How Not to Gain Weight during the Holidays

The holiday season is here. This means that many of us will be with families and eating homemade pies and cakes. At work, there will be streams of goodies and sweets seemingly surrounding us. Planning for and attending various holiday functions, we will unconsciously nosh, nibble and imbibe to our hearts content. All of this means that we will be making those New Year’s Resolutions at the beginning of the New Year. Typically, weight loss is at the top of the list.

However, we need not wait until the results of our holiday activities shock us into more healthy habits. In fact, there are things that we can begin to do right now that will minimize the amount of (unwanted) weight that we accumulate due to the holiday season excess. Specifically, by drinking more water, sleeping more, being more active, eating more fiber and monitoring portion size, we can keep weight gain to a minimum.

  • Drink Water

    Up to 60% of the human body is water, the brain is composed of 70% water, and the lungs are nearly 90% water. Lean muscle tissue contains about 75% water by weight, as is the brain; body fat contains 10% water and bone has 22% water. About 83% of our blood is water, which helps digest our food, transport waste, and control body temperature.
    “To all living things, water is of major importance.”

    When looking to minimize weight gain during the holiday season, one need look no further than though the bottom of their glass; that is to say, drink more water. Water is the liquid that sustains all life on earth. Water also has ‘0’ calories. But more than that, one can actually burn calories due to water consumption. Specifically, men burn more fat while women break down more carbohydrates due to water consumption. So, to hedge your bets against that holiday weight gain, drink more water.

    Recommendation: Ideally, 1.5 liters of water per day or 2 (8 Ounce) cups of water before each meal.

  • Sleep More

    a sleeping baby
    Babies are growing so they need rest. Adults need rest for health maintenance and physiological repair.

    According to researchers, adequate sleep can be instrumental to obtaining positive results from dieting and exercising endeavors. Adequate sleep allows for the activation of Human Growth Hormone: this hormone is responsible for “functions in the body such as vitality, energy and weight maintenance“. In addition, adequate sleep brings about a near 50%:50% muscle mass loss to body fat loss. Inadequate sleep can cause five times more muscle mass loss than body fat loss (5:1 ratio). Minimal sleep can stimulate higher levels of consumption because hormone levels, that stimulate hunger, food intake and retention of body fat, increase. One cannot sleep themselves thin but one can insure that caloric accumulation is kept to a minimum with adequate sleep.

    Recommendation: Get more than 6.5 – 7.0 hours of sleep.

  • Walk More/Be Active

    For those who are busy, there are creative ways to stimulate metabolism. Standing up and stretching a couple of times an hour will do wonders for the body.
    One step at a time: a good way to burn calories.

    To maintain (current) weight and avoid the effects of holiday binging, the importance of physical activity cannot be overlooked. The amount of physical activity can positively affect the efforts to maintain weight. Balancing Calories In vs. Calories Out will yield Weight Control/Weight Maintenance. 60 to 90 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity is recommended to maintain weight. If this proves difficult, however, there are options such as parking farther away from the entryway door and walking, taking the stairs, doing little chores around the home and the like. Every little bit helps. Increased physical activity will also help people to improve conditions of:

    1. Heart disease and stroke
    2. High blood pressure
    3. Diabetes
    4. Back pain
    5. Depression and anxiety

    Recommendation: Try to accumulate 30 minutes of mild to moderate activity per day or try to stand up and stretch a couple of times every hour.

  • More Fiber

    These are some great sources of fiber.
    These are just some of the great sources of fiber that are available

    Generally, studies indicate that increased fiber intake correlates to better weight control. Fiber is an important constituent of food that assist with the passage of food through the colon. Fiber supplementation, along with adequate water consumption, can be part of a balanced diet. However, if a person needs to see and consume an amount of food that makes them feel full, then eating fiber dense foods will be instrumental in their consuming less. Fiber may not help with calories that are consumed from high-caloric beverages: consider that the average American’s recent, increased calorie consumption has come from increased consumption of high-calorie drinks.

    Recommendation: Accumulate more fiber from food sources; drink more water.

  • Portion Control

    Which one do you want?
    Larger portions are being accepted as ‘normal’, single servings. This puts less active people at risk for weight gain.

    One of the best ways to minimize weight gain is through portion control. Many people often eat what is in front of them and most underestimate the amount (of calories) that they consume on a day to day basis by as much as 25%. In order to affect portion control, one must direct their efforts toward assessing, monitoring and regulating the portion sizes of foods that they consume. If you are at a restaurant, eat half of your order and take the remainder home, if possible. If you are at home, eat a smaller than normal portion and wait a bit before going for seconds. If the feeling a fullness is there, you just may not want to go for seconds.

    Recommendation: Make a strong effort and adhere to consuming smaller portions and waiting to see if satiety sets in or eat smaller portions throughout the day.

These steps are presented as a way to help in minimizing the weight gain that typically occurs during the holiday season. By adding these steps to your daily routine throughout the holiday season, you can be in control of what transpires with your weight. Of course, if you are exercising regularly and eating a balanced diet, then these steps will easily help you in maintaining your weight.

Drinking water will assist in caloric expenditure. Sleeping more will help the body to burn more fat. Being more active will help to burn the calories that you consume. Consuming more fiber will keep the colon clear. Portion control will allow you to regulate how much you are actually consuming.

I have assembled a Percentage (%) of Effort Chart below to give you an idea of how these activities will contribute to your minimizing that dreaded holiday weight gain. The items are the five points outlined in this blog: i.e. water, sleep, activity, fiber and portions. The more days that you do these things, the better your results will be. 100% of effort will yield better results than 20% of effort.

Oh, before I forget . . .

HAPPY HOLIDAYS

% of Effort

1 item

2 items

3 items

4 items

5 items

1 – 2 days

4%

8%

12%

16%

20%

2 – 3 days

8%

16%

24%

32%

40%

3 – 4 days

12%

24%

36%

48%

60%

4 – 5 days

16%

32%

48%

64%

80%

5 – 6 days

20%

40%

60%

80%

100%

SOURCES:

CNN: Trying to Lose Weight? Drink More Water

WebMD; Drinking Water May Speed Weight Loss

Science Daily; Sleep Loss Limits Fat Loss

HuffPo: Sleep Is Integral To Weight Loss, Study Suggests

WebMD: Exercise and Weight Loss

WIN: Physical Activity and Weight Control

CalorieLab: Does more fiber mean more weight loss?

Food Product Design: The Skinny on Fiber and Weight Management

Mayo Clinic: Portion control — Downsize portions for better weight control

WebMD; Portion Control and Weight Loss

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