Holiday Survival: Avoiding Weight Gain During the Holidays

Visions of sugarplums (and cookies, and chocolate, and more) start dancing in my head as soon as the weather turns chilly. My taste buds can sense the holiday season drawing near as my jeans shiver in fear in my dresser.

The holidays don’t have to equal weight gain, but know that if you do gain a few extra pounds during the holiday season, it will likely take longer to get rid of them than it did to put them on. One Cornell study sites five months as the window of time to expect to shed the weight you put on between Halloween and Christmas. The same study also quotes an average gain of 1.3 pounds so, although many do gain holiday weight, the overall gain itself is usually not significant in this one season. We have to be careful of this over time, however, because 1.3 pounds every holiday season for a decade is a 13 pound gain.

Feeling worried about the holiday indulgences ahead? Don’t worry, you’re not doomed!

Online Wellness Coach, owner of Kailee Elizabeth Health Coaching, and mother of 4,  Kailee Paquette, knows how to keep your weight in check during the holidays. “When it comes to weight management during the holidays, my biggest tip is to remember that health is not only about the number on a scale, it’s about how you feel,” says Paquette. She goes on to explain “Many of my clients enter into the holiday season with the mindset that they will be “perfect,” meaning they will eat clean and sometimes even go on a diet during the holidays. What I see happen with 100% of those clients is they will go completely the opposite way. When we try to be too restrictive, we often spend more of our holidays stressed about food than enjoying what matters the most during this time. I usually have my clients follow the 80/20 rule. This can be applied to a specific day or the holiday season in general. You will eat “healthy” choices 80% of the time while letting yourself enjoy not so healthy options the other 20% of the time.”

Check out Scoop’s favorite tips for holiday health:

  • Eat the healthiest things on your plate first, so you have less room for the less-healthy items and use food as fuel, not reward, punishment or any of the other food-related psychological traps we can fall into.
  • “Choose to talk more and eat less, which will likely distract you from the abundance of food. Starting a good conversation also improves your confidence and makes others feel good, too,” says Paquette.
  • A walk between dinner and dessert will also help you to digest and realize when you’re full more quickly, and is a nice family tradition to start.
  • Have a small, healthy meal before going to a party so you’re not tempted to over-snack.
  • Strategize room for your favorite indulgences but fill the rest of your plate with healthy options. “If you love peppermint mochas which (bummer for all of us) are only offered during the holidays, decide how often you are going to indulge in one. One mocha won’t stunt your weight loss progress, but one a day will. Deciding to skip the mocha all season long is unnecessary,” says Paquette.
  • Eat breakfast. So many people don’t and it not only slows your metabolism but also can make you hungrier and want to eat more later in the day.
  • When you’ve had enough, eat a mint or chew gum- wouldn’t want to mess up your now-clean palate, would ya?
  • Stock up on healthy office snacks so that when the gigantic nutcracker shaped cake walks through the door, you’re prepared. You don’t have to skip the cake entirely, but having it with a side of almonds will help you not to over-indulge.
  • Walk and take the stairs as often as possible. Get up from your desk and do a lap around your building at work to avoid being sedentary for too long.
  • Sit next to a fellow healthy eater for solidarity and motivation to stick to your goal at your family meals.
  • Cleaning prior to house guests’ arrival is great cardio. Climbed any stairs with a vacuum lately?
  • The neighborhood cookie exchange is a blessing and a curse- why not freeze some of your holiday goodies so you can savor a few now and also enjoy them after the season passes?
  • Water is your friend. Have a glass before each meal and/or cocktail and it will not only help you to keep you hydrated, it will also slow your intake.
  • Alcohol is a sneaky cause for weight gain. Not only are alcoholic drinks usually calorie-heavy, they can also negatively influence your sleep (a cause of weight gain) and lower your inhibitions about eating more food after you’re satisfied. Paquette suggests choosing less sugary drinks. If your favorite cocktail is made with juice or non-diet soda, limit to one and then switch to a less sugary option like a vodka soda. Or try one of our Diet Coke mocktails (you can always make it a “real-tail” too) here.
  • Avoid baggy clothing in preparation to feel full (no “fat pants”!) and instead wear something form-fitting that you feel fabulous in. This will help keep you conscious that you want to keep feeling that fabulous as you make healthy holiday choices.
  • Don’t beat yourself up if you overindulge and don’t deprive yourself of the good things you love that only come around at this time of year. Hit the gym the next day, get good sleep, and fill up on protein and fiber to help reset, not punish. One day off the wagon will not make or break your health plan.
  • Starving yourself and going into full deprivation mode doesn’t work because it disrupts your normal metabolic rhythm. It’s just a bad idea all around. “Not eating in an attempt to keep calories lower for the day overall often ends in overeating later in the day. Eating a breakfast before a gathering at 12 will help you, not hurt you,” encourages Paquette.
  • Scroll the ‘Gram for some fitspo from local Charlotte trainers, many of which offer travel or home-friendly workouts. Check out Scoop’s list of some of our favorites here.

Continue to make healthy choices during the holidays, but don’t miss the enjoyment of this season either. The holidays might not be what they were when we were kids, but they’re still a time of year where anything is possible and magic is in the air. You can have the best of both worlds while still staying healthy: a fairytale holiday season and your favorite Christmas cookies while staying health-conscious too.


Nicole Brantley
Nicole is a native Charlottean that loves the Queen City almost as much as running, writing, and type-A organization.