Vail Daily column: How to prevent weight gain during the holiday season |

Vail Daily column: How to prevent weight gain during the holiday season

Another holiday season is upon us. For the fitness enthusiast, this means careful consideration of food intake to minimize weight gain during this indulgent time. This article will highlight some very simple strategies to help avoid an expanding waistline.

The current research suggests that most people who have a normal body mass index gain about 1 pound over the holiday season. Similar research suggests that overweight people gain even more weight; 5-10 pounds isn’t unusual and, regardless, the problem isn’t necessarily the weight gain, but the inability to lose the small amount gained contributing to a yearly upward slope of excessive adipose tissue.

The factors that contribute to weight gain include the overabundance of parties, energy dense entrees, appetizers, alcohol and sugary desserts that overwhelm the system. It’s also a difficult time to schedule exercise; the weather is crumby, and busyness from spending time with friends and family contribute to nixing the training program. Although it is necessary and beneficial to celebrate with good food and drink, I have seen clients who are 10 pounds heavier post-holiday season from overindulgence. Moderate exercise and food restriction are priorities for maintaining a good physique over this time.


There are several strategies to combat weight gain. One tactic that works well is to drastically cut caloric intake back during the day when an evening party is inevitable. Employing intermittent fasting tactics to offset the overindulgence during the evening is a good strategy. Even though fasting is controversial, it’s a tool that can help.

Critics will claim that if you fast during the day, then your hunger will overtake in the evening causing an overindulgence that otherwise might not occur under fully nourished circumstances. This does happen, but I have observed that people tend to overindulge regardless of what they might have already eaten during the day. If you can cut out your typical breakfast and lunch, you will have a caloric buffer.

The point is, food selections and associated hormonal effects such as insulin spikes notwithstanding, weight management is largely associated with caloric balance. Weight management is a little more complicated than this, but at the end of the day it really comes down to total consumption. If the average adult hovers around 2,000 calories per day, it is more difficult than you think to eat that much in one sitting, rendering fasting a good tactic. I have used this strategy as well as many of my clients with success.

Another tip to consider is hydration. If you commit to fully hydrating yourself every day, then you will eat far less, and more importantly consume less alcohol that contributes empty calories. By the way, alcohol naturally lowers blood sugar increasing your appetite creating a double edged sword. When you are properly hydrated, the heavy stout and accompanied beer nuts seems far less appealing.

When preparing food, consider substituting lower calorie alternatives to traditional fare. For example, instead of preparing mashed potatoes, try equal parts cauliflower and parsnips. Roast or boil the cauliflower and parsnips as you would potatoes and mash accordingly. You will cut the calories in half and this alternative is quite tasty. You can also incorporate roasted winter squashes into salads with herbs and olive oil that create a hearty dish that is lighter calorically.

Lastly, take it easy on the workouts. Often people will compensate overindulgence with more intense workouts creating what I call the teeter totter effect. People may practice very long intense workouts increasing their appetite; they overeat and then feel guilty. They wake up in the morning and crush themselves in the gym starting the cycle all over again. Exercise small, eat small. Exercise big, eat big. Avoid this trap and pursue moderate workouts.

Have a great holiday season!

Ryan Richards has a B.S. from Ohio University and is a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association. He is the personal trainer at the Sonnenalp Golf Club and the owner of R2HP, an athlete consulting and personal training company. Richards’ passion comes from overcoming childhood obesity and a T1-L3 spinal fusion. Contact him at or 970-401-0720.

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