Holiday Weight Gain Myths – Enjoy Christmas Food Guilt-Free

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One problem with a diet mindset while on vacation (or really, anytime) is that it makes you think too much about what you eat, taking away the sheer pleasure of those treats once a year. Another problem is that this is a setup to think you have to ‘catch up’ on that bite of stuffing or sip of nog, and it can lead to an unhealthy yo-yo diet. Below are five misconceptions that should make you feel better just enjoying the season and all that it serves you.

Myth #1 You are destined to enter 2021 in bigger jeans.

Nope. If you gain weight while on vacation, it’s unlikely to be a lot, according to research. But that doesn’t mean you imagine your belt tight: salty, sugary, fatty foods, and alcohol cause bloating and water retention, which can make you feel like you’ve put on a few, even if it’s temporary, says Dana Angelo White, a registered dietitian and athletic trainer. “The real weight gain comes only from fat or muscle, but water weight changes can be quite aggressive,” she says. Most will go away once you resume regular, healthy habits, says Dawn Jackson Blatner, RDN, author of The exchange of superfoods. Drink plenty of water, snack on fruits and vegetables, walk on your lunch breaks – you know exercise – and you’ll soon be back to your normal state.

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Myth #2 The main reason you overeat is seasonal treats.

Mom’s sweet and salty pecan pie is irresistible, but that might not be the main reason you eat beyond the comfort point while on vacation. Business is a big factor: We tend to eat more when we socialize than when we are alone, perhaps up to 48% more, according to research. To avoid subconsciously snacking around others, change some of your habits. Instead of chatting on the cheese board, move your conversation to a room without food, Blatner says. Rather than linger after dessert, offer a family walk or a game of cards. If you are at a restaurant, ask the waiter to take your meal away once you feel full. You can also focus your meetings more on activity (such as ice skating) than on food.

Myth #3 Working very hard can negate any excess

You can’t really sweat these festive treats, and you shouldn’t feel like you have to. When researchers at Texas Tech University followed people, half of whom were active, for the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years, they found that both groups gained roughly the same amount of weight. More importantly, perceiving exercise as a way to quash overeating is an unhealthy state of mind, Blatner says. “Eating your favorite foods is not something you should be punished for,” she says. Try to mentally separate food from exercise and stay active for all of its benefits beyond anything the scale can tell. Going for a walk or time on your yoga mat can increase your energy, improve your digestion, and help you deal with stress. This is a victory on many levels during the hectic holiday season.

Myth #4 It is good to detox or fast after the new year.

It’s so bad to do either! Making a sharp turn from candy and stuffed meats to a juice cleanse is a catastrophic setup. “These very restrictive diets are just emergency diets in disguise,” says Angelo White. “They can wreak havoc on your metabolism and lead to overeating and rebound weight gain.” And they don’t need to be: Most of us lose about half of all vacation weight in a month, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine find. This is mainly because people are going back to their usual eating habits, Blatner says. Losing the rest, if you will, takes intentionality, not misery. Meet a friend for a walk instead of a fancy coffee drink, swap sparkling water for wine for a while, and eat a variety of colorful products. Such small adjustments can get the job done and are much easier to live with in the long run.

Myth #5 You absolutely need to replace the high fat and calorie holiday foods with “healthier” versions.

Of course, use Greek yogurt instead of mayonnaise in your dip or less sugar in your sugar cookie recipe if that sounds like a pure positive trade. But if the “healthier” version of your favorite holiday dish seems restrictive, depressing, or diet-like, you risk snacking and snacking later in the day, Blatner says. One study found that people who bought foods labeled as “light” could eat 13% more calories than those who ate high-fat versions. It’s best to stick with a reasonable portion of the traditional party food and really savor every bite. Personal services.

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