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Only one more month until Christmas!
While it is the most wonderful time of year, it may also cause some stress regarding potential weight-gain.
Yup, the mountain of food temptations combined with the downfall of your will to exercise make maintaining your figure very difficult.
Sure enough, studies show that holiday weight gain is a real thing, and the excess weight can be very difficult to lose.
Good news though: here are some simple hacks to prevent weight gain so you can actually focus on enjoying the holidays!
8 hacks to prevent holiday weight gain.
1. Use smaller plates.
This is possibly the easiest yet most efficient hack to prevent weight gain. If you want a smaller meal portion but you eat it on a regular plate, it will look empty (especially compared to the others’ hearty Christmas plates!)
This will either push you to get a second helping, or leave you unsatisfied and more prone to over-eat later on.
If you use a smaller plate, it will be much fuller, tricking your brain into thinking that you’re eating an abundance of food. You’re probably thinking that this is ridiculous and is too good to be true— but studies  show that it actually works!
2. Brush your teeth or chew gum after meals.
During the holidays, the time periods in between meals are usually less distinct, and there are generally quite a few snacks lying around.
If you finish your lunch at 3, have a gingerbread cookie at 4, and start cooking dinner at 5 while taste-testing everything, you are extremely likely to shut out your hunger cues and over-eat when dinner comes around.
If you brush your teeth or chew gum right after a meal, this will help signal the end of it. In addition, you most likely won’t want to wreck your minty-fresh breath two minutes later just for a bite of cake.
Chewing gum while you cook is also a great way of avoiding multiple taste-tests of your dish!
3. Don’t “save your calories” beforehand.
A common hack I often hear is to eat lightly before the holiday marathon meals so you can splurge the day of. This is something I don’t recommend as it can backfire pretty quickly.
Restricting your calories will lead to bingeing because you’re signaling to your brain that you’re actually getting ready for one. This will also leave you starving and in desperate need for nutrients, so you won’t be able to make the best conscious food decisions.
It will lead to eating way past fullness, feeling sick and ashamed, and will start another unhealthy cycle of restricting and bingeing. Just eat regular, healthy meals as always and tune into your hunger cues to avoid eating way past fullness (more on that later!).
4. Drink water all day.
Ok, this isn’t news. You should know how important it is to drink water even before you’re thirsty. This is especially true during the holidays, when you’re very likely to have a drink on hand at all times. Replacing alcohol or soda by water can save you so many calories without even thinking about it!
Drinking alcohol also impairs your judgment and increases your chances of over-eating when you normally wouldn’t have. Along with those calories you’ll be dodging, water can also make you feel fuller so that you’re less likely to over-eat during your meal .
Of course, you can get into the holiday spirit with some alcohol during your Christmas meal or the New Year countdown. But choose water the rest of the time. It doesn’t have to be boring tap water— you can have sparkling water and add some fruit to it for a delicious taste!
5. Practice intuitive and mindful eating.
Intuitive eating is an evidence-based approach that frees you from food rules and restrictions and promotes a healthy relationship with food. It involves many principles, such as honoring your hunger and fullness cues, making peace with food, respecting your body, and putting your health first.
Intuitive eating also involves eating mindfully, meaning being fully aware of your eating experience and your hunger/fullness cues. This can be much harder to do during the holidays as you are often very distracted. But you should really try to tune out of the chaos and into your hunger and satiety signals.
Try to eat because you are hungry and feel like eating, and not just because food is in front of you. Try to stop eating when you’ve reached fullness instead of stopping when your plate is clean.
I wrote an entire article on intuitive eating during the holidays if you’re interested in learning more!
6. Use the buddy system.
Resisting to all these temptations by yourself might be a bit of a challenge. Don’t hesitate to find a “buddy” to share your goals with! If someone in your family or one of your friends also wants to watch their weight during this period, you can hold each other accountable.
That way, when one of you loses motivation, the other can take over, and vice versa. It’s much harder to slip up when there are two of you!
7. Stock up on the healthy foods.
It’s very likely that you’ll also have some lighter, healthier options as part of your holiday meal. Tomatoes, cauliflower, and baby carrots among the appetizers, a nice vegetable soup before the meal, some roasted veggies to accompany the main course, a fruit salad before the cake…
It’s usually much harder to over-consume these types of foods because they are very nutrient-dense. So make sure to eat as much of them as you want. This will leave much less room for the (calorie-dense) rest!
8. Get moving without even realizing it.
Don’t worry, I’m not going to tell you to run a 10k on Christmas morning, or suggest you hit the gym before every meal. That’s just not realistic for most people. However, I have a few tips to increase your physical activity with little effort.
- Do some fun Christmas activities! Go ice-skating, walk around the neighborhood to look at the Christmas lights, make a snowman or have a snowball fight if it snows where you live, go Christmas shopping, go sledding, stroll around the Christmas market…Combined with the cold weather, these easy activities will have you burning off calories without even noticing it!
- Have a family dance party. Blasting on the music and having everyone dance before the meal is a great way to relieve tension, get in some laughs, and burn off some excess energy!
- Be a little fidgety. Ok, so this might seem pretty weird. But I noticed that after having heavy meals, I was a little more fidgety. I tapped my foot, shook my leg, played with random objects, moved my fingers around…I felt like this was my body’s natural way of burning off some extra energy.
When I looked into it, I learned about nonexercise activity thermogenesis (NEAT)  and saw that this was indeed a real thing. Fidgetting actually consumes quite a bit of energy! Try to implement it for yourself. Instead of sitting still at the dinner table, be a little restless and discretely move around. Easy way to consume the calories from the extra food!
There you have it, 8 hacks to prevent weight gain during the holidays! If you follow all of them, I guarantee you won’t face any serious weight gain.
However, it’s important to remember that the holidays only last a few days per year. Don’t stress too much about it and spend some time enjoying yourself!
Gaining weight is never the end of the world and shouldn’t interfere with your holiday spririt!