‘Tis the season of traditions, families, friends, food and beverages! Welcome to my three part Grow with Nutrition Holiday Series. In this post, I discuss my top three ways to avoid holiday weight gain. For the second post, it’s all about including three winter veggies on the holiday menu and finally, the third post includes skinny cocktails for your New Year’s Eve celebration.

Holiday Season and Weight Gain

Have you ever wondered if weight gain during the holiday season is disproportionate to weight gain during other times of the year? A study conducted with 195 adults concluded that 51% of annual weight gain could be attributed to weight gain during the holiday season (1). Another longitudinal survey examining mean body weight changes within a population showed a weight increase by about 0.5 kg (1 lb) around Christmas, which gradually decreased around July (2).

Why is there more weight gain around the holidays? During the holiday season in particular, there is an increase in accessibility to both energy dense and palatable foods (such as cookies and cakes) which in turn can lead to overeating and weight gain. You may think it’s more difficult to be healthy over the holiday season, but many of your favourite holiday foods are stuffed with nutrition. When you practice portion control, tweak preparation techniques, plus add my three tips you’ll cruise through the season with the energy and strategy to avoid that holiday weight gain.

Tip #1 – Limit Alcohol Intake

During the festive season with all the parties, lunches and dinners, it’s a common custom to consume alcohol. There may be a link between weight gain and alcohol consumption, as alcohol can relax inhibition, stimulate the appetite, and promote fat storage (3).

  • With the number of parties and events, limit alcohol at one to two drinks per occasion. Choose your favorite red wine, a skinny cocktail such as cranberry juice and vodka with fresh raspberries or low-fat eggnog with a splash of rum and cinnamon. Then enjoy drinking sparkling water with a lime twist to cut the calories and to stay well hydrated at the party.

Tip #2 – Maintain Your Sleep Schedule

Although holidays are considered a time of rest and relaxation for some, busy schedules and family commitments can get in the way of a good night’s rest. Sleep deprivation has been reported to alter the function of the body’s hormones involved in hunger and satiety responses, which can lead to an increase in food intake. In one study, it was concluded the risk of obesity associated with lack of sleep increases by 27% (4). Weight gain may also be attributed to the lack of physical activity (another tip – Energize with Exercise) associated with the exhaustion from lack of sleep (5).

  • It is not unheard of with so many opportunities to be burning the midnight oil during the season. However, it is important to head to bed early and get plenty (at least 8 hours for adults) of restful sleep every night. This will help keep your food intake on track each day over the holidays!

Tip #3 – Decrease Stress

Holidays can be a stressful time for some people due to the responsibilities associated with work deadlines, financial pressures of buying gifts and entertaining, family situations and more. When you’re under stress, a hormone known as cortisol is involved in the regulation of the stress response. Elevated levels of cortisol in the blood can lead to fat accumulation in the body, which in turn causes weight gain (6). Stress can also cause people to increase their consumption of food and alcohol instead of addressing the issue with more effective coping mechanisms.

  • Feeling a little stressed and having extra responsibilities during the holidays is normal, but don’t let yourself be the go-to person for everything that no one else wants to do. Set boundaries and stick to them. Develop healthy daily coping habits! For example, dedicate 15 to 30 minutes daily to quiet time of meditation and/or yoga and include 15 to 30 minutes of fitness daily such as power walking.

Don’t let the holiday pounds add up! Live out these simple tips along with your positive nutrition strategy and enjoy the season with friends and family.

Stay tuned for Part Two in my Grow with Nutrition Holiday Series – Winter Veggies on the Holiday Menu!


  1. Roberts SB. Holiday Weight Gain: Fact or Fiction? Nutr Rev. 2000;58(12):378-9.
  2. Garrow J. Christmas Factor and Snacking. The Lancet. 2000;355(9197):8.
  3. Dumesnil C, Dauchet L, Ruidavets JB, Bingham A, Arveiler D, Ferrières J, et al. Alcohol Consumption Patterns and Body Weight. Ann Nutr Metab. 2013;62(2):91-7.
  4. Orzel-Gryglewska J. Consequences of Sleep Deprivation. Int J Occup Med Environ Health. 2010;23(1):95-114.
  5. Chaput JP, Després JP, Bouchard C, Tremblay A. Longer Sleep Duration Associates with Lower Adiposity Gain in Adult Short Sleepers. Int J Obes. 2012;36(5):752-6.
  6. Berset M, PhD., Semmer NK, PhD., Elfering A, PhD., Jacobshagen N, PhD., Meier LL, PhD. Does Stress At Work Make You Gain Weight? A Two-year Longitudinal Study. Scand J Work Environ Health. 2011;37(1):45-53.