On average, people will gain 1 to 3 pounds during the last two months of the year. On the surface, that’s not much to worry about. However, one study from NIH-funded research suggests that weight gain during the holidays is around one pound. But that one pound lasts a lifetime and adds to itself year after year.
Most people stress out, overthink, and consider the holiday’s failures in terms of their health and fitness. Instead of doing the best they can in these situations, they eat their face off for 6-weeks and revert to, “I’ll just wait until January, 1st to start fresh.
The real challenge isn’t so much what we do during these 6-weeks of the year (12%). But the habits, routines, and rituals we practice the other 88%.
In my opinion, it’s important to eat without guilt or shame and enjoy your holiday experience. But this also doesn’t mean you need to forget about your health and fitness from Thanksgiving to New Year.
This article is aimed at helping you find and set healthy intentions that will work for you during this time of year with a specific emphasis on Christmas (my apologies if you do not celebrate it).
Table of Contents
How do you get rid of Christmas weight fast?
You get rid of Christmas weight the same way you lose weight any time of the year. By creating a consistent calorie deficit over time. Check out the free getting started with nutrition guide here.
If you wanted to do this faster you would be more aggressive with the calorie deficit you create. However, the more aggressive you are with this the harder it will be to adhere to. You may experience fatigue, hunger, or a feeling of deprivation.
Keep in mind that if you’re noticing a 5 or 10-pound weight gain over the holidays a majority of that will not be actual body fat. A fair amount of it is going to be water weight, muscle glycogen, food volume in your stomach, and more.
Most people freak out during this time of year and try to fix things overnight. It leads to fad diets, drastically cutting out foods you enjoy, quitting sugar, and carbs, “detoxing,” and doing weird fasts to “cleanse the system” in an attempt to lose as much weight as possible in the shortest amount of time.
Yes, if you start eating carbs there is a good chance you’re going to create a massive calorie deficit and lose a shit ton of water weight. But then what? Is that something you want to keep up beyond a few weeks?
Basically, calm down a bit. You didn’t get out of shape in a week or two and you won’t get back into shape in a week or two.
How long does it take to lose Christmas weight?
How fast you should be expecting to lose fat depends on how much fat you have to lose. The higher your starting levels of body fat, the faster you can expect to lose. The leaner you are to start, the slower rate of loss will be best to minimise muscle and strength loss.
Reasonable rates of progress for most are around .5 to 1% of your total body weight. If you’re a 200-pound person with a fair amount of fat to lose 1 to 2 pounds per week. If you’re a 150-pound person that comes out to be .75 to 1.5 pounds.
The more weight you lose the slower your progress may be. This is totally normal.
How do I detox for Christmas (after Christmas)
You don’t. Your body wasn’t toxic before Christmas and it’s not toxic after Christmas and there’s no need to detox.
Instead, focus on getting back to basics.
- getting in your steps
- drinking water
- strength training
- eating lean protein, veggies, fruit, and other whole foods
- going to sleep at a decent hour
There’s no need to do anything dramatic here.
Is it normal to put weight on over Christmas?
Of course. But it also doesn’t need to be.
You’re probably enjoying more highly palatable and caloric foods. Maybe there’s a bit more alcohol coming in than normal. You may be moving your body and exercising less.
Being compassionate with yourself and your body during this time of year is important.
Should I try to lose weight over Christmas?
Totally up to you. If you’re comfortable with the tradeoffs that come with trying to lose weight over the holidays, awesome – go for it. You’re an adult and you get to make the choices.
I lean towards simply doing the best I can over the holidays and not worrying too much about it. Instead, focus on eating mindfully, eating without guilt or shame, enjoying foods I normally don’t eat the rest of the year, and having fun with family and friends.
Don’t make it about the food. Make it about what matters (wait, maybe that is the food)
Sometimes it is about the food. Maybe there are certain traditional dishes you only have during this time. Or maybe there are certain experiences and celebrations where food or drinks is part of that. This is ok.
Reflect a bit. Are the holidays really about the food and drinks or is it about the time spent with family and other loved ones? Maybe it’s a bit of both.
My point being is that when in these situations or special occasions we make it too much about the food. If you spent Christmas with your family and took away the Christmas cookies would it be less special? If you spent Christmas with the cookies and took away your family would it be less special?
Enjoy whatever it is you want to enjoy. If you want to eat your face off and are comfortable with the tradeoffs that come with that, awesome. If you want to try and lose weight over the holidays and are comfortable with those tradeoffs, sweet. And if you want to just do the best you can and not worry too much about it and pick it up right after Christmas dinner, that’s cool too.
My 5 favorite healthy habits over the holidays
This article is way longer than it needs to be so let’s make this part quick.
The word mindful feels super ambiguous to me so let’s get specific. Mindful eating to me means eating slowly and stopping at 80% full. Checking in to see if it’s physical hunger I’m experiencing or something else (bored, lonely, tired, stressed, just because food is there, etc…).
Minimum viable workouts
I like to walk with family members over the holidays and invite them to work out with me. Most of the time they decline and that’s ok. I’ll opt for short 20-30 minutes workouts I can do at home with my parent’s home equipment instead of going to the gym. Thus, getting back to family time.
I use my hands to estimate portion sizes and try my best to include a serving of protein and veggies with most of my meals. Another simple way to do this is to divide your plate up. 1/4 of the plate is protein, 1/4 carbs, and half of it veggies. Maybe add a Christmas cookie on the side and you’re good to go.
Fill out your social calendar ahead of time
Getting an idea of the events you have coming up is a great way to plan. There’s a good chance you’re going to be eating and drinking more during these days. If you choose, you can adjust your diet and exercise leading up to them.
Setting guidelines for these events can be nice as well. For example, I have a 2 drink guideline that works for me. At social events, 2 alcoholic drinks each followed by a big glass of water is what I’ll do. The important thing is to set intentions that work for you and that you’re comfortable with.
Just commit to the treats (eat on a plate)
Look, there is going to be some pretty tasty stuff that’s hard to resist. You can try to avoid it if you want or you can just plan to enjoy a certain amount each day. Something that has worked well for me is to eat the treat but have it with a meal that’s on a plate. This helps to focus on eating meals and less on those bites, licks, nibbles and tastes all day long.
So for example, if I want Christmas cookies, cool. I’ll eat one with a full meal. This keeps me from mindlessly eating them all throughout the day. I also am eating them when I’m more likely to feel satiated from a full meal. Thus, eating fewer cookies overall.
The most important thing is setting guidelines that make sense for you.
Reminding myself that there is ALWAYS more food. I don’t need to eat all of the things right now. There’s always more food coming over the holidays.