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Avoid Holiday Weight Gain – 13 Ways to Stay Healthy at the Holidays

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There is a difference between indulging over the holidays and giving up all hope while stuffing your face. So put down the leftovers, and check out our 13 simple ways to avoid holiday weight gain! You’ll be looking and feeling your best this season.

The good news is typically people only gain about 1.3 lbs during the holidays based on a Cornell Univesity study. On top of that, half of the weight came off quickly.

Unfortunately, the other half hung around until around Easter!

Also, overweight people tend to gain more than that 1.3 lbs so if it’s important to identify where you may need to change a habit before it shows up on the scale.

Avoid holiday weight gain with these simple tips, or if you gained a muffin top - let's undo it with some easy tricks to get back on track.

This is just one post from our Healthy Holidays Series. It may contain affiliate links. See our Disclosure Policy.

A Better Solution

Instead of overdoing it during the holidays and then setting a New Year’s Resolution, set a goal in October to not gain too much weight in the first place.

This way you have a game plan, are allowing yourself a little wiggle room and not have to worry about holding onto holiday weight until Easter.

What Causes Holiday Weight Gain?

  • More Socializing at Parties
  • Increased Stress
  • Broken Routines
  • Emotional Eating

These are just a few reasons we tend to overeat in this time of year. By knowing what causes weight gain, we can tweak our behavior to keep us in a healthy balanced lifestyle.

All of your hard work should not be undone during the holidays; however, if it is – these tips will also help you reverse the bump up on the scale.

13 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

1. It’s All About Mindset

Our routines are thrown for a loop during the holidays. Back to back parties are killer on the waistline and our consistency.

Plus, adding in new obligations – even if they’re fun obligations – can leave us stressed and lacking willpower.

Before you get to the point of eating whatever “just because it’s there” think about what you’d like to accomplish this holiday season.

Set a Goal

Create a realistic goal early on to help you stay on track.  If you love holiday food and can’t work out for hours on end — you aren’t alone.  It’s okay to not be perfect; just don’t make your goal to lose 10 pounds before January.

A good goal for us is, “I will maintain my weight this week by remaining within my optimal calorie intake 6 days and getting in at least 30 minutes of exercise 4 days a week. I will plan around large meals and indulge in my favorite foods.”

Another example would be: I will eat healthy 80% of the time, and I won’t indulge so much that I feel overly full or tired after a meal. I also skip leftovers and focus on time and talking with friends versus foods at parties.

2. Start a Food Journal

By researching and recording your calorie intake, you will make better choices and stay on track on days when there isn’t a party or event going on.

You can also see that you are eating a variety of healthy foods and not depriving yourself.

If you aren’t great about meal prepping when you get busy, Nutrisystem might be a good choice during the holiday months to stay on track.

Also, it’s tempting to “save up” calories for a big party, but this usually leaves you starving and you’ll overdo it. Just eat normally and plan for your indulgences.

On event days like a holiday party you look forward to all year, you don’t have to count calories and enjoy until full (but not stuffed).

3. Get Active

If you’re used to working out, stick to it! Getting it done first thing in the morning will keep you in the routine even when things get busy.

If you’re not – this might not be the best time to add it in; however, there are some great 30-minute programs you can do right from home!

If you are planning on cutting back your workouts – at least stay active. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing.

Plan a fun night to go bowling or rearrange the furniture to find the Christmas tree the perfect spot in the house. We put together a full list of fun activities to do to burn more calories without working out here.


Avoid Muffin Top

4. Eat Breakfast

Skipping breakfast to save calories can be detrimental to your diet and metabolism. Those 250 calories saved at breakfast, usually get gobbled up by a huge, unhealthy lunch or afternoon candy bar because you’re starved.

Furthermore, studies in Scotland, Denmark, Sweden and England found that people who ate a high-protein breakfast or lunch were less hungry at their next meal.

So getting a shake or a cup of Greek yogurt with berries will help you stay on track the rest of the day.

Our bodies are designed to eat multiple times a day, and our metabolisms naturally rev up every time we eat. In short, that means we are burning more calories and avoid muffin top by eating throughout the day.

5. Drink Your Water

We sound like someone’s mother, but we really do need lots of water.

We aim for half of our body weight in ounces. We always need that much, but we really need it around the holidays because of all the extra sodium in a lot of festive foods.

