It’s the best (and arguably the worst) part of the holidays – all the delicious food!  But it comes with a price and it’s usually deposited around our midsection. The average number being reported was an average of 7-10 lbs.  Good news is, this number appears to have been exaggerated.

A new study out of Cornell University, found that we tend to gain just over a pound and it’s not just Americans.  They found a similar pattern across all countries that participated; they found the majority of the gain is between Halloween and Christmas.  The not so good part is that it can take more than five months to lose!  It doesn’t seem like a big deal at first, but other research suggests this pattern can be more significant to higher risk groups of people like those with higher BMI or obesity.

Another recent study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) revealed the top strategies we can use to manage our weight in the face of all that temptation. 

So here they are – in no particular order:

  • Slow down the speed at which you eat, focus on your food.  Don’t eat in front of a screen, listening to podcasts or on the go.
  • Be consistent with your routine and try to eat at generally the same time each day.
  • Walk off the weight. aim for 10,000 steps a day.
  • stand up for 10 minutes every hour ( if you’re feeling ambitious, knock out some air squats!) 
  • Avoid sugary drinks. Also try to alternate a glass of water with every other drink (using carbonated water (minimal sugar) is a good way to transition away from soda).
  • Look at labels and be aware of fat and sugar content.
  • Pack a healthy snack such as fresh fruit or low c calories yogurt.
  • Portion control don’t heap food on your plate. Leave the sideboards at home.
  • Shoot for 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Other Tips:

Understanding how much physical activity is required to burn off a portion of food. This can be a great deterrent to that last slice of Cheesecake!

Ice cream: A 1,200-calorie ice cream sundae would require six hours of walking. 

A lower-calorie alternative: A 110-calorie fruit bowl — requiring a 30 minute walk.

Potato chips: A 6 oz. snack bag of potato chips, at 900 calories, would require about 2 ½ hours of stair climbing. 

A lower-calorie alternative: Two cups of plain popcorn, at 62 calories — requiring seven minutes of stair climbing.

Cookies: Three oatmeal raisin cookies contain 660 calories — the amount you’d burn off in several hours of cart-free golfing. 

A lower-calorie alternative: 94 calories of cantaloupe (about ½ of a cantaloupe) — the equivalent to 17 minutes of golfing.

Intermittent fasting windows of 12-16 hours overnight can be very beneficial.  Researchers from the University of Alabama conducted a study with a small group of obese, prediabetic men. Meals were restricted to an early eight-hour period of the day (7 am to 3 pm), or over 12 hours (between 7 am and 7 pm). Both groups maintained their weight (did not gain or lose) but after five weeks, the eight-hours group had dramatically lower insulin levels and significantly improved insulin sensitivity, as well as significantly lower blood pressure. The best part? The eight-hours group also had significantly decreased appetite. They weren’t starving!

Get plenty of sleep.  Sleep deprivation tends to be more common during the holidays and has been linked to weight gain. This is because it tends to make us hungrier, consume more calories, and exercise less.

Control stress levels. Cortisol has been called the “stress” hormone. Chronically high levels may cause weight gain, as they have been linked to greater food intake.

Include some protein with every meal, as it promotes fullness and may be useful for weight maintenance.  In fact, eating protein with meals may automatically reduce calorie intake by reducing hunger and appetite as it increases your metabolism and levels of appetite-reducing hormones.  Set a goal for 1 ounce (25–30 grams) of protein with each meal. Good sources include meat, poultry, fish, and some plant foods like beans and quinoa.

High intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

We all know exercise is good for us as it’s the closest thing we have to a fountain of youth.  The biggest barrier to starting and/or sticking with a routine is the time commitment. There is a misconception that you have to spend long hours struggling away in a gym.  Enter HIIT, if you want a great bang for your buck exercise program that you can do 1-2x wk and complete in 20-30 minutes that is effective and backed by science then this is what you want. I could write for days on this topic alone (perhaps another blog topic?!) so I’ll leave you with this one tidbit; this type of workout trains your body to become efficient at burning fat stores and you can continue to burn fat for hours after workouts!  One of my favorite books, Body by Science written by Doug McGuff, is packed with more research on this topic than you probably ever wanted to know.