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5 reasons for holiday weight gain (and what you can do about it)


By Ben Greenfield for HuffingtonPost.com

Did you stuff yourself full on Thanksgiving? Are you now in panic mode about how your body is going to handle all those holiday parties, not to mention the upcoming Christmas feast? Or perhaps your waistline survived Thanksgiving relatively unscathed but threatens to rapidly expand as the holiday season progresses.

Here are five reasons for holiday weight gain—and what you can do about it:

Holiday Weight Gain Reason #1: Schedule Changes
Once the holidays arrive, a strictly-scheduled world begins to unravel. Suddenly there are three- and four-day weekends with ample opportunity to sleep in and be lazy. Not to mention, those holiday parties with heavy eating and drinking, health clubs that close early or have new, unpredictable hours, and travel that takes you to new places where exercising can seem like a hassle.

The best way to handle these schedule snafus is to plan ahead. For example, you can check with your gym in advance to find out what the holiday hours are, and on days when your gym may be closed or unavailable, plan on outdoor walks or runs or home body weight exercise sessions. On long weekends, set exercise goals that get you moving before you get too busy, such as squeezing in 20 minutes of exercise before 9 a.m. If you’re traveling, you can easily use Google maps to search for gyms near where you’re staying, or you can pack elastic bands and running shoes and check out “How to Stay Fit While Traveling.”

Holiday Weight Gain Reason #2: Stress Increases
At the same time that your schedule changes, you also suddenly have added pressure of shopping, family obligations, and changes to your daily routine. As a result of this added stress, your blood pressure and heart rate can go up, your motivation to exercise can go down, and you can gain weight and retain fluid as your body produces more cortisol.

Ironically, of the best ways to control stress is to exercise. For this reason, even during the holidays, I start every day with a simple set of jumping jacks, push-ups, body weight squats, and a full body stretch. Because this only takes about 10 minutes, there is a very low barrier to getting it done—and I find that it decreases stress enough to where I am motivated to squeeze in a bigger exercise session later in the day!

 Keep reading for more holiday health traps and how to avoid them…

More reading from HuffingtonPost.com:

8 surprising signs of stress
How nutritionists eat during the holidays