Can you believe it’s already November? Wasn't it yesterday that we celebrated New Year's? Don’t get me wrong, I love the holiday season! It kicks off with Halloween, stretches through Thanksgiving and Christmas all the way into the New Year.
Everybody becomes jollier, I get to see friends and family more, shop and cook for people (wait...what?), both of which I enjoy very much. However, there are some real traps for people on a fitness journey.
If you think about it, the holiday season is two months or 17% of the year. People tend to be less strict with their food choices, generous with the portion sizes and money, indulge in festive night outs that involve food, and consume gorgeous drinks that will often end in feeling miserable by the end of the year and gaining excess body fat.
Scientists found that half of the gained extra weight over the holidays can be dropped quickly, but the other half of it is more stubborn and can take several months to lose.
With that in mind I decided to dedicate November's articles to helping you understand what’s behind your holiday weight gain and how to prevent it from happening.
After all, if you can at least maintain your current weight, you will have a great starting point in the new year to get closer to your dream body or work towards other goals. In this first part we’re going to look at 5 things that promote weight gain around the holidays.
1. Your Schedule Changes
Your structured life as you know it is over. You receive invitations from friends, work and other communities to celebrate the holiday season. Your job might become less organized too with long weekends and shorter work weeks.
This means you may find yourself running around like a lunatic for a few days to get work done, meet people at parties then suddenly you have 2-4 lazy days when you don’t want to move from the sofa. Because of all the changes, sometimes our exercise regime will suffer since that’s the easiest to ditch to allow more time for activities you normally don’t do for 10 months.
2. Stress Levels Peak
If you like to be in control, having to adapt to changes quickly can destroy your regular schedule and result in you becoming stressed out. I know all my fellow OCD peeps feel me on this one. What do you do when you are stressed? Many people reach for comfort food or even drink which increases our daily calorie intake without much nutritional value.
You may not notice it in the heat of all the shenanigans, but rest assured your body will tell you on days when you can chill out. In chatting with my online coaching group members, some notice right away by becoming bloated and feeling heavy the next day while others would only see it a few weeks later when they notice the cupcake effect while getting dressed in their favorite jeans.
3. Fear of Missing Out (FOMO)
Peer pressure can be a big reason behind many people’s weight gain in general, but the risks increase during this time of year as we are likely to spend lots of time in an environment where temptation is more demanding.
Friends and family telling you to eat just one more serving of that amazing dessert at dinner. The seemingly endless number of invites for business lunches, after work drinks and holiday parties where everyone swears that you'll miss out on a great event if you don’t attend.
All of these may lead to FOMO and extra pounds.
4. Winter is Coming
I mean, it’s getting colder by the day in many areas, except Arizona, where we don't know what cold means. This time of year we’re less likely to go for a morning walk or run because when that cold hits our skin, our body will want to spend as little time outside as possible.
Not to mention the darkness that makes us feel sleepier. We are likely to get more sleep on average at winter time because of that. It’s not necessarily a bad thing for those insomniacs though. It just means we are more prone to become less active and prefer staying in, eating and sleeping more than usual.
5. Holiday Spiced Sugary Creamy Drinks and Food Everywhere
Yes, a few weeks before Halloween you’ll find trick or treat sweets everywhere, only to be replaced with Thanksgiving, then Christmas products on the shelves of supermarkets and grocery stores. If you don’t buy them now, you will have to wait another 10 months to have some of them!
Think of all the holiday treats at the office, the seasonal hot drinks and calorie filled sweet meals at coffee shops and restaurants...the list goes on. Chocolate pecan pie is my weakness. The temptations are everywhere and it pays to be aware of them.
It's no wonder that some people just give in and go with the flow because they think there is no escape. I am here to tell you that there is! It’s not even an escape! You don’t have to fully restrict yourself for two months, but with careful planning and setting some ground rules for yourself you will be able to stay in control and at least maintain what you have already achieved this year.
Stay tuned for Part 2! Next time I will share ways to deal with the seemingly uncontrollable holiday season just before Thanksgiving hits, so you will be equipped.
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I am a wife, mom, grandma & former professional “diet and exercise hopper" who understands the challenges of being 40lb overweight after having children & the damage repeated sense of failure can cause to your confidence and self-esteem.