The holiday season rings in Christmas movie binging and holiday treats. It’s easy to overindulge during the holidays and this year’s pandemic ushered in more comfort eating for many people. While Christmas may not be kind to your waistline, it’s important to be kind to yourself.
Holiday weight gain may be an inevitable part for many people. But there are ways to combat it while still enjoying yourself without feeling deprived or guilty! Due to COVID-19, gatherings may look and feel different this year and it can be especially hard to resist the temptation of some homemade cookies, an extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy, or an eggnog nightcap.
Please remember before starting strenuous physical activities that you should be in good shape or be cleared by your primary care physician. The purpose of this article is to provide general guidance and should not be considered a substitute for medical advice.
Here are some tips to help you be your best self while still enjoying the holiday season!
1. Manage expectations. Ask yourself what is most important to you (and your family). Is maintaining your weight and healthy blood levels (blood sugar, lipids, sodium, etc.) the most important to you, or is it enjoying all that the season has to offer with loved ones, weight be damned? There’s no right or wrong answer, but if you come up with a realistic plan in advance, it becomes much easier to aim for a target and also allow for those cheat treats without feeling guilty.
2. Let’s make a deal. Consider compromising with yourself, that you're comfortable putting on five pounds with the expectation to work towards losing it in the new year, for example. It’s a great opportunity to set some SMART goals for yourself (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, time bound), for yourself so you have something to work towards. Here’s a great example: Set a goal of only two holiday treats per day between now and Christmas, but allow for extra on Christmas Day. It’s a specific, measurable goal that still allows for some indulgence, but keeps you accountable!
3. Get creative in the kitchen: Another great way to combat the holiday bulge is to use substitutions while cooking. There are no shortage of recipes that use healthy ingredients and it’s entirely possible to make yummy treats and meals that are better for you. Replacing sugar with monk fruit extract (it’s granulated just like sugar, so it's perfect for baking and available at most grocery stores), can really cut down on calories and also keep blood sugar levels in check. Plain Greek yogurt is a great swap for butter in many recipes. Two tablespoons of butter have a whopping 22 grams of fat vs. just 2.5 grams of fat in a half cup of 2 percent fat Greek yogurt. Here’s another example: I’m a sucker for eggnog and I just can’t pass it up over the holidays, but it’s so glutenous. There is an almond milk version you can substitute for the real thing, that is pretty darn close to the original. Forgo the booze, sprinkle on a little nutmeg and you’ve got a sweet treat for only 70 calories — now that’s something to feel good about!
4. Keep moving: Getting in more movement is absolutely crucial to staying healthy over the holidays (and every day). I encourage my clients to get in an extra hour of walking daily. If time constraints or physical limitations keep you from getting a whole hour in, consider breaking it up into two 30-minute chunks or even four 15-minute sessions. You can easily burn a few hundred extra calories or more by moving at a brisk pace. Extra activity is an amazing bargaining chip with yourself or family members to justify some overindulgence. You could make a deal with yourself that for every cookie you eat, you walk an extra 15 minutes or take a family walk and spend some quality time with loved ones while doing something good for your health! It may not keep you from adding a little extra holiday pounds, but it’s definitely damage control. Remember to be kind to yourself. Allow for those simple holiday joys while compensating with extra physical activity, something that's good for the body and spirit!
5. Engage others: Most importantly, do it together! Everything is easier with support, so enlist the help of family and friends (near and far) to keep you accountable. The more people that participate, the less it feels like you’re missing out. The holidays are a special time of year with the opportunity to re-create special traditions and even make a few new healthy ones!
6. Move your feet and support The American Legion: If you had the opportunity to participate in American Legion National Commander Bill Oxford’s 100 Miles for Hope, I have an exciting opportunity for you! The American Legion has joined forces with TRUCONNECT fitness app for a global virtual 5k run/walk. Globe Trot 2020 is a virtual, worldwide 5k for charity taking place on Monday, Dec. 21. Join me on Team Jennifer to support The American Legion. You can walk or run, and invite your friends and family. The proceeds raised will be split among six charities, including The American Legion. It is $2 to enter or $20 to also receive a team medal. Go to https://truconnect.fit/ or download the TRUCONNECT app your mobile App Store.
Army veteran Jennifer Campbell, MS, is a certified personal trainer and holds a master’s degree in Nutrition Education. She works with veterans and civilians, from elite athletes to those just starting their fitness journey. She is the commander of Post American Legion 43 in Hollywood, Calif.