Enjoy Your Meals Worry Free
How to Destress and Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
Worried about how the stress of holiday parties and family gatherings will derail your health goals? Use the following tips to destress and stay healthy.
From Halloween candy and Thanksgiving feasts to holiday parties and celebratory brunches, it’s easy for the last few months of the year to catch up with our waistlines.
As the old wives goes, all that eggnog leads to roughly “5 extra pounds.” But, this number is a tad inflated. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine shows the average American gains roughly one pound per holiday season.
One pound doesn’t seem like something over which to be very concerned, and it isn’t. The issue is that very few Americans shed that extra pound. In fact, they continually gain, a phenomenon that’s led to two out of three American adults being overweight or obese.
And even those who are able to lose weight, struggle to keep it off. The most public example of this inability to drop the belly fat for good can be seen among contestants from the Biggest Loser. Many of the contestants have lost hundreds of pounds per person, the vast majority have put back on a significant amount of that weight, if not more.
Chronic Stress Accelerates Weight Gain
Research shows one of the major contributors to holiday weight gain and weight gain throughout the year is chronic stress. In a study led by Mary Teruel, Mary Teruel, assistant professor of chemical and systems biology at Stanford University School of Medicine in California, researchers looked at how chronic stress caused the body to gain fat cells at an accelerated rate.
Teruel’s team found that while short bursts of stress led to minimal fat production, stress over a 48-hour period caused the most number of cells to turn into fat.
6 Ways to Destress and Avoid Holiday Weight Gain
As obvious as it sounds, the best advice is to avoid the holiday weight gain altogether. Because as researchers from the New England Journal of Medicine point out in their article, “Weight Gain over the Holidays in Three Countries,” the less you gain, the less you have to worry about losing.
But when it comes to the holidays, there are a lot of stress factors that can feel outside of your control. Use some (or all) of the following tips to destress so you can enjoy the celebrations without them impacting your weight.
1. Don’t Worry About the BIG Meals
Thanksgiving dinner and Christmas brunch are often blamed for holiday weight gain. But as Holly Hull, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma points out:
The holiday season doesn’t represent one day of overeating. You have this period that extends through the new year where there’s more alcohol, more snacks, more finger foods and appetizers that are energy-dense.
While you don’t want to bathe in gravy, don’t stress over savoring your great-grandmother’s stuffing. Because it’s not the extra calories from one meal that’s going to make your pants fit a little tighter.
2. Watch Your Cocktails
After a hard day at work or listening to Uncle Larry tell the same family-tale for the 12th year in a row, you might be itching for a stiff drink. But before you do, consider how that cocktail will affect your body. Research shows that stress and alcohol feed each other.
Not only can alcohol change the way your mind and body deal with stress, decreasing the hormone cortisol that can help you naturally combat stress, it can prolong the feelings of tension — effectively creating a cyclical cycle.
3. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
“Stress and a lack of sleep can both have a severe impact on physical and mental health,” reports Medical News Today. Ideally, you want to aim for 7 – 9 hours of sleep a night. Unfortunately, 35.2% of adults in America get less than 7 hours of sleep.
During the holidays, make sleep a priority. Not only is it an effective way to prevent weight gain, it helps reduce anxiety.
4. Make Physical Activity a Priority
In a 2018 study published by the University of British Columbia, researchers found exercising at least three days a week significantly reduced stress levels and slowed signs of aging. This exercise doesn’t have to be a high-intensity workout.
Any movement can help release endorphins and promote a healthier mental state. ‘Exercise’ could be something as simple as going for a walk.
However, if you’re looking to maximize the positive impact of your sweaty time, you might consider asking some friends to join you. The American Osteopathic Association looked at the impact of working out individually versus in a group. They found group physical exercise participants showed significant improvements in all three quality of life measures: mental, physical, and emotional.
So, if you’re considering how to lose stress weight, a group class might just be the ticket.
5. Give Yourself a Break from Stressful Situations
Many of these tips are long-term commitments that help reduce your stress levels when practiced for a period of time. But what happens when stress is staring you in the face — literally? You get bad news at work. Your kids are misbehaving. You’re having dinner with your in-laws.
Sometimes stress is unavoidable, even if it may be predictable. In Rebecca Knight’s Harvard Business Review article, “How to Handle Stress in the Moment,” she looks at specific ways to help combat stress while you’re experiencing it. First among the tips listed is to identify stress signals. These could include:
- Increased heart rate
- Stiffening neck
- Clenched stomach muscles
- Sweaty palms
As you begin to experience one or more of these signals, take a moment, and give yourself a break from the situation. You might go to the bathroom, step outside or take a short drive.
The key is to give yourself a moment away from what’s triggering your stress. Let yourself breathe deeply and refocus your thoughts. Breathing exercises such as this can help slow your heart rate and reduce your anxiety so you can return to the party with less angst.
6. Get a B12 Boost
According to a research paper published in ScienceDirect, B12 deficiencies can result in severe oxidative stress levels. B12 deficiencies have also been shown to negatively impact the function of your immune system, decrease sleep performance, and reduce memory retention.
B12 is naturally found in most animal products, including fish, meat, milk, and eggs. Unfortunately, consuming enough B12 to combat a deficiency through these means can be extremely difficult. This is especially true for those who enjoy a vegan lifestyle.
Luckily, a B12 injection can help you quickly give your body the key nutrients it needs to restore your B12 levels. With an injection, B12 skips your digestive system (which can be very inefficient), so the body can quickly put it to work.