By Marie Miguel
Chances are, you’re just getting over the belly fat you’ve gained during quarantine, and the holiday season is approaching. Combined with the cold weather and the festive foods, this is a nightmare for those trying to stay in shape.
Don’t worry; we have your back. This is the ultimate guide on surviving the holidays without gaining any weight, or possibly losing some.
Why Do We Eat More During the Holidays?
In order to help you eat less during the holidays, it’s important to know why we like to eat a lot during the holidays to begin with. The holiday season brings quite a few reasons to overeat, and we’ll explain why.
2020 has been a stressful time all year, but the holiday season is always the most stressful. Many of us are thinking about what we’re going to buy our families for Christmas or your respective holiday. If you’re not celebrating the holidays, you may feel stressed because you have to work more at your job.
Whatever the reason, many people will pick up bad habits when they are stressed, and one of them is eating too much. We tend to eat foods that make us feel better. These tend to be…
These are foods that are usually filled with carbs and sugar. These foods tend to release dopamine, giving you a relaxing feeling. You know what “stressed” is backwards? You got it; desserts. It’s a silly phrase, but one rooted in science.
These Are Everywhere in the Holidays
All year, you have to deal with comfort foods, but the holiday season is a time where you can’t look outside your house without seeing pumpkin pies, Christmas cookies, eggnog, and other yummy foods. Not to mention, this is a time of the year where many of us eat a big dinner during Thanksgiving and another at Christmas. Possibly more depending on where you celebrate. Obviously, having one day of pigging out a month isn’t going to do too much to you, but many of us are eating too many foods in-between those days.
Another reason why we eat a lot during the winter season may come to our instincts. Our ancestors knew that during winter, food could get sparse. So, if they saw a lot of food, they’d devour it. If you find yourself eating more as the days are getting shorter, it may be an instinctual thing. Even if we are no longer creatures of hibernation, it’s sometimes difficult for us to run away from our instincts as hunter-gatherers.
Winter can make depression more prevalent. One reason for that is seasonal affective disorder, or SAD. When we have less light in the day, it can make us more depressed. Combine that with the fact that many of us are stressed, and we will find ourselves depression eating.
Finally, if you like to drink, you may find yourself drinking more in the holidays. The holidays are a time to have a cup of cheer, and many of us like to overdo it. Something about alcohol is just comforting in the wintertime. Sadly, alcohol has lots of calories, and since most containers don’t tell
you how much you’re drinking, then you may be drinking a lot more than you think.
These are a few reasons we can sometimes eat more during the holiday season. However, this is an explanation, not an excuse. You can survive the holidays with a bit of mindfulness. Let’s look at some ways.
How to Survive
One of the best solutions to all of our problems is to drink water. It’s not a magic solution, but by staying hydrated, it can actually keep us fuller for longer. Fruits in veggies that have water take a while for the body to absorb, which means that you will feel fuller for longer. Many people tend to forget to hydrate in the winter since they aren’t sweating so much but staying hydrated is always important.
Eat More Soups or Salads
Before a meal, why not start off with a broth-based soup or a salad with light dressing? This especially applies if you’re at a big dinner. These foods are filling and lower in calories, which means that when it’s time for the main course, you may eat less.
Replace Some Common Festivities
There are many holiday foods that are high in calories, and by replacing them with something lighter, you can reduce the amount of damage you do. Let’s look at some foods you should eat sparingly, and what you should eat instead.
- Avoid eating dark-skinned meat. It tends to have much more calories than its white meat counterparts.
- Don’t drink too much eggnog. Many find this drink delicious, but it’s packed in calories. Some hot cider may be a better alternative, and it fits in the tradition.
- Avoid overstuffing your baked or sweet potato. This can add many unnecessary calories. Obviously, many of us don’t like our potatoes plain, so add a bit of cheese and butter, but don’t go overboard.
- You may want to skip out on the cranberry sauce and stuffing, which is packed with calories.
