How To Maintain Your Happy Weight (Even Through The Month Of December)
Fall and the holiday season are upon us, and naturally, this is the time when many patients tend to gain a little excess weight. It's understandable, considering our days are filled with every temptation—from Halloween candies to large Thanksgiving family meals to holiday parties with booze and desserts. This is also when the time changes and people are not as active as they were in the summer, plus, the colder weather allows us to bundle up in comfy sweaters.
Despite it being super common, weight gain during this time of year can be frustrating. And many people actually want to lose weight during this time so they can feel their best at holiday parties and family gatherings. The good news is that you don't have to choose between enjoying the holidays and maintaining your weight. Here are my best tips for staying at your happy weight all the way through the New Year.
1. Don't drink your calories!
Rule No. 1 in any kind of weight-loss or weight-management program is not to drink your calories. I know you've heard it numerous times before, but as pumpkin spice lattes, warm apple ciders, deliciously creamy eggnogs, and decadent wines are all around us, we tend to forget that these are empty calories. And sadly, the sugar from these drinks is turned into fat and stored in our bodies. Instead, opt for coffee drinks without additional sugars, herbal teas, carbonated waters, and golden milk lattes (which, lucky us, are also deliciously creamy). And remember, don't fall into the "sugar-free" trap because these drinks contain aspartame, sucralose, or fake sugars that trick your brain into thinking you're getting sugar, which will cause the insulin blood sugar spike and ironically—sugar cravings! In the long run, sticking to low-sugar drinks will save your wallet and your waistline.
2. Practice mindful eating.
We're all invited to numerous festive parties over this six-week period; how can you say no, right? You don't have to turn down any invites, but it's a great idea to pack a snack before you go so you're not starving when you arrive. If you're bringing a dish, stick to healthy options with tons of veggies. If you're going to splurge on that warm fresh pecan pie with a dollop of ice cream, try to make the rest of your day totally free of sugar. It takes about six to eight hours for blood sugar to be metabolized, so you have to wait a little longer before you indulge in carbs again. You can always check your fasting blood glucose eight hours later to see if it's in range, between 80 and 90 mg/dcl. If it's higher than that, you want to avoid sugar and carbohydrates for a while. If pricking your finger doesn't sound like fun, just be mindful about what you eat after that rich dessert, and try not to snack during the day before a big party. If you do, opt for nutrient-dense foods like nut butters, fruits, and veggies!
3. Try intermittent fasting.
Another great inflammation-fighting trick is to intermittent fast before you head to a party. Please discuss this with your doctor first, since it's not safe for everyone. If you have the green light from your physician, I encourage patients to do a 16-hour fast at least two times a week. This means if your last meal eaten was at 6 p.m., you don't eat again until 10 a.m. If you can do this at least two times a week—without gorging and overeating later—you will maintain your weight or even lose weight and, of course, reap benefits like reducing obesity, improving your immune system and cancer outcomes, brain function, and heart disease. Intermittent fasting also improves blood glucose, encourages fat loss without lean mass loss because the body goes through ketosis, meaning it burns through the stored fat in your body.
4. Get moving in whatever way you enjoy.
It's a good idea to stay active throughout the year, but with shorter, darker days and all the sweet temptations in front of you, this can be difficult. That's why it's important to find an indoor activity that you love and do it regularly. As much as I enjoy group fitness classes, sometimes it's great to work out in the convenience of your own home or apartment, and there are numerous apps with workouts on them that won't force you to venture out into the cold. Also, try walking as much as you can to get your steps throughout the day. Every little movement counts, so get up every hour and walk five minutes away from your desk, start doing squats at work (or even the bathroom), maybe even request a standing desk to complete your work or conduct your work meetings. Your co-workers might think you're crazy, but every little bit counts when you're trying to stay active and maintain your happy weight.
5. Don't let stress get the best of you.
This time of year it seems like you're always on the go; you're traveling more, visiting family, eating airport food, sleeping less, and this can all take a toll on your body. Because of this, it's extra important to incorporate mindfulness into your day. Make lists, plan your meetings in advance, and try not to overcommit yourself. Schedule a massage or check out your favorite band to relieve some stress. Opt for staying in with a good book and movie instead of rushing to go somewhere after work. Studies show you're more likely to hold on to weight if your cortisol levels are high.
By eating mindfully, controlling your stress levels, walking often and being mindful about your calorie consumption (especially when it comes to liquids!) you can enjoy the holiday season while also maintaining the weight that makes you feel energized, confident, and healthy.
If pecan pie is your favorite holiday treat, try this way-healthier alternative!
And are you ready to learn more about what anxiety, brain health, and your diet all have in common? Register now for our FREE Functional Nutrition Webinar with Dr. Mark Hyman.