Undoubtedly this is a tougher time of year to stick to a good nutrition plan. We are often celebrating with food and there are special offers all around us for indulgent goodies. A recent study which looked at groups from the USA, Japan and Germany showed that the majority of annual weight gain occurs in this holiday period. The study also concluded that people only managed to burn off half of this weight gain the following year. Over the course of several years this leads to big weight gain problems.
Why does the holiday period lead to weight gain?
Firstly, we need to tackle the myth that ‘our bodies are hardwired to want more food over winter.’ Recent research has shown that it is not the climate or time of year which leads to weight gain, but the actual holiday period which correlates with weight gain. The study showed that people go off the rails during holiday season and pile on the pounds. One of the reasons for this is that there is a huge amount of variety available in the holiday period. Under normal circumstances, we get habituated to the foods we eat. For example, with pizza, the first slice is amazing, the second slice of pizza is not as tasty as the first and the third is not as tasty as the second and so on. This is habituation and our taste receptors respond to food by getting satiated by that specific food. This is called sensory specific satiety. However, with the large amount of variety readily available in the holiday period we do not stay full for long. There is always another tempting indulgent snack around the corner. As the saying goes ‘there is always room for dessert.’ Also humans are ‘opportunistic eaters.’ We are seeking opportunities which require minimal effort to get the maximum reward out. When there is an opportunity to get a high amount of energy from a calorie dense highly palatable, high fat, and high sugar food, we’ll go for it! This hyper palatable food is available everywhere in the holiday period and the effort required to get hold of it is very low. Be mindful when eating and minimise the number of calories you are eating when you are not hungry (non-homeostatic eating).
With all of this tasty food around and lots of opportunities to eat it whilst we catch up with family and friends, the biggest tip I have is to not diet over the holiday period. Enjoy this precious time with family and friends over the holidays but remain in control. Be mindful when eating and still ensure you get in your veggies and protein. The best strategy for the holiday period is to use this month as a diet break (if you are dieting) and also use it as your hardest training month of the year to get big progress from your workouts. Enjoy the increase in food intake over the holidays and use it as fuel for your workouts to achieve those personal bests. Do that extra circuit, run for longer, lift heavier weights and push yourself!
Do not try and stick to a strict diet plan and be the person complaining that everything is tasty and loaded with calories but you cannot eat any of it. Be controlled but enjoy yourself and use the extra energy as fuel for more intense workouts.
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