‘Tis the Season for Holiday Weight Gain—Here’s How to Avoid It


By: Chris Freytag, CPT // November 5, 2023

With Thanksgiving and Christmas right around the corner, holiday weight gain is a common concern!

And for all of us over 50, it seems like it can get harder year after year. Being a 58-year-old fitness trainer, I have a lot of experience helping my clients avoid (or lose) the weight gain that comes with a fun holiday season.

There are several strategies that I recommend for people of any age to stay on track during the holidays.

Here, we’ll look at the top causes of holiday weight gain and 9 strategies for avoiding it!

Causes of Holiday Weight Gain

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What causes us to gain that extra weight over the holiday season, exactly? Here are the biggest reasons:

  • Overindulgence: During the holidays, there’s often an abundance of delicious, high-calorie foods and drinks available, leading to overeating.
  • Lack of Physical Activity: With busy holiday schedules, people may find it challenging to maintain their regular exercise routines.
  • Emotional Eating: Stress, social pressures, and emotions can trigger unhealthy eating habits during the holidays.
  • Irregular Eating Patterns: Irregular meal timings and excessive snacking can disrupt the body’s natural hunger and fullness cues.

So, what can be done about it? The following are 9 tips for preventing that frustrating holiday weight gain.

Practice Mindful Eating

An older couple cooking together in the kitchen.
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It’s simple but game-changing: Be mindful of what you eat! Savor each bite, eat slowly, and pay attention to hunger and fullness cues. This can help in avoiding overindulgence.

Try Your Best to Stay Active

Woman doing a leg workout at home while looking at a laptop.
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It can be tough to stay on track with fitness and exercise during the holiday season, but it’s so important to stay physically active.

Short, effective workout routines can be done at home or in a limited space, and even a 10 or 20-minute workout is better than nothing! (And yes, a shorter workout can still make a difference!)

Here are three workouts you can try during the holidays:

Plan Ahead

Older woman preparing healthy food in the kitchen.
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Try to plan out your meals and workouts. This can include preparing healthy dishes for holiday gatherings and eating a balanced meal before heading out to parties to avoid excessive snacking.

Stay Hydrated

Close up of a woman drinking a glass of water.
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Drinking water can help control appetite and prevent overeating. Remember to stay hydrated, especially if you’re drinking alcohol!

Alcoholic beverages are typically high in calories, and drinking water in between cocktails can help moderate how much you consume.

Check out our Best Holiday Cocktails recipe list that includes plenty of delicious, low-calorie options.

Incorporate Healthy Substitutions

A plate of zucchini noodles with halved cherry tomatoes.
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Try healthier alternatives to traditional holiday recipes. For example, you can use whole-grain flour, reduce sugar, or incorporate more vegetables into dishes.

Need some healthy recipe ideas? We have some here.

Manage Stress

Older woman doing a cobra pose in a group yoga class.
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Stress can lead to emotional eating, which is certainly common over the holidays. Try adding some stress-reducing activities to your routine, such as meditation, yoga, or deep breathing exercises to cope with holiday stressors.

Here’s an example to get you started: Yoga For Anxiety: 6 Best Poses To Give You Relief

Find a Support System

Two older women friends talking and smiling outside at a BBQ.
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Having a support system can make a huge difference! To help keep yourself active, share your fitness goals with friends or family members, or even find a workout buddy to stay motivated together.

You can also find a friend to help keep you accountable during holiday parties. Make a pact to take it easy on high-calorie foods and alcohol, and help each other stick to it!

Practice Moderation

women drinking sparkling water at a picnic

It’s okay to enjoy holiday treats in moderation! Just remember to be mindful of portion sizes and not to deprive yourself completely. Depriving often leads to binge eating, which you definitely don’t want!

Enjoy yourself (it’s the holidays, after all!), but try not to overdo it.

Get Enough Sleep

Overhead view of a middle-age woman sleeping on bright blue sheets.
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Lack of sleep can disrupt hormones that regulate hunger and appetite. Plus, when you’re overly tired, you’re more likely to reach for sugary snacks and extra calories to keep you going. 

Research has found that a lack of sleep, even in young adults, is associated with increased calorie intake, weight gain, and more belly fat.

Try to prioritize sleep and aim for 7-9 hours per night!

By following these strategies and maintaining a balanced approach to food and exercise, you can enjoy the holiday season without compromising your fitness goals. Remember, consistency and moderation are key to preventing holiday weight gain!

53 Best Weight Loss Snacks

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To keep you from going crazy with calories (even when the saltiest cravings hit), my team and I rounded up the best weight-loss snack recipes that are super easy to throw together.

And when you don’t have time, or you’re on the go, we also made a list of our favorite healthy purchased snacks, too.

53 Best Weight Loss Snacks

Best Mocktails | Hangover-Free and Healthy

A purple mocktail with a lemon slice.
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Maybe you’re taking a break from alcohol or looking for cocktail alternatives. Either way, a mocktail can be a delicious and satisfying drink if you want to be alcohol-free!

The mocktails here are made using whole ingredients, natural sweeteners, and often fermented foods and superfoods. They taste like cocktails, but you aren’t left with a dreaded hangover.

Best Mocktails | Hangover-Free and Healthy

The Best Love Handle Workout

A woman doing bicycle crunches.
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These five exercises specifically target the love handles and will have you feeling the burn!

Combine this workout with a healthy diet and cardio, and you’ll watch that belly fat “waist” away.

The Best Love Handle Workout

Printed from GetHealthyU.com

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