Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain


By: Tony Ferrao – December 2012

Ah, yes! That wonderful time of the year when we loosen the belt and get ready for some great eatin’! Unfortunately, the wonderful comfort foods that bring back nostalgia can also lead to unwanted pounds. Not the holiday “gift” many are looking for. Here are some tips to help stay away from unwanted weight gain.

Set a goal. With weight, this should involve a scale and your favorite pair of pants. The goal will be to not gain, so take your base line. This gives you a gaol weight of staying the same at a time most are gaining weight. Track it every few days to see how you are doing as you move through the holiday season. According to the NIH most Americans permanently gain between 1-2 pounds each holiday season!

Have a plan. Maintenance takes work, as does transformation. This should involve both exercise and nutrition! The human body doesn’t care that you have food to bake or relatives coming to town, so stick to a routine and regular schedule of exercise and proper nutrition.

Exercise! The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends 3 to 5 days of moderate to vigorous exercise each week to achieve a weight (body fat) loss goal. Maintenance can be achieved with 2 to 3 days a week. Focus on resistance exercises that work more than one joined and multiple muscles at the same time, like lunges, squats, presses and pulls. The day of big meals, always exercise before the meal. This will allow the body to use the food to repair and replenish from the workout. Opt for resistance exercises over cardio if you are limited on time!

Eat! Make sure you keep an eye on what you are eating. Honestly, no one person eats enough turkey to have tryptophan cause them to fall asleep. It’s not the tryptophan, it’s the vast amount and density of carbohydrates that cause the sleepiness. Mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, pies, processed goodies,… I’m sure I missed a bunch of examples here, but you understand. High amounts of carbohydrates, complex or otherwise, will cause an insulin spike. That insulin spike will potentially lead to 2 unwanted affects. The first being a subsequent blood sugar low caused by an abnormally high amount of insulin to deal with all the holiday goodies. The second is the storage of body fat that comes from eating more carbohydrates than you will immediately use or can store in your muscles and liver. So, to avoid this it is best to good easy on the starchy and sugary foods and go heavier on the veggies, unprocessed whole foods and lean meat. We all know you’re eating the deserts, just cut back on the servings and opt for dishes that have fresh fruits and nuts instead of sugar, processed sugar and more sugar.

Drink water. Alcohol, beer, wine, spiked egg nog, juices,… It is too easy to drink your calories during this time of the year. I already covered the affect of sugar and alcohol is different and not much better. It isn’t automatically converted to fat, but it does cause the body to put fat metabolism on hold until the liver can deal with the alcohol. In terms of energy, alcohol has 175% of what carbohydrate has per gram and almost as much as fat (78%). Unfortunately, alcohol is considered a toxin and doesn’t do anything good for the human body. It will actually set you back on your goal, as fat metabolism can drop as much as 73% for several hours after alcohol consumption, depending on the amount. On the other hand, water is involved in almost every metabolic process, including fat metabolism!

Sleep. All night cooking and shopping sprees? No thank you! Sleep plays a vital role in tissue repair, hormonal rhythms and various important processes involved in staying lean. In fact, a lack of sleep can lead to decreases in seratonin levels, increased cortisol production and storage of unwanted fat. Make sure you are sleeping your 7 to 8 hours a night!