Gain Weight During the Holidays? It’s Not Because You Overeat!
The hustle and bustle of the holiday season is right around the corner, and with it comes those dreaded extra pounds.
Enjoying some tasty holiday treats, meals with family, and finding yourself with less time to exercise can make the scale creep upward as the year winds down.
But what if we told you that the extra food isn’t what causes the holiday weight gain?
The Scientific Connection Between Weight Gain, Stress Levels, and Lack of Sleep
You might think you gain weight because you over-indulge in rich foods during the holidays, but studies have shown that there is more to it than that.
A variety of factors can cause weight gain, and many of those factors tend to ramp up around the holiday season. Let's take a closer look at the reasons you may find yourself gaining weight.
Stress Causes Weight Gain
The American Psychological Association (APA) found that 44% of women experience higher stress levels during the holidays.
For most women, that won't come as a surprise. During the holidays, we tend to try to cram more into a day, on top of our normal family and work responsibilities. That leads to earlier mornings, later evenings, and a much busier schedule.
But studies show that this additional stress can lead to a few extra holiday pounds. When we are stressed out, our adrenal glands release adrenaline and cortisol, which trigger the release of glucose into our bloodstreams.
This gives us the extra energy to make it through the hustle and bustle. But once the adrenaline wears off, your blood sugar drops. As a result, you crave something sweet.
According to the APA, 41% of women turn to food for comfort during stressful times, and 28% turn to alcohol. But even if you manage to resist the comfort food, the high levels of cortisol slow down your metabolism.
If you don’t adjust your diet and exercise, a slower metabolism can lead to holiday weight gain.
Disrupted Sleep Also Leads to Weight Gain
During the holidays, you may get up earlier, stay up later, and have a hard time ‘turning your brain off’ to fall asleep. All of this upsets your circadian rhythm and metabolic health, which leads to weight gain.
Plus, a lack of sleep increases your appetite, particularly for unhealthy foods high in calories and carbohydrates. If you are tired, you may find yourself munching on potato chips or pizza rolls just to stay awake.
Constant exhaustion and a crazy busy schedule will have you skipping your workouts as well. Exercise is exactly what you need to combat weight gain, stress, and yes, even sleep deprivation.
How to Combat Weight Gain During the Holidays
Since stress and a lack of sleep are often the underlying causes of weight gain over the holiday season, reducing stress and getting more sleep should be your focus — not beating yourself up over that slice of pie.
1. Make Exercise a Priority
Exercise not only burns calories but also reduces stress and helps you to sleep better. So, no matter how busy you are, make sure working out is your number one priority. You’ll feel better and have more energy for all of that hustling and bustling.
2. Eat Healthy Comfort Foods
If you are stressed out or tired, you don’t have to forgo comfort foods. Instead, choose healthy foods, such as air-popped popcorn. The American Psychological Association found they are just as likely to lift your mood as unhealthy comfort foods.
3. Stop Striving for a ‘Magical’ Holiday
The ‘perfect’ holiday season can add unnecessary stress. Instead of striving for perfection, practice saying ‘good enough.'
Declare your dinner party ‘good enough' and instead of stressing over every detail, enjoy the company.
Replace thoughts of “I should have the neighbors over for drinks” with “I could have the neighbors over for drinks…or I could cuddle up with my partner and watch a movie."
Perfectionism leads to stress, and letting go of the high expectations you set for yourself can go a long way towards reducing it.
4. Indulge in Self-Care, Not Food
The holiday season is notorious for self-indulgence. But when we think of indulging, most of us think of rich holiday foods.
Instead, think about self-care.
Treat yourself to luxurious beauty products, schedule a massage, or make time for a long bubble bath. And pamper yourself with supplements that help you feel rested and healthy.
You can create that magical holiday for your family if you feel wonderful!
Managing Stress, Sleep, and Weight Gain Yearround
Weight gain as a result of lack of sleep and stress isn't reserved for the holidays. Instead, you might notice your clothing fitting a bit tighter during any stressful or busy time of year.
Luckily, getting plenty of exercise, eating right, letting go of the need to be perfect, and indulging in self-care can help offset the extra pounds all year long!