holiday weight gain

7 Steps to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

Statistics show people tend to gain an average of one to two pounds each year during the holidays. While this may not sound like much, these extra pounds add up to a 10-pound holiday weight gain per decade. My years of clinical practice have shown that packing on extra pounds is not inevitable. These same years of research and experience have also lead me to accumulate several simple and effective suggestions to keep your energy high and to successfully navigate holiday events. Use this simple seven-step plan BEFORE your holiday season gets into high swing:

  1. Weigh yourself twice a week

Like many health experts, I most often recommend weighing in only once a week. But checking in twice a week during the holidays can often help you stay on track without interfering with your ability to enjoy the fun of your holidays, or causing you to become overly focused on the scale.

  1. Start your day with a bang!

Before your breakfast, and after consuming only your coffee (with cream and cinnamon), bang out 20 to 60 minutes of cardiovascular exercise. If you are short on time, opt for 20 minutes of interval training. If you have more time, or are not as energetic, reduce the intensity but increase the length of a steady state cardio activity, such as walking on a treadmill at an incline of four and a speed of four miles per hour for 60 to 75 minutes. (Forty minutes of walking is not enough for fat loss, in my experience. The extra 20 to 35 minutes really makes a significant difference.) Aim to move every day. Exercising on an empty stomach has been found to burn 15 to 18 percent more fat, and it also stimulates fat-burning until your first meal containing carbs. This habit is especially beneficial to offset the morning-after effects from a multi-course dinner, party or indulgence.

  1. Eat less when you exercise less

You’ve heard it before; to lose weight, simply eat less and exercise more. In theory, that makes sense. Actually, it’s not just in theory—science has proven that burning more calories than you consume will result in weight loss. But the trouble is that this only has short-term results. For long-term weight loss, it simply doesn’t work, according to renowned obesity experts in a recent JAMA commentary. In fact, an exceedingly small number of people can lose a substantial amount of weight and keep it off following that advice. My advice to my patients is this: on the days you are too busy to make it to the gym or you miss your daily walk, eat three meals only, reduce your fat intake (it simply has too many calories for days when you move less) and restrict your consumption of starchy carbs to your evening meal.

  1. Get hot baby!

Sleep deprivation and jet lag are proven to decrease our body temperature, most likely due to the stress and impact they have on the metabolic effects we enjoy from thyroid hormones. Despite the decrease in metabolism, we can experience in these fatigued states, we also experience an increase in appetite, particularly for comfort food. How can you prevent this desire to eat? It’s simple—turn up your body heat! Heat can help control your weight by suppressing your appetite. You can do this by wearing extra layers of clothing, engaging in activities that increase body heat like exercising or having a sauna or hot shower. Drinking hot liquids all day long is also a metabolic must. Herbal tea, anyone?

  1. Do not bank calories all day for a party at night!

It’s best for your metabolism, energy and body weight to stay satiated all day. In fact, I recommend swapping your lunch meal with your lighter on-the-go-meal that you might usually have at 3 to 4 pm—B-Up bars are an excellent choice. So, your day would look like this: instead of a smoothie for breakfast, have solid food. Enjoy your lighter snack or meal-on-the-go option (like a protein shake or protein bar) around 11 or 12. Then have your typical lunch meal—a salad with chicken, or soup with turkey or whatever you normally eat—between 3 and 4 pm. I have been using this trick with my patients lately and found it has worked great for weight loss, appetite control and preventing overeating in the evening.

  1. Get Alkaline

While many of us have heard of the benefits of an alkaline body pH, most of us have been informed to measure our pH only in the morning. However, you want to go to bed alkaline, so testing your pH before bed is key because of all the metabolic repairing and detoxifying processes that naturally occur during sleep cause an increase in body acidity. Boosting your body pH before bed can also help to maintain electrolyte balance, especially potassium, which drops water weight.

I recommend a product called PM Alkalizer from Greens First for restoring and maintaining nighttime body pH balance. It tastes great, contains whole food natural ingredients, aids bone density and provides a rich dose of antioxidants. Combine this with the green tea in the morning and you’ve created yourself a simple and effective daily routine to aid weight loss.

  1. Cave in to cravings

Finally, here’s a suggestion we can all get behind. Forbidding a specific food or food group during the holiday season may only make it more attractive. Caving to a craving—as long as it’s in moderation—can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store. Still want more of that apple pie after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favourite holiday activity, like opening presents, watching holiday movies, or playing in the snow. Research shows that daydreaming about pleasant activities, or distracting yourself with just about any activity, can reduce the intensity of food cravings. If that doesn’t work, I suggest eating frozen fruit and keeping chewable vitamin C tabs on hand–these will give you a dose of sweetness and an immune boost!

And lastly, if you would like more help dropping a few pounds before or after the holidays, check out the new structured, easy-to-follow weight loss program at Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto that can be done in person or remotely.

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About the Author

Dr. Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner

Dr. Natasha Turner is a New York Times bestselling author and one of North America’s leading naturopathic doctors, a sought-after speaker, natural health expert, and the founder of Clear Medicine Wellness Boutique in Toronto. In2014 she was recognized by her professional organization as a leader in her field and in 2016 was awarded the top […]

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