This post is written by Certified Health Coach and FFP office manager, Leah Gilbert. Make sure to check out her bio at the bottom of the page. Take it away, Leah....
There’s a lot of “facts” flying around the media about the impact the American holiday season has on our health. From sweeping claims that every American is doomed to gain 10 pounds from eating 1 piece of pie to denial that weight gain occurs at all over the holidays, it can be challenging to find a reasonable sounding board for what to expect the scale to say come January first.
This article from the New England Journal of Medicine reviewed a study conducted to determine what the true average holiday weight gain really is. The study showed the average American to gain anywhere between 1 to 5 pounds over the holiday season (measured over 6 to 8 weeks); and showed that the more overweight a person already was, the more they gained on average over the season.
This is drastically different from the 7-10 pound warning many of us are receiving from the media. If the true numbers are so different from the warnings, then what is the big deal about the holidays and our health anyway?
Although science has contributed more reasonable facts about the average American weight gain over the holidays, we are not completely off the hook. While a person may gain only 1-5 lbs this holiday season, the study also showed that those adults never lost what they gained. Science also shows that over time, adults gain on average at least 1-2 lbs per year and never lose it. This means that should this statistic be true for you, you are currently the lowest weight you’ll ever be. And I’m guessing if you opened this article, you don’t want that to be the case.
While 1 pound might not seem like much, it’s not the 1 pound that puts us at an unhealthy weight necessarily. It’s the accumulation of our “1 pound parties” over a lifetime that result in us looking back wondering how we got to where we are.
So, how to we break the trend? Firstly it comes down to a personal decision to commit to greater health in your life. Once you’ve made that decision and committed to it, here are some practical tips for navigating the holidays in a healthier way this season:
Call ahead to your host (or offer to be the host!) of your holiday party, Thanksgiving dinner, Christmas brunch, etc., and ask what is on the menu. Chances are that person has a running list in their head of what will be served and will be more than happy to share it. If it seems like there’s a good amount of protein, veggies, and fruit, then awesome! You’re all set. If not, offer to bring something! Be the first to contribute to a potluck with a veggie tray or dessert of fresh berries and whipped cream. However, heed this warning: in my experience, when you bring a healthy dish to sit amongst many unhealthy dishes, it will go fast! Your friends and family will be so relieved to see something good for them amongst all the treats, so be sure to make a few batches or a couple different dishes to go around!
2. Remember the reason for the season.
Take a minute to meditate on the REAL reason we have the holidays—no matter what holiday you celebrate, they are a time to come together with those we love most and give thanks and remember special traditions. Remind yourself this year to focus on what really matters to you this holiday season—make a point to sit with a loved one and actually listen to what is new in his or her life since you last saw him or her. Savor the time you have with family you only get to see once a year (or maybe less). Celebrate the exciting news like pregnancies, engagements, new jobs, and all the things we have to be grateful for. Maybe the holidays aren’t quite as jolly for you usually, but this year make a point to have an attitude of gratitude and turn that around for yourself. We all have things to be thankful for!
3. Start your 2017 resolution now.
This advice is plain and simple—don’t wait until January 1 to start working out or paying attention to your health. Start now. The holidays are only 6 days—the rest of the days in these months are normal. Meet with a trainer now and set a good schedule so that when the New Year rolls around you’ve already made it a consistent staple in your schedule. Enjoy the seasonal veggies on sale at the grocery store and begin incorporating them into your diet. If you have a goal to lose 20 pounds in 2017, don’t start with 25 to go!
About the Author:
Leah is a certified health coach with the Center of Obesity Prevention and Education and lives in Virginia Beach, VA. She manages the office at Forward Fitness and Performance in Chesapeake, VA. She enjoys coaching others to take back their health, spending time with her fiancée, and wearing sweat pants.
*Photo credits: Emily Lewin Photography