5 Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

It’s that time of year when the days get shorter, the temperatures drop, and we retreat indoors to stay warm, watch movies, and snack on all of our favorite foods. A little indulging won’t hurt anyone, but how can you continue to live a balanced and healthy but fulfilling life during the holiday season? Keep reading for five tips on how to avoid holiday weight gain without putting a damper on the celebration and comfort foods.

How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain: 5 Tips

First, I want to offer you a friendly reminder. Indulging for a short period of time is perfectly okay. Of course, you still want to make sure you’re eating plenty of wholesome, nutritious foods and staying hydrated. But maintaining a healthy weight isn’t about being perfect — it’s about being consistent. If you decide to have an extra slice of cake or another cocktail, don’t beat yourself up! It’s been a challenging few years, and the end of the year is a time to kick back and unwind.

That being said, if you don’t want to get completely off-track, these tips will help you avoid holiday weight gain.

1. Don’t Starve Yourself All Day to Indulge at Night

There’s nothing wrong with saving a little extra room for dinner. But if you deprive yourself of food earlier on so that you can binge later, you’re digging yourself a hole!

For starters, this approach can slow down your metabolism, triggering your body to hang onto every last calorie when you do decide to eat, which can lead to weight gain. Also, it can increase your cravings, so that when mealtime comes around, all you want is comfort food.

woman eating at a table in a restaurant with friends

If you normally eat breakfast, then you should continue doing so during the holidays. You can modify your habits, but don’t ditch them completely.

2. Eat Slowly and Mindfully

Hey, I get it. Once the green bean casserole and mashed potatoes with gravy hit the table, it can be hard for any human to control themselves. But one simple way to avoid holiday weight gain is to take your time and be present.

Try to avoid using technology while you’re eating, including scrolling on your smartphone and watching TV. Experience your food with all of your senses. Hear it sizzling in the pan. Smell the aroma of the onions and garlic. Taste the burst of flavor of your dad’s famous roast beef.

Put your fork down in between bites to take a few breaths. Sip water as you eat. If you’re dining with others, look at them, talk to them, and ask them about their day.

family having holiday dinner

When we’re more aware of what we’re consuming, it ends up being much more satisfying and fulfilling.

3. Mind Your Alcohol Consumption

Drinking your calories makes it entirely too easy to consume way more than you intended to. This goes for alcohol, pop, eggnog, and certain juices. I’m not saying you shouldn’t drink these things. I’m saying you should do so moderately and mindfully.

A simple trick is to have a glass of water between every drink. This helps you stay properly hydrated and can also help you avoid drinking too much and ending up with a nasty hangover. (Plus, alcohol can hurt your sleep quality, which can then affect your weight.)

It hopefully goes without saying, but always drink responsibly! If you’re even slightly intoxicated and away from home, get a ride from a friend or use a rideshare service.

4. Prioritize Protein

You know what’s delicious? Pie. Macaroni and cheese. Stuffing. However, it might not do much to keep you full, and it can spike your cravings, meaning you end up eating even more.

Make a habit of reaching for protein first, like chicken, turkey, or seafood. Not only does every cell in your body need protein to function properly, but it also helps to keep you full and provides you with sustained energy for longer periods of time. (No post-dinner crash? Nice!)

Next up, you want to reach for fiber-rich foods, including beans, berries, whole grains, and broccoli. Fiber also helps you stay satiated.

Then, you can start reaching for the really good stuff. This is how you can keep your holiday meals and snacks balanced and satisfying.

5. Keep Your Body Moving

Make time for rest, absolutely. But remember that the human body was meant to move. Whether it’s an online yoga class, a brisk walk around the neighborhood, or a heavy weightlifting session at your local gym, make time for physical activity.

woman doing yoga to avoid holiday weight gain

Important note: Use exercise to benefit your physical and mental health, not to undo holiday indulging. You can’t out-exercise a poor diet, and it’s also not a healthy habit to get into anyway. Life is all about balance!

Some Final Reminders to Keep in Mind

I want to leave you with a few helpful hints so that you can enjoy the season without stressing about your weight.

  • Did the scale go up five pounds overnight? You didn’t gain five pounds. It’s likely water weight and the extra food in your belly.
  • If you do gain actual weight, know that if you gained it quickly, you will lose it quickly too.
  • This is the time of year when all over social media, people are posting about “New Year, New You” and how they want to lose weight. If these posts make you feel bad about yourself, try to limit your exposure to them. Social media should lift you up, not bring you down!

And most importantly, take this time to enjoy being with your loved ones and doing things that make you feel good. Happy Holidays to all!

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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