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A Simple Way to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

The simplest nutrition tip I have is to stop drinking "empty" calories. What does that mean? When a food has no real nutrient value but still has calories, it is considered empty calories. Our body needs and craves nutrients, not specific foods or a specific amount of calories. This means until we give our body the nutrients it needs, it will continually give us signals of hunger and specific cravings until it gets the nutrients it is lacking. A soda or glass of processed and sugar laden juice usually contains 100-250 calories but isn't actually giving you vitamins, antioxidants, enzymes, or minerals, so you are only drinking it for sensual pleasure.  

Studies show that when people ingest liquid calories, they don't compensate for them by eating fewer calories."Fluid calories do not hold strong satiety properties, don't suppress hunger and don't elicit compensatory dietary responses," said Richard Mattes, M.P.H, R.D., a professor of foods and nutrition at Purdue University. "When drinking fluid calories, people often end up eating more calories overall." This may help explain the results of a study by researchers from Harvard University and Children's Hospital in Boston, conducted over eight years, with nearly 50,000 women. The researchers behind that study found that women who increased their intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, such as sodas or fruit punch, from one per week to one or more per day added 358 calories daily and gained significant weight. Women who reduced their intake cut 319 calories per day and gained less weight. Earlier studies demonstrated that the consumption of sugar-sweetened soft drinks increased the likelihood of obesity in children, but this is the first finding from a long-term observational study in adults. If you take the example of the women adding 358 calories daily, that equals 2,506 calories/week. At 130,312 calories per year, that equals an annual weight gain of 37 pounds from drinking a juice or more a day.... would drinking that juice be worth the weight gain to you?

Now, during the holiday season, most of the delightful treats we consume may not be nutrient dense. That is why my simplest tip is to just eliminate the liquid calories. Drink water! If you need carbonation, drink seltzer water. If you need flavor, squeeze any citrus fruit, add herbs or even berries. Four slices of cucumber and two mint leaves in your water bottle can make it quite delightful even after several refills. I know there also tends to be a lot of alcohol consumption during the holiday season and I am not trying to deprive you of that stress relief and pleasure, but what if you drank a glass of water in between each drink - perhaps it would slow you down a bit? And reduce your risk of hangover!! I realize this is not a time you are going to eliminate liquid calories completely, but what if it was the one thing you focused on being more aware of? Keep reminding yourself of those 37 pounds a year for a little motivation!! 

I find liquids the easiest place to begin making nutritional changes. Even if you aren't ready to make the change during the holiday season, maybe the new year will be the perfect time! We all have our habits and breaking them can take a lot of hard work and persistence but it is purely mental. You have to make the decision to change. You then need to figure out what exactly you need to change. Then my next step is to figure out the healthy alternative. I believe cutting something off completely can just cause a yo-yo effect so I always like to replace one habit with a better, healthier one. If you tend to drink orange juice, you could pour half a glass instead of the full one or dilute half a glass with water. If you drink cranberry juice, buy the real stuff that is pure cranberry juice and dilute it until it is tolerable. You will realize just how much sugar is in "normal" cranberry juice! If you are a soda drinker, please switch to seltzer! It will give you all the happy bubbles and there are a variety of flavors to enjoy. If you are hooked on lemonades and fruit punch, try"squirtables" for regular water, just make sure it is sweetened with stevia and not chemicals. There are two main brands on Amazon called Stur and SweetLeaf that you can try.

As always, let me know if you have any questions and if you have any helpful suggestions, please feel free to share them with myself and others in the comments! Nutrition counseling is available if you are ready to truly commit to making some changes.



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