- With alcohol, it’s difficult to avoid drinking in the holidays. However, instead of beer, why not try a seltzer? These tend to have 100 calories or fewer per can, and the nutrition facts is usually on there. It’s much easier to get cheery while being mindful of the calories.
Everything in Moderation, Even Moderation
Let’s face it, no one is counting calories on Thanksgiving or Christmas. Having one meal where you indulge and eat all your favorite foods isn’t going to hurt you. With that said, the rest of your days should mostly be in moderation. With dieting, having a cheat day can be good. However, it needs to be a cheat day, not a series of days. It’s fine to have an occasional day of indulging, but too many people turn it into a habit, ruining any momentum they gain.
Keep Up with Exercise and Sleeping
Besides watching what you eat, it’s important that you keep working out as well. We tend to slow down during winter. We get a little slower, and we try to avoid the outdoors. For some of us, going to the gym is out of the question.
However, it’s important that you keep moving. Bundle up and go on a run or work out at home. By skipping out on exercise, it can slow your metabolism.
As for sleeping, wintertime can sometimes make you oversleep or under-sleep. This can have an impact on your weight, as well as make you fatigued. While sleep needs vary, the average amount of sleep needed is 7-8 hours a night. If you are oversleeping, use an alarm. If you have insomnia, get more sunlight, exercise more, and have good sleep hygiene. You may need to seek help from a doctor, too.
When at a Party
If you are going to a little holiday party, don’t go hungry. It’s easy to indulge when you do it. If you’re going to parties on your cheat day, you don’t have to worry as much, but if you end up going to a gathering on a day where you should be counting calories, having a little meal before you go can keep
you from overeating.
Not to mention, it’s important to keep track of how much alcohol you drink. When mixing drinks, try to mix it with low-calorie drinks and avoid anything overly sugary. It’s okay to have a cocktail on occasion, but don’t make it too much of a habit. The same applies to parties. If you are going to a new party every weekend, you may have a hard time sticking to your diet.
During the holidays, we tend to be on autopilot. We may eat snacks on instinct or worry so much about the future that we end up stress eating. That’s why it’s important to be in the here and now through
Mindfulness uses meditation and awareness of your surroundings to bring you in the moment. It can allow you to be choosier with when you want to eat and stop you from overindulging in chips or other snack foods. You can achieve mindfulness through meditation, body scans, or going outside and
enjoying your surroundings.
Mindfulness can have many positive effects on your mood and lifestyle. Best of all, anyone can do it. You can find plenty of guides, and also run into a couple of trainers who can help you out.
Don’t Worry Too Much
With all that said, do not try to overthink it too much. If you spend every second worrying about overeating or weight gain, it can ironically backfire. Be mindful of what you eat and try to stay healthy whenever possible, but if you accidentally eat something you should not, it’s not the end of the world.
If you are already dieting and exercising, try to keep the business as usual. Worrying can be a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy, especially if you are someone who likes to eat a lot whenever they are worried about something. Do not be like this. Instead, go into Thanksgiving being as reasonable as possible.
With the holidays, one of the reasons we overeat is stress and depression. While self-care can reduce these emotions, many of us need more than that. There is no shame in talking to a therapist during the holidays, especially in a year of turmoil.
A therapist can not only help with your SAD, but help you manage your diet and come up with a long- term goal for being healthy. Of course, it can be difficult for you to get the help you need during a pandemic.
Online therapy can make it easier. Talking to a licensed therapist who works with your hectic holiday schedule can allow you to keep your sanity and avoid overindulging in holiday delights. One website that can provide therapy is BetterHelp. By seeking online therapy with BetterHelp, you have a valuable tool in the fight against winter depression and overeating.
About the Author
Marie Miguel has been a writing and research expert for nearly a decade, covering a variety of health- related topics. Currently, she is contributing to the expansion and growth of a free online mental health resource with BetterHelp.com. With an interest and dedication to addressing stigmas associated with mental health, she continues to specifically target subjects related to anxiety and depression.