Is there a season when weight is NOT focused on? Summer is “swimsuit season” and in spring we are told we need to be preparing for summer. Fall and winter are holiday seasons when we are told we will inevitably gain weight. Research done on winter weight gain divides holiday season into three parts: pre-holiday (late September after school starts to mid-November), holiday (mid-November to January), and post-holiday (January to March). The researchers describe study subjects gaining weight in the holiday season, but no significant weight gain in pre- or post-holiday seasons.
We already knew this, right? We hear about it and read about it everywhere – that we are destined to gain an average of five pounds during the holidays. This message has been flying around for so long that it feels like a fact. In reality, IF someone gains holiday weight, it’s closer to one to two pounds. The fear-based articles we read tell us that this one to two pounds sticks around and doesn’t go away, leading to the age-related weight gain we are also told is inevitable. But the reality is that our bodies each have a preferred set point weight and when we get below it, our metabolisms slow a bit to help get us back up where we need to be. The reverse is true too – when we get go a bit over our individual set point range, our bodies adjust so that we gravitate back down to within our set point range.
This internal regulation is felt through changes in hunger and fullness. When we need less, our bodies call for less. When we need more, our bodies call for more. This is part of being intuitive.
The researchers in the study who studied how much truth there is to the five pound myth also stated that for those in their study who did gain weight, it did not matter if the person was trying not to. Even if they were dieting and monitoring their eating with food diaries, they gained weight. This supports the idea that non-dieters will be most likely to emerge in January at the same – or very near the same – weight they were when they dove into the holidays in November.
What can you do to set yourself up for holiday eating success? Here are seven tips for being as intuitive as you can at avoiding holiday weight concerns.
1. Get enough sleep.
When we are tired it becomes more difficult to be mindful and avoid mindless eating. And the energy deficit we experience leads our body to seek out energy. If we can’t seek it out with a nap, we can easily end up seeking an energy boost with food.
2. Find time to move.
You might think I’m about to launch into how we need to be sure we are burning off the food we eat with exercise. But I’m not. Exercise – along with adequate sleep – helps stabilize our mood and helps us manage stress. Stress can cause us to seek out sugar when we otherwise wouldn’t have.
3. Rate your plate.
While dieting over the holidays will likely backfire and isn’t good for the psyche, it doesn’t hurt to rate your plate. When plating your meals, do a quick mental inventory and see if you’ve served up balance. Here’s your inventory checklist: carbs, protein, fat, and color (fruits and/or veggies). If you want to take this one step further you can aim for whole grain carbs (whole wheat noodles, brown rice, multi-grain or wheat bread), lean proteins (lean meats, fish, beans, tofu), and heart healthy fats (canola oil, olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds).