8 Simple Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain, Post-Binge Guilt, and Bloat
About 75% of us will gain weight between the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season. Holiday weight gain seems almost unavoidable given the amount of delicious goodies constantly at hand, and folks just like you and me tend to binge on their favorite dishes, ending up eating far more than their bodies need. The big issue is that oftentimes, people don’t lose all this additional weight after the holidays are over. For each pound they gain, they only tend to take off 1/2 to 3/4 of a pound, which leads to slow and steady weight gain over time. In fact, a large percentage of Americans’ lifetime weight gain can be explained just by the six-week holiday period.
So how do you counteract the negative effects of the quantity, and oftentimes the quality (let’s be honest, the majority of holiday food is less than healthy) of holiday fare without having to give up our favorite dishes and desserts or worse yet, avoid going to parties and family events altogether?
1. START FRESH. Ditch the negativity, guilt, disappointment, and regret. Be in the moment, enjoy it, accept it as a temporary divergence, and move on. If your regular lifestyle is a healthy one that normally includes healthful eating and exercise, an occasional indulgence will not wreck all your hard work. Remember how healthy and energetic clean eating and portion control make you feel and get back to your normal routine as soon as possible. Resuming your normal eating habits is the fastest way to get back to a “happy place” and leave the binge behind you. Don’t sweat it. Just move on. And if inspecting yourself in the mirror causes stress, don’t do it! As long as your long-term habits are dialed in, you’ll be back in action in no time. Although you can’t undo a binge, you can bounce back quickly and without any lasting ill-effects as long as you get back on the program pronto.
2. DRINK LOTS OF WATER. To fight dehydration and ward off weight gain, drink at least 64 ounces of water following a binge. In addition, water aids digestion by assisting the digestive system to break down food. Always choose water instead of sugary beverages such as sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks or iced teas to minimize calories. Continue to hydrate extra well throughout the week after the holidays, drinking AT LEAST two 8 ounce glasses of water four times a day. It is likely that your body could probably use a break from alcohol too, so avoid alcoholic beverages for the next few days to detox your system.
3. UNDERSTAND AN MANAGE YOUR “FAUX” HUNGER. During the 24 hours following a binge, your blood sugar will fluctuate wildly, causing false feelings of hunger and a powerful desire to eat more sugar and carbohydrates. Don’t give into this temptation! Sip on some black coffee or green tea, go for a walk or hit the gym, do meaningful work, and/or anything to keep yourself busy so that you can take your mind off of food.
4. FAST if that is an option for you! It is a super effective way to negate any extra caloric effects from the overeating as well as shield the extra water weight and bloating that accompanies a binge and/or carb-fest. It doesn’t have to be an extended fast. A skipped meal or a compressed eating window will also be effective.
Note: Fasting may not be the right option for people with certain illnesses and/or metabolic issues.
5. REDUCE CARBOHYDRATES for a few days before and a few days after your caloric and carbohydrate splurge. Overeating carbs can lead to poor blood sugar control, brain fog, water retention, depression and of course, weight gain. In addition, Research has shown that the function of immunity-related phagocytes is impaired for at least five hours after intake of simple sugars. Free radicals have a field day within the first few hours after sugar increases oxidative stress on the body, and a hefty dose of sugar can compromise your immune system for more than 24 hours!
If you didn’t do it on the front end, don’t fret. Make sure that you reduce carb consumption to about 20-30% of your regular diet for at least one week. This will help reduce water retention and bloat, rebalance blood sugar, and take off most (if not all of the weight you put on during the holiday). You can use the handy pie chart on an app like myfitnesspal to track your macros (i.e., carbs, proteins and fats).
6. EAT LOTS OF GREEN VEGGIES. Greens such as kale, spinach, broccoli, asparagus and cabbage contain phytonutrients that act like natural diuretics, which can help improve your kidneys’ ability to transport toxins into the urine. They also provide powerful antioxidants that can aid in the recovery of liver cells. Green veggies are also full of fiber, which helps clear the digestive tract. Add greens to your meals or incorporate a greens smoothie into your day (e.g., add kale, spinach and/or wheatgrass to your protein shake for a deliciously detoxifying smoothie).
7. STIMULATE YOUR METABOLISM by working in foods, such as chili peppers, which contain the metabolism boosting compound, capsaicin. Capsaicin, has been shown to increase metabolic rate and reduce appetite. Add hot sauce or hot peppers to your meals for a little extra boost.
Another great metabolism booster is green tea, which provides epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). an antioxidant that helps detox the body. EGCG is also known to block a major enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, the body’s fat burning hormone. This can increase metabolic rate and thermogenesis for 24-hour energy expenditure, so, you can be burning fat both in and out of the gym.
8. UP THE INTESITY of your workouts.
Obviously, one of the most important steps to take is getting back to your regular workout schedule. If you have missed workouts, you could be feeling a little sluggish. Cardio not only burns calories, it also helps rid the body of water via sweat. For your first week back after the holidays, up your cardio workout by performing higher intensity HIIT sessions. Get out to a field or track and do some wind sprints. Hop in the weight room and lift like a maniac. Jump into a vigorous game of pickup basketball. In fact, do anything to get your heart rate up and your body moving. Because your glycogen stores will be full from all the carbs you consumed, you will have a ton of energy for exercise, so use that to your advantage and get in longer and more intense sessions. Remember 3500 calories equals one pound of fat, so try to burn at least 500 calories per cardio workout session!
The bottom line is that you don’t have to be perfect, and nor should you expect to be. Being healthy, fit, and lean isn’t about being 100% perfect all the time. It’s not about what you eat from meal-to-meal. It’s how you live your life as a whole. Once you understand how to live a healthy lifestyle every day, how to avoid binges, but handle and enjoy indulgences when they occur, you will be lean, healthy and happy in the long term.
If you indulge regularly, it’s not really “indulging” as much as it is consistently poor decision making and a lack of commitment to success. However, if you make great decisions the majority of the time, you can afford the occasional hiccup. Don’t beat yourself up. Just get back to your normal routine as soon as possible!