You better watch out! Steer clear of these 6 holiday health mistakes

You might be eating healthy and exercising regularly all year long but the festive season is a minefield

Racha Adib
Racha Adib - Special to Al Arabiya News
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You might be eating healthy and exercising regularly all year long, but there’s something about the festive season that makes even the fittest of people want to break their routine and splurge. It’s only for a few weeks right? How much damage can one do?

Quite a bit according to one prospective study.

Published in The New England Journal of Medicine, the study reveals that the weight gained during the six-week holiday season, between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, explains 51% of weight gained annually. Luckily, we’ve collected six holiday mistakes to steer clear of this time of the year to avoid dreaded weight gain.

Do you know the law of attraction that says “it will happen if you believe”? Yes it works here too. Expecting to put on weight more or less guarantees it, because it’s like you’re giving yourself the green light to eat whatever your heart desires. It’s true you’re planning on starting that diet on January 1, but if you can come out of the festive season the same weight you came in, how great would that be? Instead of overeating, what you can do is allow yourself some extra treats here and there, but please do avoid the “all or nothing” attitude when you’re on that.

You may be tired of hearing this phrase, but it seems to always be the answer so you’re going to have to hear it again – “moderation is key.” Overeating can make you want to weigh yourself everyday or hide the scale away until the season is over. Either strategy can be detrimental to both your weight and your mental health. Daily weigh-ins can make you anxious while not weighing yourself at all can give you a free pass to weight gain. A good frequency for taking your weight is once a week, at the same time and the same day of the week. That way you can keep track of your weight and make changes in your lifestyle accordingly.

It is the season to be jolly and the release of “happy hormones” after a great workout can leave you feeling exactly that. Ironically, the gym turns into a ghost town during the holiday season. It’s as if people want to ensure they store those additional holiday calories as fat in their bodies instead of burning them off at the gym.

Between Christmas shopping, seeing relatives and going to festivities, it seems there’s just not enough time for your usual work out. But before you put your exercise routine on hold, why not ask your trainer for a short intense workout that won’t take up too much of your time and can give you the calorie-burning effect long after your workout is over.

You’re invited for Christmas dinner or a pre-new year cocktail, so you think it’s best if you skip lunch to save room for more food later. What happens is, once you do get to that dining table, and you’re feeling pompous about your accomplishment, you’re left with one problem - a growling stomach that will be difficult to tame. The end result is a big caloric nightmare. Next time you think about saving room for later, how about using another strategy and eating a protein rich fiber packed meal for breakfast and dinner so you’re not ravenous at dinner time.

Staying up late to keep up with the festivities and waking up early to get errands done the next day can take a big toll on your body. That’s because not getting enough sleep can lower your immunity, increase your appetite and affect your mood. And if you have a few days off for the holidays and you’ve decided to be sinful by sleeping in, remember that waking up too late can serve to disrupt your sleep pattern so keep that alarm working but maybe delay the alarm time an hour or so.

If you haven’t heard of the “Holiday Heart Syndrome” I suggest you hear about it from here rather than your family doctor. It’s a term coined by the cardiologist Philip Ettinger to describe an irregular heart beat caused by excessive alcohol consumption coupled with overeating and lack of sleep.

If that’s not enough to keep your alcohol intake low, then remember its major contribution to weight gain. Because alcohol cannot be stored in the body, it has to metabolize it right away. As a result the other processes in your body, such as burning off fat, are put on hold ultimately slowing down your metabolism. Alcohol also contains a lot of calories, and clocks in at seven calories per gram, exceeding the amount in carbs which provides only four calories per gram. A typical glass of wine, although rich in antioxidants, contains 120 calories a glass equivalent to the amount of calories in a slice of cake, while one glass of eggnog contains 223 calories, equivalent to a bar of chocolate. Watch your drinks like you watch your dessert; it’s exactly the same, if not worse.

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