Why Experts Say You Shouldn't Worry About Gaining Weight at the Holidays

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The holidays are arguably the best time of the year, and with the end of 2020 right around the corner, there’s a lot to celebrate. However, with celebration comes feasting, drinking, and yes . . . weight gain. If you find yourself worrying about packing on a few extra pounds over the holiday season, you’re not alone. But you should really try not to let it get to you.

While there’s so much joy and love surrounding this time of year, the holidays are also busy, and it’s understandable if some of your healthy habits take a backseat to endless holiday shopping and (Zoom) party hopping. POPSUGAR spoke with experts to find out why weight gain happens – and how you can keep from stressing out about it.

Is It Normal to Gain Weight During the Holidays?

Short answer: yes. While social distancing will mean fewer gatherings in 2020, the usual trappings of the season can translate to changes on the scale. “In most years, I feel like we gain weight over the holidays because we’re usually going to more parties, we’re surrounded by food, you might get gifts or cookies or chocolate, we’re super stressed running around getting people’s gifts, and we’re not going to be taking care of ourselves,” explained psychologist Deborah Balfanz, PhD, a Stanford University BeWell wellness coach and manager of the school’s group behavior change program.

However, you’re probably not gaining as much weight as you think. Research shows that adults in Western societies gain an average of one pound between mid-November and mid-January. So, why are we so concerned with this seemingly terrifying, but basically mythical, idea of holiday weight gain? Dr. Balfanz told POPSUGAR that the concern likely stems from a fear that others will judge us based on our physical appearance. While that’s a tough habit to break, it probably isn’t as much an issue during this low-key holiday season – which gives you a unique opportunity to slow down, focus on yourself, and not stress about the number on the scale.

Related: The Holidays Always Shook My Confidence, but After This Year, I Won’t Let It Happen Again

What Should I Do If I Start to Feel Guilty About My Diet?

Alejandra Ruff, founder of Alejandra Whole Health and a holistic health coach accredited by the Integrative Institute of Nutrition, suggests focusing on mindful practices in order to minimize any stress surrounding food. Practice meditation, express gratitude for your meals, and really savor your food, by aiming to chew each bite about 20 times before swallowing. (You’ll likely find that this will also help prevent overeating.)

Most importantly, be realistic with yourself when it comes to diet and exercise this holiday season. Squeezing in a workout and eating healthy, balanced meals can help you feel good during this hectic time, but if those habits start to slip, don’t guilt yourself. Instead, Dr. Balfanz recommends trying to be “gracious” and “compassionate” with yourself, because “shaming yourself is literally the worst thing you can do,” she explained.

The holidays are a time for celebration, and after all that we’ve been through in 2020, gaining a pound or two should be the least of our concerns. “This is not the time out of the entire year to stress about food and gaining weight, because this is the time when everybody is concentrating on showing love and receiving love, and being grateful for our lives,” Ruff told POPSUGAR. “That should be of more importance than what we’re going to look like and if we’re going to gain weight.” That’s true now more than ever.

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