By drinking enough water, you’ll be able to tell if your hungry or just really thirsty.  Plus it will help keep your skin glowing even if you have a cocktail or two at a Christmas party.

6. Survey What Foods Are Being Served

Most of our family’s holiday dinners are potluck. Take a little walk around the buffet, rank your favorites & then choose your 1-2 top picks! It will make the whole meal more enjoyable and means no food is ever off limits.

Just eat those top 1 or 2 favorite foods in moderation to avoid muffin top.

If you’re at a restaurant, ask them to bag up 1/3 to 1/2 of the meal to go and freeze it when you get home. This way you’re not tempted to overdo it, and you don’t have to practice self-control with having them pack it up immediately.

You can also always eat the leftovers the next day as a lunch or dinner because it’s a smaller portion.

Avoid Muffin Top - 13 Ways to Stay Healthy at the Holidays

7. Enjoy Your Favorites

A serving of dressing or a piece of pie is not going to derail your healthy habits for the holidays.

On the other hand, depriving yourself will only lead to an eventual slip and possibly bingeing on something not as satisfying.

If you love a certain dessert or meal, go ahead and plan to enjoy it!

By knowing you plan on eating it, you cut down on stress and guilt of deciding if you should or not.

8. Watch Your Drinks

Eggnog, Baileys, hot chocolate, and our favorite — wine, all pack calories!

Plus, alcohol turns to straight sugar in the body so it has no nutritional value and won’t leave you feeling full.

On top of that, it can leave you dehydrated which can lead to headaches and haggard looking skin.

Decide if your cocktail or drink is worth it, and then give yourself a limit before you start. That way your mindset isn’t thrown off by the effects of alcohol.

9. Bring a Healthy Dish

By bringing a healthy dish, there is one more healthy choice to help you maintain your weight for the holidays and avoid muffin top.

We put together a full list of dish ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas Dinner.

10. Leave the Leftovers

It is so tempting to pack up the famous sweet potatoes, but we don’t.

Research shows if you see the food, you’re much more likely to eat it.

So leftovers just extend our time to splurge or worse, mindlessly eat and not avoid muffin top. Enjoy the meal once by picking foods that will satisfy you the first time around and leave it.

11. Pack Mints or Gum

This will keep you from mindlessly munching at a party. Plus you’ll be able

Plus you’ll be able to talk to people at parties without worrying about turkey-breath.

12. Giveaway Something Sweet

Making candy for people is sweet and a fun family tradition for us. The bad part of the tradition is that we usually sit there and eat it all or at least what we don’t give away. Now when we make the candy, we package it as soon as we can and avoid muffin top.

13. It’s okay to say “no thank you”

We will never understand why people push food onto others; however, it happens. Our family is the worst about this. It’s like if we haven’t stuffed ourselves, it must not be good, or we’re a little weird. It is perfectly okay to say “no thank you” though.

Once you’ve done it a couple of times, it gets a lot easier too, and your family and friends will limit asking you over and over. Tosca Reno, creator of The Eat-Clean Diet, also suggests picking out a food you aren’t in love with and pushing it around so your hands remain full.

The Avoid Muffin Top Test

Pick out a pair of jeans that are naturally a little snug. – Put them on every week on the same day and same time. This will tell you how you are doing without having to be a slave to the sale. PLUS one of your outfits is already picked out for the week.

Final Thought: Don’t Beat Yourself Up

It’s the holidays. Stress happens. Instead of beating yourself up over overindulging, cut yourself a break. Focus on your self-care routine and know whatever happens – January will be here soon. Enjoy today for today.

This is just one post from our Healthy Holidays Series

Did you overindulge or need a tradition not centered on food? Do you avoid muffin top?

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  1. Thanks for the tips! I have a special diet and often make poor choices during the holidays. I’ll keep these tips in mind!

  2. Oh! This is truly a great timing for me to read this article now that the Christmas holiday is fast approaching! I’m happy to see this and it’s really helpful for my diet plans. Now I know what to do in case my favorite holiday foodstuffs will be served. Thanks for the remarkable tips!

  3. haha, only 1.3 lbs? I’d never have guessed! :P I tend to cheat day/meal like no tomorrow during the holiday season, so thank you for this post! I like the part about not beating yourself up–also super important!

  4. I’m so glad you included the actual weight gain that’s actually just 1-2 pounds. I hate reading alarmist articles that talk about people gaining 15 pounds! You have some great actionable tips in here.