Holiday Weight Gain: Beyond the Food

Spoiler alert: it’s easy to gain weight over the holidays if you aren’t careful. But if you look beyond the casserole dishes and pies, you’ll see there are many culprits that team up to try to add extra pounds to your body during the holiday season. Below are a list of holiday weight gain culprits other than food. Tips from weight loss expert Dr. Myo Nwe’s new book “Fat-Me-Not: Weight Loss Diet of the Future“ are included as well! 
1. Tis’ the Season to Party Everyone loves a good holiday party. There is Thanksgiving dinner with the in-laws, your work’s Christmas party, your annual neighborhood shindig, the big New Year bash, and every party in between. All of these parties mean lots of foods and alcohol, and lots of food and alcohol can mean weight gain. But the parties don’t have to be detrimental to your diet.
Focus on the real reason for the parties—celebrating with friends and family. This will prevent you from getting so caught up in piling as much food as possible on your plate.
Have a snack before you head over to the party. This can curb your appetite. According to Nwe, a good snack consists of 10 nuts, a few pieces of chopped avocado, or a boiled egg.
Make a point to speak to everyone at the party, so you’ll forget about the feast. Nwe says don’t sit in one place; walk around and make a connection with everyone.
Start with the less dense/lower calorie options. Think shrimp cocktail over cheese-filled crab cakes, suggests Nwe. The idea is to eat fruits, veggies, and lean proteins over cheesy or fatty foods.
Limit alcohol intake. Sip on a drink after you’ve had food and a glass (or more) of water. Don’t drink alcohol to quench your thirst or wash down a meal, Nwe warns. Think of it as a dessert.
Don’t skip dessert. That’s right, go ahead and have a slice of pie. It’s okay to have dessert, as long as you consider the portion, something Nwe stresses with her SlimPlate System. Nwe’s rule is to put your index and middle finger side by side—your slice of pie should be no larger than this.
2. Stressful Santa Trying to buy a great gift for everyone on your list is daunting. It’s also stressful. You worry about picking the right gift or finding what they asked for. Facing the hordes of people in the stores isn’t always fun. Beyond that, trying to pencil in every party you’re invited to and cook dishes for holiday meals is taxing as well. According to Nwe, stress can drive most of us to overeat, and it also impairs our judgment and can slow our body’s natural responses. She adds that unmanaged stress can destroy a diet or even lead to health complications completely unrelated to weight management:
Avoid unnecessary stress, advises Nwe. Try to shop online or go shopping with friends. And remember, although it may sound cliché, it really is the thought that counts.
Take a break. Nwe says if you feel yourself getting stressed while shopping, take a break. Go outside for fresh air or stop to enjoy a warm cup of coffee.
Don’t beat yourself up about attending every single party. People will understand if you can’t make it. Send a gift through the mail and send them a hello on the day of the party to wish them well.
Ask for help. If you’re hosting a party, ask people to bring a dish. People generally enjoy helping others and showing off their specialty holiday dish. You can also ask them to help you cook giving you even more time to spend together.
3. Overbooked and Sleep-Deprived Between planning, decorating, shopping, and your normal daily obligations, who has time for sleep? Sleep deprivation can cause your brain to make poor decisions. It also impacts your hunger and fullness hormones, leptin and ghrelin. Ghrelin tells your body when to eat and leptin tells your body when you’ve had enough. Sleep deprivation can increase ghrelin and decrease leptin, causing you to eat larger portions and eat more often. You’ve heard it a million times, but 6-8 hours of sleep really is vital. Your body needs time to rest and restore.
Go to bed at the same time every night and wake up at the same time every morning. This reinforces your sleep schedule, so your body is less likely to have circadian misalignment. This plan still should be in place during the holidays. If you’re traveling and can’t catch up to the time change, Nwe says to consider taking 1-3 mg of melatonin before bed to help you get a better-quality sleep. Start with lower doses and only increase if necessary.
Avoid caffeine before bedtime and sleep in a dark room. No surprise here—caffeine keeps you awake and darkness signals to your brain that it’s time to sleep. Have caffeine at the beginning of the day. If you’re out shopping late, avoid that trip to the coffee shop.
Eat and drink properly while you’re awake. Believe it or not, what you eat and how much water you drink can have an impact on your sleep. Eat five meals a day or every four hours, and drink eight eight-ounce glasses of water every day. This can be hard to accomplish when you’re running around shopping, but take a water bottle to refill and pack snacks to eat while you shop.