As the excruciatingly painful Frozen “short” being forced upon innocent movie-goers before Pixar’s lovely feature film Coco tells us, it’s the time of year for traditions.
Whether your family’s traditions involve eating fruitcake or baking cookies or pounding tallboys at the Hanson brothers’ Christmas concert, this season unfortunately goes hand-in-hand with another holiday tradition I just can’t shake: holiday weight gain.
The New York Times said it best in this poignant October 2016 article entitled “This Is Probably the Least You’ll Weigh All Year. Sorry.” The gist: U.S. adults’ weights tend to bottom out in in mid-autumn before peaking around New Years. It takes until April for most Americans to erase their extra holiday pounds.
“Instead of trying to come up with a New Year’s resolution to lose weight, it’s a whole lot better to maybe have an Oct. 1 resolution to gain less in the first place,” said one expert quoted in the story who clearly majored in obvious but difficult-to-pull-off observations in grad school.
I’ll be the first to admit it: keeping slim during the holidays is extremely difficult. From candy canes and spritz cookies to buttered rum and eggnog, the temptations are everywhere. Just look at the massively delicious pies served (and quickly polished off) at my Thanksgiving dinner of seven!
Some healthy eating blogs will tell you the only way to avoid December weight creep is to avoid holiday temptations altogether. “Don’t drink liquid calories at holiday parties,” they say. “Bring your own crudité plate to ensure there’s something healthy you can eat.” “Fill up on protein before walking by the dessert table.”
That’s probably good advice, and if you have the willpower to follow it, by all means, proceed. But if you’re like me and you actually WANT to indulge in some holiday treats without feeling guilty about it (and without needing maternity pants), might I propose another solution.
Instead of eating less this holiday season, why not just commit to exercising more? Weight = calories in – calories out, and while science shows it’s a little more complex than that, moving more to counteract eating more is a pretty good rule of thumb.
There are plenty of ways to pull it off. Maybe you park at the far end of the parking lot when Christmas shopping. Maybe you start a game up pick-up football with your fam. Maybe you go ice-skating, snow-shoeing, tobogganing or take your winter-loving friend for a cold-weather hike.
Or if you’re a runner like me, maybe you commit to a holiday running streak. That’s what I’m doing this year — running every day between Thanksgiving and Christmas, no excuses. I’ve streaked before, and while it can be tough to lace up on dark winter mornings, knowing backing out isn’t an option is a strangely strong motivator.
Now everyone’s personal streaking rules are different, and in my case, even a mile-a-day cuts it — and I’ve already done the bare minimum a third of the days. But even then, I’m averaging almost 5K a day, which is enough exercise to counteract about 2.4 pounds a month of holiday weight gain.
Of course, it’s very likely I’ll put on more than that, but luckily the New York Times said I have ’til April to burn it off.
How are you keeping your pants fitting this holiday season?