Holiday Weight Gain: Getting Back on Track After Holiday Eating

So you broke your diet over the holidays…now what?

First off, yeah, of course you did, and so did everyone else. Holidays are a time that's meant to bring family and loved ones together, enjoy traditions and make memories.

Many of these traditions and gatherings include eating delicious food. 

Is much of that food “diet friendly?” Probably not. But do a lot of those foods have traditions and memories attached to them? Absolutely, and that’s important to honor too. 

While it’s totally normal to indulge a bit more during the holiday season and festivities, if healthy habits are broken, you may feel a bit out of control, and it may seem extra hard to get back into your routine. 

We have the tips you need to get back on track and/or help you avoid weight gain.

Holiday Weight Gain

If you're struggling with holiday weight gain or afraid that it's coming, you’re not alone. Holiday weight gain is a concern for many people—the question is, should it be?

You may find comfort in the fact that regardless of how you're feeling, you probably have not gained as much weight as you think.

Despite the common 5-10 lb. number that's thrown around, one study found that the average holiday weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's was actually about only about .37 kg which is about .8 lbs (1).

While this is not significant weight gain, this does likely contribute to the annual weight gain that many individuals have that compiles year after year, so addressing it will be beneficial to your overall health and maintaining a healthy weight. 

During the holidays, you may also be holding onto some extra water weight if you've been consuming more sodium along with carbohydrate-rich foods. 

The goal is to create eating habits that allow you to enjoy “unhealthy” or less nutritious foods more often so that when it is around in abundance, you don’t feel out of control and can enjoy things in moderation while maintaining your healthy habits.

But if you did feel out of control and are still feeling out of control, we have some tips to restore a little balance, get you back to your healthy eating habits and possibly lose or prevent weight gain.

Getting back on track after holiday eating: 5 tips

Establishing and keeping healthy habits is a lifelong endeavor. A few weeks is not going to make or break your progress. However, weeks can easily turn into months, and it can get more and more challenging to reel it in as time goes on and new habits form.  

You don't need a hard reset, a fast, or a cleanse to get back on track after holiday eating or to get rid of holiday weight gain, but you do need to gradually start shifting your choices towards ones to support your health. 

Start with these 5 things to ease back into your health and fitness routine and begin moving in the right direction toward your goals.

1. Start with a nourishing meal

Often the gut reaction people have after overeating or breaking their diet is to restrict or try to go through prolonged periods without eating.

Unfortunately, this is so common that there are a few terms for it, such as the binge-restrict cycle or yo-yo dieting

Instead of trying not to eat or slashing your portions in half, eat a well-balanced and filling meal. This will leave you feeling full and satisfied, which will make it easier to continue healthy eating habits. 

Try to choose whole or minimally processed foods and include a lean protein source, a fiber-rich carbohydrate source, and a healthy fat source. 

Looking for healthy holiday food inspo? Take a look at our healthy recipes to get back on track after the holidays. 

2. Ease back into a workout routine

Another common coping mechanism when you feel like the holiday slump or like you overindulged is to try to punish yourself by over-exercising.

This is not going to help your mindset or your body. Exercise should not be a punishment, and this can wreak havoc on your hormones.

Your sleep, stress, and hormones may be a bit off after the holidays, and intense exercise can actually exacerbate these issues by increasing cortisol levels (2). This can make weight loss efforts even more challenging (3).

Instead, opt for low to moderate-intensity workouts such as a walk, yoga, or light strength training, which can help reduce circulating cortisol. This will help you ease back into your routine, and you can gradually add back in intensity.

3. Cut back on alcohol

With frequent gatherings during the holidays, your alcohol consumption is likely a bit higher than normal.

Not only does alcohol add extra calories to your diet, but another side effect of alcohol that many people don’t think about is its effect on sleep. Poor sleep quality can have a cascading effect to cause hormonal and appetite changes that can make following through on healthy decisions even more challenging.

When consuming alcohol, your body will also prioritize metabolizing the alcohol over other energy sources because it’s seen as a toxin, which can slow your metabolism of food and impact your digestion. 

Reducing your alcohol intake will go a long way in helping you get back after your health goals by supporting your sleep and metabolism and reducing your overall calorie intake.

4. Stay Hydrated

With that extra alcohol and salt intake, plus being out of your normal routine, you may be a bit dehydrated. 

Staying hydrated is a key component of health and can support weight loss efforts. 

Adding more water to your day is something that doesn’t take much planning aside from remembering to carry your water bottle with you and opt for water instead of sugar-sweetened beverages or alcohol.

Check out these 5 tips to increase your daily water intake

5. Meal prep

Meal prep takes the guesswork out of trying to eat healthy. By having something healthy already prepared and portioned, you don’t have to choose takeout or convenience food because you’re healthy meal is right there and ready to go. 

Meal prep is also one of the most effective habits to support weight loss efforts. 

Don’t feel like meal prepping? Leave it to the pros and outsource your meal prep. Trifecta will deliver healthy, macro-balanced meals designed by chefs and dietitian-approved. 

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