5 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress and Weight Gain

Not all of the extra pounds you gain during the holidays comes from cookies or that extra glass of wine. In fact, much of the weight you gain is due to one thing and one thing only: holiday stress. While the holidays are supposedly the most wonderful time of the year, they come with a lot of hustle, bustle, and sometimes even a little bit of tussle (black Friday shoppers, we’re talking to you!). The traveling, visitors, family, gift-giving, shopping, cooking, eating, and drinking can take a real toll on our bodies.

Raise Your Glass….NOT your Cortisol Levels

Holiday stress raises our cortisol levels. Cortisol is a hormone (appropriately referred to as the “stress hormone”) that is released when we are under any sort of pressure. It is an important hormone with many actions in the body, such as the maintenance of blood pressure and giving energy to the body. It actually stimulates carbohydrate and fat metabolism for energy, while stimulating insulin release and maintenance of blood sugar levels. But, when our evolution-based “fight or flight” response kicks into gear, excess cortisol is secreted into the body. When this happens, the body produces less testosterone, decreasing muscle mass and causing your body to burn fewer calories. Unfortunately….that’s not all. Because increased cortisol levels also cause higher insulin levels, your blood sugar drops, and your body craves sweeter/fattier foods. Cue the Christmas Cookies.

The good news is that there are ways to lower cortisol levels and beat the holiday stress this season. Here are our five tips for keeping your cortisol levels low and beating holiday stress and weight gain:

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5 Ways to Beat Holiday Stress and Weight Gain

Stick to Anti-Inflammatory and Whole Foods

Inflammation can contribute to higher cortisol levels and other hormonal imbalances. Counteracting this with a whole food, anti-inflammatory diet that is low in processed foods and high in antioxidants can control your cravings and keep your body in check. Try to reach for foods on the holiday table with:

  • Healthy Fats and Protein: nuts, avocados, salmon
  • Fiber: beans, whole grains
  • Antioxidants: Reach for that fruit tray!

Sneak in some Holiday Exercise

  • Shop till you Drop! Skip Shopping Online and burn those calories at the mall. Park farther away from the entrance (as if you can find a good spot at Christmas time). Getting a nice brisk and steady walk to and from your car, and taking the stairs instead of the elevator, is a great way to burn those extra calories this year.
  • Intensely Clean Your House: Did you know that vacuuming your house can burn around 240 calories per hour? Move that furniture and clean those corners because cleaning your house can be an excellent form of exercise if you move quick and steady. For an even better workout: Listen to upbeat music and dance your way to a cleaner house and leaner holiday!
  • Dance the Night Away: Speaking of dancing, have that extra glass of wine, but work it off on the dance floor. Nothing is more fun than a holiday work party that turns into a full-blown disco. Put on those dancing shoes and dance the night away.


Meditation is a practice that has been shown to turn off the body’s stress response and promote deep relaxation. Many studies show that just 15-30 minutes of daily meditation can offer a significant reduction in cortisol. While there are many different types of meditation techniques out there, you do not have to be a Buddhist monk to meditate properly. Try out the following for just 15 minutes a day, and watch your stress levels drop while boosting your immune system and brain function:

  • Sit comfortably with your eyes closed in a quiet room.
  • Make no effort to control your breath. Simply breathe naturally.
  • Make no effort to control your thoughts. Simply let your thoughts come and go.. If your mind becomes too busy with holiday to-dos, try repeating a simple mantra or prayer to focus and calm yourself. “I am peaceful and happy.” “I am loved.” “Peace is within my reach”

Diffuse Essential Oils for Relaxation

Essential oils are not only deliciously fragrant, but they are also helpful for fighting stress and balancing hormones. Oils such as lavender, frankincense and myrrh (those three kings knew what they were doing!), and bergamot (the flavor in Earl Gray tea) contain active ingredients that have been shown to naturally lower cortisol, reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, and even help you sleep. And, they make your house smell wonderful for when your relatives come over to open their gifts!

Get Enough Sleep

Proper sleep is one of the best ways to control cortisol production. People with a normal circadian rhythm show high cortisol levels in the early morning and low levels just before and during sleep. People who develop high cortisol levels tend to show the opposite: they toss and turn or feel anxious at night, and are usually more fatigued during the day. This causes imbalanced and overactive activity of the adrenal glands (the glands that produce cortisol), causing adrenal fatigue and ….you guessed it….weight gain. Healthy sleep patterns are essential for our health.

So, reach for those healthy foods on the holiday table. Sneak in some exercise at the mall and a nice meditation break when you get home. But, have that extra glass of wine at dinner and drink until your feet hurt. This should expend ample energy to fall asleep while those visions of sugarplums dance in your head.

Stay tuned for more nutrition, anti-aging, detox, and hormone balancing tips to come!

-Whitney F. Brown, ARNP at Revitalogy

Call 561-406-2269 to schedule an appointment with me, or leave a comment below!

Whitney F. Brown, ARNP

Nurse Practitioner

With deep understanding an experience in hormone therapies, alternative medicine, and aesthetics, nurse practitioner Whitney F. Brown’s provides a patient-focused, holistic, and functional approach to wellness. Her priority is to help her patients feel better on the inside while giving them more confidence about the way they look on the outside. To achieve this, she considers her patient’s entire medical, wellness, and nutritional history with their wants and needs.

Whitney considers nutrition to play a pivotal role in optimal wellness. As a collegiate athlete, she realized years ago that her own vegan diet was negatively affecting her bloodwork values. This inspired her to study nutrition extensively, and allowed her to use her own story to help relate to her patients’ frustration with the overwhelming information about nutrition today. Whitney blends her traditional medical education and experience with proven natural therapies to restore vitality to her patients from the inside out.

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