Now that we are in the midst of holiday season, we are also gearing up for a good six weeks of parties, get-togethers, and functions that all culminate around one activity: eating. Yes, Thanksgiving heralds the beginning of what I like to refer to as “Pig-Out Season”. Yes, the food is delicious and plentiful, and that means we all have to be careful about gaining weight.
A recent study found that half of all annual weight gain occurs during this holiday season. And even more disturbing is that this weight is most typically retained indefinitely. That’s right, you put it on now, and it is not likely to ever come off.
Your body has an incredibly complex hormonal system that carefully regualtes your body fat. This internal “set point” controls how much fat we burn vs. how much we save. Evolutionarily, this body fat set point can determine who survives during a famine and who is physically able to hunt, gather, and survive predators (in this day and age modern stressors). The body fat set point helps us maintain ideal weight for survival.
Weight gain, even modest gains over long periods of time can actually raise your body fat set point, so that your body sees that as the new normal and puts mechanisms into place to keep your body fat at that new level. This set point is very difficult to change once it is raised, and many people who try to lose weight can attest to the difficulty of resetting your body to where it once was.
Because of this, it is really important that you just don’t allow yourself to go crazy during the holiday celebrations. If you don’t pack on the pounds, you won’t have to fight your body’s set point to take them back off.
This, I know, is easier said than done. Here are a few tips on avoiding putting on that weight over the next six weeks:
- Eat less food. I am not a big advocate of counting calories, but it is certainly something to be aware of; especially during this time of year. If you know you are going to have dessert, don’t fill up on appetizers, eat a smaller dinner, and ask for a small portion of dessert.
- Skip the treats at work and save them for the parties or dinners that you attend. Workplace sugary treats are a huge problem! Everyone brings them to your desk to be nice, but it does so much more harm than good. Place a bowl of fruit or nuts on your desk.
With this in mind, I typically prescribe to a diet that allows for occasional indiscretions. In fact, preventing weight gain during holiday season doesn’t mean depriving yourself of all of those delectable holiday treats, it just means being mindful, and using a few tricks to help you succeed.