Holidat Weight Gain

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain – Don’t Gain Weight Over Holidays

Holidays come with company dinners, social reunions, and a lot of delicious food. A minefield of temptations and cravings that can cause "Holiday Weight Gain".

In this post we'll go through how to avoid holiday weight gain from a scientific point of view.

Stay tuned!!

Case Study: Inflating a balloon
You inflate it a blow every day you crave something and resist to it. The balloon starts being bigger and bigger. It starts to be so tight and big, that one day, a simple blow (another normal craving) makes the balloon to explode and you cannot resist anymore.

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What Causes Binge Eating?

Restricted Diets

Restricted low calorie diets are the main cause of binge eating (study).

If prolonged over time, it may lead to severe health consequences such as neurological disorders, anxiety, food disorders,.. (study)

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Holidays

Christmas and any other holidays may contribute negatively to this behaviour.

Temptations during this season are very high and prominent, and it's so easy to go crazy with food.

What Triggers Holiday Weight Gain?

You have probably gain weight over Christmas, but you have no idea how you got there...

It's at the end of the night when they realize how much they ate and all the food they put in their mouths.

And not only the food, but also the few (and not few) drinks coming after, the sweets going around the table,...

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Not being conscious of what you are eating leads to misconceptions and misunderstandings with your own body.

In this study, health consciousness affected food choice and behaviour towards food and diet (study).

This behaviour is controlled by our 'desire and reward system'.

It drives your emotions and behaviours towards food and other types of pleasure. It's formed by a 'want' and a 'need'. When you trigger the 'want', dopamine peaks and motivation is high, which makes you act to complete the 'need'.

Reward System

Triggering a bad behaviour is multifactorial.

For the sake of your understanding we can divide these in three: psychological, social and chemical.

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Psychological triggers

Binge eating may be caused by a bad relationship with the inner you.

Depression, anxiety, discomfort,... all these require of some kind of reward to make you feel better (study).

Holidays are a great opportunity for it.  You are with your family, a bunch of food on the table.... and two hours later you are sick of eating but still holding a piece of chocolate and waiting for the second one to come.

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Social Triggers

Peer pressure influences your behaviour (study).

To feel 'normal' and get in the vibes of the night, you force yourself to eat whatever they put us in the table, without even thinking if we really want it or not.

One thing leads to the other, and peer pressure has a big influence in drinking behaviour as well (study), which usually comes after the big meal.

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Chemical Triggers

Your biochemical environment and metabolism is able to trigger binge-eating behaviour and holiday weight gain.

Dopaminergic systems and opiod receptors drive your desire and need to eat more (study)

In this study, opioid receptors in the brain increased as binge-eating became more frequent (study). These receptors are involved in addiction behaviour and pleasure.

Dopamine peaks when you need or crave something (like food). This dopamine peak leads you to the need of binge-eating (study)

TAKE-HOME MESSAGES:


  • Holiday Weight Gain is influenced by our history and what we've been doing in prior months

  • The behaviour of binge eating is controlle by our desire and reward system

  • Binge Eating can be triggered by psychological, social, and chemical aspects.

Nutrition to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

What can you do to avoid holiday weight gain?

In the next 5min, some easy tips to help you control your desires and avoid holiday weight gain!

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Control your Overall Eating Behaviout

Your nutritional habits are key to avoid holiday weight gain and binge-eating (study). These are some tips you can use to improve your nutritional habits.

Don’t continuously binge eat

Keep your diet as it was during the rest of the days. During Christmas, only 3-4 meals are excused due to social events.

Don't take advantage of that to get out of track and continously cheat on our 'diets'.

Eat what you usually eat during the rest of the meals. And when the big meal comes, enjoy it and prioritize 'more interesting' choices

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Christmas is only one night

One day doesn't influence the rest of the year. It's the continuous behaviour and repetition what makes the difference.

Enjoy your Christmas meal, but don't consider every meal of that week an opportunity to go crazy with food.

Don't counter any 'cheating' on following meals

If you've done it, you've done it. Don't regret it.

