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How Not to Gain Weight Over the Holidays

By Jiří Kaloč

Holidays are filled with cues to overeat. You have everyone around you indulging in tasty treats, your routines are broken, and you’re stressed, not a good combo for staying on the healthy path. We learned to recognize these cues in the previous article. That’s a great first step but now it’s time to add some tips and tricks for how not to act on them.

Grass-fed meat and pastured eggs are your allies

The quality of the fat you eat matters! There was an experiment where scientists looked at overweight people during the holidays. They gave half of them 3,2 g per day of CLA (conjugated linoleic), a naturally occurring fat found in grass-fed beef and pastured eggs. The other half got a placebo and there were no differences in total calorie intake or physical activity. After the holidays, the CLA group had on average lower body fat by 1 kg (2,2 pounds), less weight gain, fewer reported negative emotions, and less endothelial dysfunction. So, get those grass-fed meats and pastured eggs on your shopping list!


Don’t go for extremes

If you completely give up on your usual healthy way of eating and think “I will just get back on track on 1st January” you will set yourself up to overeat at every cue. At the same time, if you go for the “I’m 100% sticking to my diet and not enjoying anything” you can easily go off the rails completely if you break your promise to yourself even once. Plan for a certain number of indulgences, be specific, and don’t be afraid to track them. That way you can be guilt-free with less of a chance to cave to the temptations.

Email yourself “don’t overeat!”

There is a study which tracked formerly overweight people over the holidays. Half of them got a phone call every week and daily mailings to help them stay on track, the other half did not. The results were amazing. The group that received help kept losing weight, 0,9 kg (2 pounds) on average, even during the critical time of holidays. The other group on the other hand gained 0,9 kg (2 pounds) on average. The funny thing is the participants didn’t even open all the letters they got. Just the reminder was enough to keep them on track. You can do the same! Set up automated emails to yourself, leave notes around the flat, or ask a friend to call you with a reminder.


Picture yourself saying “no, thank you”

Even if you make all the smart shopping choices and set up your environment right, temptations will come. That’s where active coping strategies come in handy. For example, you can count to 20 before making a food-related decision. You can have a mantra to remind yourself why you don’t want to overeat. You can also mentally “walk through” how you’ll react in certain situations. Picture yourself at the office party, being pressured into trying some sugar-laden delicious looking cake, and practice your response out loud: “No, thank you.”