbs while listening to All I Want For Christmas at your high school reunion, consider having more of the roasted beef tenderloin or stuffed fish and less of the lasagna, or lentils and beans if you’re currently exploring plant-based options. The takeaway is to be mindfully aware of your protein intake, and to eat more meat fish or beans than refined carbohydrates.

Engage in Simple Exercise like Stretching and Yoga

Check out this article on the benefits of yoga, featuring a video with a basic yoga poses routine for core strength, flexibility and stress reduction.

Fear not the fat!

Butter, egg yolks, and bacon (of course!) have always been tagged as “not good” for you. Since the 1960s, we have been made to believe that these fat-rich foods are artery-clogging and are huge culprits to weight gain. Yet, since people began to label fat as the enemy, obesity rates doubled and heart disease remains to be one of the top causes of death in the country. What gives?

It turns out that recommendations in the past to simply avoid fat were wrong. It’s not just olive oil or fatty fish that are inherently good for you; butter, egg yolks, and the occasional steak could also do you well as long as they’re not heavily processed (hello free range eggs and grass-fed beef) and consumed in moderation.

First, like protein, they could help you with weight loss. This study’s findings revealed that women who consumed a high-fat and low-carbohydrate diet until they were full eventually lost twice as much weight in comparison to those who consumed low-fat meals. Second, cholesterol from dietary fat does not actually cause heart disease. Lastly, dietary fat can actually boost immunity and improve hormone function, particularly testosterone (vital in muscle development and sexual function). This insightful podcast by Tim Ferris is a great resource if you’re still on the fence about dietary fat and its role in weight loss and hormone health.

In hindsight, embrace some fats this holiday season by adding a bit of olive oil into your dressing, having avocado with honey for dessert, or even indulging on the bacon-wrapped chicken thighs! What’s more important is to make sure you’re consuming fat from high-quality sources.

Stick to sugar in its least processed form.

If fat and protein aren’t the culprits for unwanted weight gain, who’s to blame? Yes, it’s the sinister sugar!

In this Harvard School of Public Health resources discussion of the carbohydrates issue, they emphasized the following:: eating many high-glycemic-index foods – which cause powerful spikes in blood sugar – can lead to an increased risk for type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and being overweight.  These high-glycemic index foods include those are made from highly-processed carbs such as refined flour found in cookies, pasta, white bread and other baked goods. Before you reach for two or more gingerbread cookies, you would be better served to consider swapping it for sugar from a natural source, like an organic apple or some organic blueberries.

Choose your holiday drinks wisely.

It’s easy to underestimate the calories of sugary beverages such as fruit punch or eggnog. As much as possible, stick with good ‘ol water. The same goes for alcoholic drinks. Be mindful with your booze intake and like everything else, moderation is the key. Many studies trumpet that it’s healthy to have a glass of wine but be mindful of not falling into the trap of drinking it everyday or having several glasses. Alcohol consumption, not only can lead to the storage of sugar as fat but also can interfere with a number of processes in your body (such as liver functions), because your body is too busy dealing with the alcohol to do other things.

When all else fails, don’t compromise on sleep.

Aside from diet, exercise and other lifestyle changes and improving your immunity response, getting high-quality sleep has been shown to be one of the major factors to help prevent weight gain. In this 2012 study by researchers from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of Arizona, their findings suggest that those with fewer hours of sleep are more likely to gain weight and become obese.

The next time your office buddies are trying to convince you to stay a bit longer at the annual company party, politely say no, get home, and get more sleep. You can always check Facebook photos from the party tomorrow morning.

Move when you can!

It’s no secret that exercise doesn’t just help you lose weight but also makes you feel good. While gym routines could be sidelined due to hectic holiday schedules, there are so many ways to exert effort and use calories all day long.  For example, consider taking the stairs rather than the elevator while visiting a friend on Thanksgiving.  During the holiday months, go for walks with your co-workers or your boss, even if it’s just around the block or up and down the halls.  It will make for great conversation time and you’ll have a walking buddy. Or, round up the kids for a short hike before opening their presents on Christmas day. Staying active is definitely part of the holiday cheer!  

All Exercise burns calories. You can make small steps towards maintaining a healthy weight, literally — even after that large holiday meal. When you’ve just consumed more carbohydrates than you planned, getting a short burst of walking in can help. One study highlighted by the Mayo Clinic found that taking a 20-minute walk after a meal helps lower blood-glucose levels in people with diabetes.

Final Thoughts

With careful planning and by being more mindful of your habits, there’s no reason for you to dread the holiday weight gain. If possible, limit your indulgence and feasting on the holiday itself, not the entire season.

So is it the season to be jolly? You bet it is!

What other strategies have worked for you in the past to avoid putting on weight during the holidays? We’d love to hear your stories in the comments below or join the conversation on Twitter or Facebook!