You've enjoyed an amazing meal, with your dearest and with a lot of good food. Next morning you wake up (hopefully not too hangover) and go make your usual breakfast.

If you are still full, skip that meal and start your normal nutritional habits whenever you get full.

Intuitive eating after a binge improves your eating behaviour (study).

Holiday Weight Gain

How to Eat during Christmas Dinner

Now it comes the Real Deal. How should you behave during Christmas?

There are some tips we can use to still enjoy the meal while minimizing the 'cheating' part.

Prioritize 'calorie-free' drinks

Liquid calories may cause sudden weight gain (study). Christmas holidays come with a lot of drinking, and it has some disadvantages when it comes to eating behaviour:

  1. Alcohol before eating leads to higher food intake (study)
  2. It decreases fats oxidation and transport while increases fatty acids synthesis (study)
  3. It provides calories with no nutritional interest (study)

Start the night with water (or a 'zero' soda on its defect) and stay hydrated. Enjoy one or two drinks, but be aware of the consequences if you go beyond that.

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Veggies First

There are always good food choices on the table. Vegetables are high in fibre and low in calories, making them one of the best choices you can make to start your meal.

Fiber slows your digestions and are low in calories (study). It provides less calories than most of the foods, helping you avoid holiday weight gain.

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Prioritize protein sources

Protein is the most satitating macronutrient (study) and is  involved in muscle metabolism(study). High protein intakes help you build muscle and avoid muscle loss.

A good start point for you Christmas meal is to go for protein sources and veggies. Ensure your daily protein intake, and from there enjoy the rest of the meal.

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Leave the 'cheating' for the end of the night

Out of three choices, make two of them 'recommended' and be more flexible on the third one.

You'll still enjoy the meal, and it won't feel like you are restricting yourself to dieting.

Propose to be the cook

Be the cook and have more control over the food choices  Ensure healthy options while still being tasty and avoid holiday weight gain.

So, avoid fryings, fast foods and excess of high-calorie dense sources.

Instead, go for veggies, lean protein sources and recommended cooking methods (baking, roasting, grill, boiling, steam,..). And remember to still prioritize flavour and make it tasty!!

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Exercise to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

What should you do with your training routine? Should you stop or keep going? Should you take one week off and enjoy holidays?

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Overall Recommendations

Keep training as you usually do, even on the same Christmas Day. And this is why:

  • Burn more calories (study), leaving more spare calories to intake on your holiday meal
  • Favours muscle growth (study)
  • Makes you more satisfied and accomplished (study)
  • Counters all sleep deprivation taking place during holidays and regulate circadian rythms (study)

Exercise is the best you can do to avoid holiday weight gain.

It increases energy expenditure and creates a better relation with food. It makes you more accomplished and happy with yourself, which ultimately leads to less binge-eating due to psychological aspects.

These are some tips you can follow to keep going to the gym during christmas:

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Organize your trainings in advanced

Organization creates commitment, and commitment leads to action.

Write down when you are going to go to the gym. As James Clear says in his book Atomic Habits, you should organize your habits by following the format:

I will do [habit needed] in [space] at [time]

This way you'll be conscious of when you have to go train and you'll make sure you have nothing else that impedes that to happen.

Exercise with your family

Holidays are for spending time for family; why not at the gym?

Go hit a workout with your cousin, brother or father. Enjoy the time together while keeping up with your workouts.

In terms of adherence and stickness to training, group training was better at improving exercise adherence during a training program (study)

Plan activites involving physical exercise

Exercise is not only resistance training.

Any kind of physical activity and an active lifestyle will help you avoid holiday weight gain, and more important, improve your health (study).

Holiday Family Plans

  • Go for a hike to your town's forest
  • Hit some winter sports with your family
  • Go spend the day outdoors and have a picnic
  • Plan a bike tour around your town
  • Visit surroundings of your home town and have some family life
Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Conclusion

Holiday weight gain is a reality, but you shouldn't be afraid of it.

Bad food behaviours often created by what you've been doing during the year. If your diet has been restricted and very low in calories, risk of binge eating is higher. But you still can avoid it.

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