Weight gain during the holidays can seem inevitable. With temptations all around, even the most dedicated healthy eater can find themselves indulging a little too much. But does it have to be that way?
Trust me, I know the struggle.
Especially this year, with the COVID battle still raging and not getting to spend time with our family like we’re used to, us emotional eaters have a harder time finding healthy outlets to relieve our stress since there are less “outside of the house” options.
It seemed a bit easier in the summer, because I could get outside almost everyday to take a walk/jog and soak up the Vitamin D in the sun to keep my mood up.
But, now it’s getting colder outside and I really don’t like jogging when it’s cold…🥶…and I’ve never loved going to gyms and now especially it’s not the greatest idea….plus exercising with a mask on, well….sucks.
So I’ve been exercising less than usual, which for me is more about mental health & self care and less about “burning calories.”
And since I’m an emotional eater and I haven’t been doing as much of my “self care” workout routine, I’ve noticed the cravings really coming on when I’m feeling more stressed.
And my pants are feeling a little tight…😕
Can you relate?
So, I’ve had to be more intentional with finding ways to workout for my mental health and keeping my house stocked with healthy prepared whole food plant based dishes & snacks.
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I was so happy I got my MamaSezz order in so that I would have some healthy heat & eat WFPB foods to mix in with my normal home-cooked meals to help me save time.
I’ve got a few more tips for you that may help you avoid the holiday and winter weight gain:
Increase Your Vegetable Intake
Filling up on volume without many calories are non-starchy vegetables “super power” for weight loss. Not to mention, all the micronutrients you’re getting to feed your gut bacteria! By keeping your gut bacteria happy, they literally keep YOU happy! 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin & 50% of the neurotransmitter dopamine is produced in your gut by your microbiome.
Try starting each meal with a salad first with a splash of flavored vinegar, lemon juice, salsa, or nut-based dressing instead of an oil-based dressing (which only adds more calories without taking up practically any space in your stomach).
This will help “crowd out calories” from the less healthy choices so that you won’t be able to eat as much because you will be full.
Keep fresh, cut raw veggies in your fridge with an oil free hummus for the mid-afternoon snack attack!
Healthy Sweet-Tooth Options
The holidays is all about the sweet treats for a lot of families and many people don’t want to miss out. The best thing to do is to have a healthier whole food plant based option so you can satisfy your sweet tooth craving without adding to your waistline.
Try taking old favorite recipes and making some substitutions to create a WFPB treat.
Whole Food Plant Based Baking Substitutions:
Instead of oil or butter, you can substitute unsweetened applesauce (1:1 ratio).
For an egg, make a “flax egg” – whisk together 1 tablespoon of ground flax seed & 1/4 cup of water and let sit for 5 minutes. You can double this recipe for 2 eggs.
Instead of white flour, substitute whole wheat flour, oat flour, or chickpea flour.
Make a pie crust out of pecans and dates, like in this Mini Pumpkin Pie Cheesecakes Recipe.
A great substitute for sugar or brown sugar is date paste, coconut sugar, or pure maple syrup – all can be subbed at a 1:1 ratio. The date paste is the healthiest option, but coconut sugar & pure maple syrup are also considered WFPB because they are unrefined.
Replace milk with any unsweetened plant milk, like almond, soy, oat, or cashew.
Instead of heavy cream, try canned coconut milk.
Meal Prep, Meal Prep, Meal Prep
Can I get an “Amen”?
Meal prep (and planning) is really so key to healthy eating habits.
Good food isn’t gonna make itself and the last time I checked there were no WFPB fast food restaurants….maybe one day….
Even just making a few staple recipes a week can help you save time and avoid having to make decisions about what to eat every day.
Decision fatigue is real and probably why most people struggle more with making good food decisions at night. I do awesome for breakfast and lunch, but I have a harder time with dinner when I’m tired and having to figure out what to make! It’s always best if I already have the plan in advance so the decision is already made.
Plus, if the food is cooked in your fridge, it is much more likely that you’ll eat it!
Learn more about Plant Based Meal Prep for Beginners here.
Get Plenty of Sleep
Really? YES! Sleep is so important for weight loss for SO many reasons.
First of all, studies show that those who don’t get the recommended 7-8 hours of sleep consume HUNDREDS (like over 500 calories 😱) of more calories MORE than their good-sleeping counterparts each day.
It’s like your body is trying to compensate for being tired by craving calorie dense junk food to get more energy.
Plus, when we don’t sleep well we don’t handle stress as well which can cause more “eating our feelings”…
Also, lack of sleep can affect our hormones like insulin and cause our bodies to store more fat.
Don’t Drink Your Calories
This is a BIG one to cut calories for many people. Soda and even juice, is loaded with sugar that’s so addictive.
Make sure you’re drinking lots of water instead. Tea and coffee are fine too, as long as you’re not adding a bunch of cream and sugar. Green tea is lower in caffeine and is high in antioxidants, so a great choice!
Just make sure to not drink coffee (or even tea for some people) after noon so that it doesn’t interfere with your sleep.
Oh yeah, and ditch the diet drinks! Studies show that the sucralose (Splenda) disrupts our gut microbiome. Plus, the diet drinks raise average blood glucose just like regular sugar and cause sugar cravings so most people end up consuming more calories in response to drinking the diet drinks.
If plain water gets boring, try adding a spritz of lemon, lime, or orange. Unsweetened naturally flavored sparkling water is great, too. If you don’t think you like it because of a bad experience with La Croix or Perrier, there are many other brands that taste better. Our family really like Bubbly and Topo Chico Twist of Lime.
You also want to limit alcohol for a number of reasons, especially related to weight loss. The liver is actually responsible for burning fat, but it can’t do that very well if it’s detoxifying alcohol from your body.
When we drink, we also tend to eat more and have less control over the choices of WHAT we eat.
Then there’s the fact that alcohol is more calorie dense, like fat – 1 gram of alcohol is 7 calories (fat is 9 calories per gram and carbs/protein are 4 calories per gram).
The holidays can be stressful and maybe even more this year since we haven’t been able to see our family as much as usual.
But stress really hinders weight loss – especially around the midsection. When we are stressed, our body releases the hormone cortisol which causes fat to accumulate around our midsection. This is the unhealthy fat that can really raise our risk of chronic diseases, because that fat then produces more hormones like insulin & estrogen.
The reason for this has to do with evolutionary survival – if we were in a famine millions of years ago (stressed) then the people who survived were the ones that could store fat well when stressed.
Unfortunately today, our bodies don’t know the different between holiday stress (or work or anything else) and famine.
So make sure you have a DAILY self care routine to turn on your “rest & digest” and turn off your “fight or flight” sympathetic nervous system. Even just 5 minutes a day can make a difference in lowering cortisol levels! If you can’t do something daily (but you probably CAN do something for just 5 minutes), at least try to build something in your schedule a few times a week.
Here are some ideas you might incorporate:
- Deep belly breathing
- Gratitude journal
- Take a walk
- Get out in nature
- Talk to a friend
- Crafts, puzzles, word games
- Draw, paint
- Adult coloring books
- Play an instrument
- Watch a funny movie
Small Steps Make a Big Difference
Even just incorporating a few healthier habits over the holidays can make a big difference to help you stave off the extra holiday pounds. Holiday weight gain is NOT inevitable and who knows, you might even lose a couple pounds if you really commit to healthy habits you can stick to!
Need some help starting a Plant Based Diet? Grab my FREE Guide – Simple Steps to Start a Plant Based Diet! Fill out the form below: