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Stay Healthy this Season: 6 Ways to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain and Joint Strain

Almost everyone slides a bit on their routine during the holiday season. With family activities, delicious cookies, pies, and big festive meals, it’s not uncommon to experience some holiday weight gain. Many people shrug it off until the new year when they’ll start (and sometimes quickly abandon) their resolutions.

What if this year, you tried a different approach? What if you took a few steps to prevent holiday weight gain and the accompanying stress and strain on your joints? Research shows that every pound you lose reduces the load on your knees by four pounds. In other words, losing just five pounds takes off 20 pounds of pressure!

Not to mention that extra weight is associated with a myriad of orthopedic issues—not just your knees, but your hips, ankles, and back can also experience effects. Weight control can help ease osteoarthritis and other degenerative problems.

The easiest way to prevent holiday weight gain is to take a few precautions to help you stay on track, even during the busy, festive season. Here are 6 easy ways to keep weight gain at bay this year.

1. Start a Simple Exercise Routine

Why wait for the new year? You can start an exercise routine at any time. Get a jump on the busy January gym rush by starting your resolution before the holidays. Keep it simple and enjoyable by finding a fitness activity you like. Some folks enjoy yoga, others like aerobics. Perhaps some resistance training will offer fast results to keep you engaged? Find what you love so you’ll feel excited to continue.

No matter what type of movement speaks to you, it’s essential to follow best practices to prevent injuries. Always check with your doctor before starting a new exercise regimen to ensure your body is ready. Start slow and follow instructions. Should you experience an injury, visit a specialist right away! At Orthopaedic Hospital of Wisconsin, we’re here to help you move pain-free.

2. Increase Hydration

Another way to prevent holiday weight gain is to prioritize hydration. It may sound obvious, but many of us get busy during November and December and forget to drink enough water. Party foods tend to be heavier in sodium, fat, and sugar, leaving you feeling parched. Alcohol consumption can also be dehydrating.

Fight thirst by carrying a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day. At parties, trade-off a glass of water, still or sparkling, with every alcoholic drink. Remember that dehydration can sometimes feel like hunger, so you’ll feel fuller, more energetic, and alert by staying hydrated. Who couldn’t use an energy boost during the holiday season?

3. Lower Stress by Not Overscheduling

Many accidents happen because people are distracted, frazzled, and overwhelmed. You’re rushing to shovel the driveway, only to slip and fall. You’re carrying an armful of groceries inside and miss a step. These types of “around the house” accidents can often be prevented by paying more attention and taking life a little slower.

Many of us also react to stress by seeking comfort. Whether it’s another cup of eggnog or a second slice of pumpkin pie, feeling stressed out can lead to weight gain. Lower your stress this season by cutting out a few commitments. Narrow your holiday plans to the activities that bring you joy and make you feel the most satisfied. Keep plenty of time on your calendar for activities that help you feel nurtured, healthy, and relaxed.

4. Celebrate…But Not Every Day

The holidays only come around once a year and denying too many enjoyable activities can lead to feelings of deprivation (causing stress and, in turn, emotional eating). Besides, would it really be Thanksgiving without delicious stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pecan pie? Who can pass up cinnamon rolls on Christmas morning?

The best strategy for preventing holiday weight gain is to remember moderation! Enjoy a holiday cookie but limit it to one of your favorite types. Have a peppermint latte but skip the whipped cream if it isn’t the part you look forward to. Remember, not every day in November and December is a holiday. Save your calories for the days when you really want to indulge and then savor every bite!

5. Embrace Routine

The key to sticking with any new exercise plan or healthy eating habit is to embrace the sense of routine! You don’t need to eat the same thing at every meal or do the same treadmill run each day but keep your timing regular. Schedule your workouts right on your calendar and commit to making them happen. Schedule moments of movement throughout your day, such as taking a break at work and going for a walk.

Keep your mealtimes and bedtimes consistent. Aim to get eight hours of solid sleep, which will help you feel less stressed and healthier. Yes, you may have a late-night activity or a special meal here and there throughout the season but aim to keep a regular routine during most of your days.

6. Listen to Your Body

Many injuries and illnesses occur because people go beyond their comfort zone, taking on too much at once. To build muscle and stamina, you need to push a little, but don’t go so hard you end up sidelined with an injury. It isn’t realistic to expect to run a marathon on your first day out the door. Endurance and strength take time to build up. While you’re working on it, listen to the signals that your body sends you whenever you do any physical activity.

Similarly, listen to your body when it comes to eating healthy, getting rest, and reducing holiday stress. If you want to avoid holiday weight gain, embrace an intuitive approach. Eat fruits and vegetables as much as possible and enjoy light meals like salads or fish to offset heavier fare. Get rest when you’re tired and take time for self-care.

Remember, holiday weight gain isn’t a given. Keeping your weight as steady as possible will help you feel empowered and strong even during busy and stressful times. Stay healthy this season (and get a jumpstart on the new year) by taking these simple steps toward better health. And if injury or joint strain happens this holiday season, we are here to help at the Orthpaedic Hospital of Wisconsin. Make an appointment with our trained orthopedic specialists to assess the situation and figure out the right treatment course.

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