During the holidays, many of us look outside of ourselves for opportunities to spread goodwill. But what about ways to be kind to yourself?
For many participants in UK Health & Wellness programs, avoiding weight gain is top of mind this time of year and a tricky area to find balance.
“People tend to set lots of food rules for themselves with all the parties and potlucks approaching,” says UK Dietitian Karen Bryla McNees, EdD, RD, CHES. “While we recommend coming up with an action plan, it is important to build a realistic plan that allows you to enjoy yourself.”
While wishful thinking alone will not keep weight off, neither will creating a long list of off-limits foods.
Panicking and making too many rules is a natural human instinct. We like to feel in control, and this helps us feel that way temporarily. The problem is, it’s inevitable you’re going to break your own rules and once you do, it can easily start a cycle of guilt and self-sabotage.
UK dietitians created the Keep It Off challenge to encourage compassionate holiday weight maintenance, which has helped hundreds of employees, retirees and their spouses since it began five years ago.
The goal of the Keep It Off challenge is simple: Maintain your pre-Thanksgiving weight through New Year’s Day.
While simple, it is not easy:
“From our experience as dietitians, we can safely say it’s worth celebrating anyone who can maintain their weight during the holidays – that is a legitimate success,” McNees says.
In previous years, about two-thirds of Keep It Off challenge participants have successfully rung in the New Year at their pre-Thanksgiving weight and received a prize from UK Health & Wellness.
“People should feel very good about maintaining their weight because it’s very difficult to do,” McNees says.
McNees points to research that illustrates the importance of keeping weight maintenance in mind during the holidays.
“Research shows the average holiday weight gain is two to five pounds. That means each year the holiday season presents the potential for weight gain to reach the point where it becomes an issue,” McNees says. “What seems like a small goal – minimizing weight gain during these few months – can actually have a huge impact down the road, so those two or three pounds don’t add up to 10 or 20 pounds over a decade.”
McNees hopes acknowledging the major impact of a seemingly modest goal helps participants avoid setting too many unrealistic rules so heir ambitions do not backfire.
Weekly emails to participants promote a realistic approach by sharing manageable tips and strategies relevant to holiday meals, travel and more. The goal of these emails is to give participants a range of ideas to find what tips and strategies work for them.
“We encourage participants to try a few things each week by keeping an open mind and exploring what works.”
“If you try a strategy like eating something healthy before a party to avoid overeating desserts when you get there, and if it doesn’t work for you, you’ll know a different strategy to try for next time.“
While the holidays may seem to call for “more” – whether food or food rules – the Keep It Off challenge invites participants to choose compassion over excess.
Setting a manageable amount of goals can be a challenge regardless of the time of year. UK Health & Wellness dietitians work one-on-one with many clients on where to set their sights through the EatWell weight loss program and consults. Additionally, UK Health & Wellness offers more support programs for a variety of goals, whether related to personal resilience-building, nutrition, weight, tobacco cessation or physical activity.