How to Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays

How to Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays

Dr Cesar Lara

'Tis the season to embrace what the holidays bring — fun, food, togetherness, gifts, and vacation days — but weight gain, family feuds, and stressful travel tend to spoil the enjoyment for many.

Here is a gift of evidence(1) for you. Half of the annual weight gain in the US happens during the 6-week holiday period. People gain weight during the holidays by overeating, lose a bit of it in January, but hang on to most of it indefinitely. Is this you?

To mindfully and healthfully navigate the holidays follow these simple tips.

Breathe. Fretting about gatherings, events, and family conflicts is a surefire way to elevate your stress level. Leave yourself plenty of time to plan and prepare. Stress can contribute to weight gain among other things in several different ways — most notably by affecting your cortisol(2) levels. Be sure to set time aside for relaxation and exercise. Remember that all that rushing around can knock down your immune system and make you sick.

Take Your Supplements. Especially nutrients such as vitamin C and D, zinc, probiotics, and omega-3’s. These will help out your immune system and keep you strong when exposed to germs when traveling.

Pack a Food Kit. You might need some extra energy while shopping or traveling. Take a healthy snack or mini meal to keep your blood sugar balanced. Here are some ideas: a bag of almonds, pecans, or walnuts; grass-fed jerky; cut carrots or celery; whole food protein bar; and a bottle of water. Avoiding the junk in fast food and eating well helps you breeze through the holiday travel and delays, which often lead to poor eating.

Practice Conscious Eating. This is another good time to take full deep breaths. Research shows that conscious breathing(3) can shift your nervous system from the go mode to relax mode. Eating mindfully during the holidays is a way of grounding and achieving mental clarity. Take time for yourself, sit down with your spine straight, and your shoulders relaxed. Standing(4) while you eat tells your nervous system that you are not entirely safe or are too busy to eat. Calmly sitting will give rise to healthy digestion.

Here are more mindful tips to healthfully navigate the holiday with conscious eating:

  • Start with Protein. Dietary proteins will not only help you synthesize things like hormones, enzymes, and neurotransmitters but they will also help you stay full longer and keep your blood sugar balanced.
  • Think Fiber and Fresh. Indulge in an unlimited amount of low-glycemic vegetables. It's best to avoid heavy starches and grains.
  • Limit Triggers. Stay away from alcohol, caffeine, refined sugars, processed foods and snacks, and anything that contains high-fructose corn syrup and hydrogenated oils.
  • Choose Wisely. Instead of splurging on calories from foods that you can have anytime of the year, pick items that are special and unique to the holiday season, like your grandmother's pound cake or your child's first batch of cookies.


Move More. Watching TV is a common activity during the holidays. That means additional time sitting on the couch, which isn’t a particularly good way to burn calories. Take long walks between meals (You may need to bundle up, and that's okay!), add an extra workout, stand whenever possible, and limit your screen time. The fresh air and natural light can help regulate your circadian rhythm(5).

Establish Normal Sleep Patterns. Sleep disturbances are common over the holidays because of travel, busy schedules, and staying up late. Studies show that poor sleep can increase your appetite and caloric intake. When you're winding down be mindful of your screen time. Social media is fun to scroll during the holidays, but the blue light(6) from your digital screen disrupts the melatonin-cortisol relationship causing the body to produce cortisol instead of melatonin. When cortisol levels increase as a result of blue light, the body may have less interest in going to sleep.

Honoring your commitment to yourself is a pure pleasure. Remind yourself that your health is far more important to you than tempting foods. Good health is rewarding; blood sugar highs and lows are depressing.

Quality time with loved ones reduces stress hormones and promotes health. Be present while talking with your loved ones. Have fun, make memories, let go, and relax.

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