Does the holiday season equal weight gain?

How To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
How To Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

The holiday season is officially here – that festive time between Thanksgiving and the New Year. 'Tis the season for decorating, shopping, entertaining and, of course, eating. Is all this hustle and bustle making us unhealthy?

The holidays are a time for celebration and family – not to put on weight or become unhealthy. It's almost as if we've come to accept that we're going to put on weight during the holiday season. It's commonly reported by the media that 5 pounds of body weight is gained during the holidays.

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This may not sound like much weight gain, but a recent review published in Physiology & Behavior found that most of us never lose that pound – and year after year, this annual holiday weight gain can lead to health problems such as obesity, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.

Overweight and obese adults tend to put on even more weight – around 5 pounds – over the holiday season. This same trend exists for children – with overweight kids putting on more weight during the holidays than normal-weight kids.

The truth is that most of us don't exercise enough to warrant those extra holiday calories. Sedentary lifestyle and not caloric intake may be to blame for the increased obesity in the United States. A recent study published in The American Journal of Medicine reveals that in the past 20 years, there's been a sharp decrease in exercise, while caloric intake has remained steady.

The holiday season might not be the best time to lose weight or start your new exercise routine, but it doesn't have to be a time to lose your health. Don't wait until New Years to start being healthy – it is possible over the holidays. Enjoy your pumpkin pie, egg nog and Christmas cookies – all in moderation. Celebration doesn't have to mean gluttonous eating, or deprivation for that matter. It's time to bring the focus back to the purpose of the holiday. Enjoy your friends and family, the time off and the traditions of the holidays.

I want to encourage you to start this upcoming holiday season on the right, or rather healthy, foot. Many of us overindulge over the holidays knowing that the New Year – and of course our New Year's resolutions – will put us back on the healthy train again. Not so fast – and why wait? Start making realistic holiday health resolutions now, so when the New Year comes, you're ready.

If you're like the millions of people who are planning on setting New Year's resolutions, you're likely setting goals to improve your diet and how much you exercise. In fact, about 50% percent of us will set New Year's resolutions, but less than 10 percent of us will be successful in achieving our goals. It's clear: Our problem is not setting New Year's resolutions, but rather sticking to our resolutions. Here are some easy tips to help you stay healthier over the holidays and (hopefully) be more motivated to stick to your resolutions come Jan. 1.

Tip 1: Be realistic. One of the biggest reasons for failure is that we often set unrealistic goals like trying to exercise every day for one hour at the gym. This may seem like a lot of time and effort, so do what you can. Some exercise is better than nothing. And remember, even household chores count as physical activity. Over the holiday season, try to squeeze some activity into your hectic day, such as shopping offline (go out and walk around the mall), taking the stairs instead of the elevator and standing more during the day. These small changes will eventually lead to big changes in your health.

Tip 2: Do not expect perfection. Another pitfall is all-or-nothing thinking. It's OK to miss a day (or two or three) of exercise, eat your favorite holiday foods and enjoy a festive drink. What's important is that you don't let it turn into weeks – and then months – of no exercise or unhealthy eating. If you accept going in that there will be some sidesteps on your health journey, you'll be better mentally prepared to deal with setbacks.

Tip 3: Get a buddy. It's simple: People who exercise and diet with a friend (or buddy) are more likely to stick to it. Why? You keep each other accountable. Knowing that someone is waiting for you to go for a walk with them is a great motivation to show up and get it done.

Tip 4: Make it fun. You'll stick to things you like, so if you're not the gym type, walk around your neighborhood or try activities around the house, like watching a yoga DVD.

Tip 5: Make it convenient. Try to get rid of those exercise and diet obstacles, and make it convenient. If you're pressed for time, don't spend time driving to a gym; try exercising at home. And keep healthy foods on your kitchen counter so they're easy to grab when you're hungry.

Whatever you want to do, it's a great time to start planning for it. Build up momentum so you get excited about it, secure support and are set up to achieve your resolutions. Try to have a happy and healthy holiday season.

Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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