By Jonathon Stavres PhD, ACSM-EP-C
As you may well know, winter is a time of year when travel, stress, and holiday dinners run amok on your weight management program. And while some people may argue that this is a myth, it’s important to note that this has been observed in a number of studies.
The holiday season is notoriously placed in the early phases of winter, when it is most inconvenient to get out of the house and spend some time at the gym. That fact, combined with the stress of having to purchase gifts, plan family events, find suitable accommodations for visiting family, all while watching your budget tend to push Americans over the edge and into an abyss of overeating and sedentary activity.
How can we avoid this?
Create a plan of action. Structure is best.
Even if you are in a current exercise program, chances are the chaos of the holidays causes you to lose the structure of your normal weekly-routine. This structure is part of what keeps your current weight management program on track.
Therefore, create a plan for the Holidays. This doesn’t necessarily need to be an itinerary laid out on a spreadsheet, but some form a weekly routine that will allow you to budget your time wisely. The key to creating a successful plan is to develop it well in advanced so that when you are getting close to the holidays that doesn’t become another stressor and ends up not getting accomplished.
Another way to avoid overeating is to portion leftover’s between the freezer and the refrigerator. A lot of the overeating that occurs during the holidays is due to boredom and access to large quantities of turkey, chicken, ham, green bean casserole, or other leftovers in the fridge. Instead, you can freeze a lot of your leftovers and re-heat them for dinners later on.
Plan family outings
Finally, a third recommendation is to plan family outings; times when the whole family gets out of the house and walks around or plays a family-sport. A common practice around thanksgiving is to have family-wide football games.
These types of events are great and breaking up sedentary time with activity. Even if football isn’t your favorite sports, you can have family basketball games, golf outings, hockey games, or even compete in yard-games (bocce ball, croquet, etc.).
Ultimately, the holidays tend to plant us in a couch with a fork in our hand which leads to a very groggy and difficult return to activity come mid-January.
Avoiding this in November and December may be the boost you need to eventually lose the weight you want to lose or avoid gaining that extra winter weight.
Cristi-Montero, C., Munizaga, C., Tejos, C., Ayala, R., Henriquez, R., Solis-Urra, P., Rodriguez-Rodriguez, F. (2016). Variations of body composition, physical activity and caloric intake in schoolchildren during national holidays. Eat Weight Disord, 21(2), 251-255. doi: 10.1007/s40519-015-0229-5
Helander, E. E., Wansink, B., & Chieh, A. (2016). Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries. N Engl J Med, 375(12), 1200-1202. doi: 10.1056/NEJMc1602012