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How to Prevent Permanent Weight Gain During the Holidays

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weight gain holidays

The holidays arrive and end so quickly. So many emotions – excitement about the long-anticipated time off, nervousness about all upcoming preparations, jolliness, exhaustion, connectedness…

Many women, especially those who tend to restrict their food intake throughout the year in hopes to stay slim, use the holidays as a licence to over-indulge. Partially because they’ve been depriving themselves for many months, but also because everyone else does it too.

The sad truth is that it’s almost impossible not to gain weight during this time of the year.

Why do we gain weight during menopause?

According to statistics published on the NHS, 37% of women aged between 45 and 54 (37%) are overweight. Here are several common reasons:

Here are several common reasons: 

  • Metabolism decreases as a natural effect of the ageing process by 10% every 10 years
  • Hormonal changes – the decline in oestrogen influences the shift of fat towards the midsection
  • Psychological reasons – for many women the energy levels and the desire for adventures and an active way of living decreases
  • Menopausal symptoms make you feel unconformable, therefore making you seek food for comfort

Now, combine weight gain caused by middle age and menopause with holiday over-indulgence and you get the almost unavoidable weight gain.

Is this really the end of the world? 

The reality is that everyone fluctuates, even the most perfect looking celebrities and your skinny friends whose bodies we’re jealous of. Let’s normalise the scale going up and down. The spikes around the holidays are normal. Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Easter, every single birthday party, baby shower and all the little holidays in between are all associated with more food and drinks than usual. It might be better for your mental health to accept and even anticipate that you’ll gain a few pounds rather than to spend your energy being terrified that your jeans will feel tight after Christmas and New Year’s.

However, there is a difference between a temporary increase in your weight and a permanent increase in your dress size (often caused by the ‘what the hell’ effect’ your mind is experiencing when you’ve fallen off the wagon of clean eating and decide that you might as well continue).

Here is how to avoid making the weight gain during the holidays permanent:

1. Don’t obsess

The more you get fixated on losing the extra pounds, the more you think about your appearance and how not to eat that much. Ironically, it’s exactly how you make yourself think about food, fantasising about delicious forbidden treats. It’s how you end up snacking more, therefore maintaining the gained weight! If you accept that you’ll be a little chubbier for a few weeks, it’s more likely that you won’t think about food that much.

2. Keep the unhealthy foods away

If you have a sweet tooth, it gets even trickier when you’re surrounded by mince pies and cookies. Try to limit the amount of treats you have in the house. As they say, “out of sight, out of mind”. If you live with your partner or family, ask them to make a deal and to only consume treats when you’re outside or seeing friends. That way, the temptations will be limited.

3. Focus on the healthy options 

If you get into the habit of snacking on crunchy or juicy vegetables and fruits such as carrots, peppers, apples and grapes, your need to munch something sweet will be partially satisfied.

When you start giving your body nutritious and fresh foods, you’ll get accustomed to that taste and the more the overly processed foods will begin to taste artificial. It takes 10 days for the taste buds to regenerate. Therefore, if you’ve been overindulging in salty, sweet and fatty foods, you can retrain your taste buds by eating less processed (and even bland) foods that are lower in calories and higher in nutrients and minerals.

4. Accept that weight gain is common during menopause and the holidays

As it’s written in The New Hot, weight gain is a common topic during menopause, but it’s also not a direct symptom, and more likely a result of ageing, diet and inactivity. However, a decline in oestrogen influences the shift of fat towards the midsection.

Being overweight and, specifically, having abdominal obesity, increases the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which all, in turn, further increase the potential of heart disease. Being at higher risk of weight gain, combined with the extra calories typical for holidays makes it very likely that you gain some weight, even if it’s a tiny bit. Don’t beat yourself up too much.

5. Move more

When you’re approaching your 50s, you might be gradually switching to a slower and more peaceful way of living. Over the years we spend less and less time on sports or dancing. Less exercising and more mindfulness – good for the mind but not that much for the body. And the pleasure we used to get from exercise might gradually get replaced by the pleasure that comes with food.

If you manage to override these temptations and realise that one of the best ways to positively affect your metabolism is to move more.

Aim for 10,000 steps a day and 15,000 and more if you’re trying to lose weight. During the cold days of the year, it’s not as inviting to go for long walks. If you’re not enjoying these, you can go to the gym or a Zumba class, do a home workout, dance at home, or do some yoga and Pilates if you aren’t a fan of intense workouts.

Any form of movement is healthy for you and your weight loss.

6 Start planning how you’ll shed the extra weight after the holidays

When you start picturing yourself doing workouts more often, you’ll switch from a lazy, unmotivated mode, into a more focussed, driven, ready for positive change version of yourself. Don’t expect to go from barely any movement to 10k a day, but if you anticipate something realistic such as exercising 3 times a week, you’re more likely to achieve success, i.e., returning to your pre-holiday weight.

Be careful with an “all or nothing mentality” – eat all you can now and starve yourself in January. This will only stress you out and put you on a yo-yo vicious cycle.

7. Set realistic goals 

It helps to set goals based on desired actions or results. For example, “I want to lose 1 kg in a month.” Or “I want to return to my pre-Christmas weight by 15th February.

It keeps you focussed on the outcome as opposed to the issue at hand. It’s motivating if the goal is related to a significant date – wedding, anniversary, meeting with former classmates, vacation which involves a swimming pool, therefore wearing a bikini.

Conclusion

It’s okay if you don’t lose the weight immediately. Don’t beat yourself up, it’s not easy when you have other demands in life that take precedent. The most important thing is to feel good in your skin. You don’t need to be size 6 to feel that way, but it helps when you’re in your comfortable weight range. When you feel healthier, you’ll have more energy and you’ll be more radiant. So, start with small steps and stay consistent, the weight will drop before you know it.

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Meg's Quote

If you are depressed,
you are living in the past.
If you are anxious,
you are living in the future.
If you are at peace,
you are living in the present.
– Lao Tzu –

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