“You’re getting older.” That’s what the doctor said about weight gain.

My friends didn’t take my weight gain seriously either. What do you say to a formerly-scrawny person gaining a few pounds?

“@#$# #$&.” That’s what they said.

But being at a good weight is important for good health. Holiday season is both a danger time for weight gain and a great time to reassess.

So, I ask myself some questions:

  1. Am I exercising like I used to?
  2. Is everything I put into my body good for me?
  3. Am I stressed?
  4. Am I too busy?
  5. Am I getting enough sleep?

The body needs several things to stay in top condition. Take one of those out and it’ll scream for balance. Those five questions are the key to avoiding the holiday scale tip.

Holiday cookie time’s a dangerous season for some. You may be reading this at spring break or bikini season–being at a healthy weight is something that’s important all year long.

If you read the link from my personal blog, you know I gained some weight last year. It started one curious pound at a time. Since I’ve always been underweight, I didn’t think twice–until my pants didn’t fit.

I didn’t get much sympathy. “$#@% you,” said two friends independently. Each of them had been on a weight loss quest for a while. Five or ten pounds on a scrawny person? Not worth their time.

But for me, it signaled something. Something was off. Time to do some detective work.

Question 1: Am I exercising like I used to?

No. I’d been restricted from distance running. “Walk,” the doctors said. Nope. I hate walking. I love to run.

If you like math, science, or economics, you know weight is a the result of two variables. It’s a cosmic battle between calories ingested verses calories burned. I wasn’t burning them.

The magic number used to be 3500 calories, or 500 calories a day to lose a pound in a week. Not any more.

The Mayo Clinic debunked that rule, stating it’s true if you’re burning fat in a chem lab, but we’re not. The body doesn’t work in a linear fashion–it has peaks, valleys, and plateaus. The real number is more like 7,000 calories, or 1,000/day.

Because I’d always been underweight, my all-natural clean-eating daily diet included lots of butter, heavy cream, other things I didn’t need anymore, especially if I wasn’t running. It was time for an eating overhaul.

Question 2: Is everything I put into my body good for me?

This answer was another kick in the larger pants. I’m a notorious clean eater, a healthy food champ, but after trying a year of gluten-free, and a couple zero-sugar years, I put a little natural sugar in my flavored coffee and it was all down hill.

Author and food expert Michael Pollan said in his book Food Rules it’s permissible to eat “treats” if you make them yourself. He was betting people were too lazy.

He never met me.

Toffee, pastry, onion rings, Ben & Jerry’s style ice cream…I can make anything. I’m a really good cook. It was starting to show.

So if I had to answer question two honestly, the answer: garbage in, garbage out. Time to start healthy cooking and meal planning again.

Question 3: Am I stressed?

You might not think stress is a big deal but it is. Not only does stress make you–stressed, it causes headaches, rashes, physical medical conditions, and affects the scale, too.

Some people stress eat which brings us back to the calorie math. Even if you stress eat carrots, your body produces cortisol, which causes weight gain.

To solve this, start simplifying. Say, “no” when you mean no. Get rid of committees, obligations, and offload what you can. The world will still spin on its access if you aren’t involved in everything.

Practice saying, “I’m sorry, I don’t have the availability for that in my schedule.” Let the guilt of “no” become the delight of less stress and better health.

I just did that yesterday. “I’m sorry, I don’t have the bandwidth to be part of that program.” I didn’t feel guilty at all.

After you dump the extras, try to meditate daily.

Just sitting in silence for ten minutes a day helps reduce stress. It’s not easy–I have a meditation-sniffing boy and two dogs trained to wipe out relaxation. Even if I sneak away before bed or get up ten minutes earlier, I feel the benefits.

Question 4: Am I too busy?

“Busy” isn’t the same as stress, but the results are. I might stop for takeout, grab a quick snack, neglect meal planning, skip exercise, or lose sleep.

If you don’t have the time to prepare and eat healthy meals and exercise in some way, cut back your schedule until you can. It matters.

Question 5: Am I getting enough sleep?

There’s a sleep crisis in America. We’re simply not getting enough.

“How does this effect weight?” According to the National Sleep Foundation and nearly every sleep expert out there, sleep affects weight in several ways.

Tired people skip workouts, snack more, reach for quick meals at the expense of good eating, and drink more caffiene-loaded beverages, which often come with an unhealthy dose of sugar and calories. Fatigue releases hormones that make us eat more and more often as well.

If you’re not sleeping 7-9 hours a night, start. Sleep is an area where I never compromise.

The holidays make sleep challenging–there are parties, wrapping, shopping, and more obligations than usual. Schedule wisely, say “no” to overbooking, get shopping done efficiently, and wrap as you go.  Then sleep. You’ll feel better all around.

But it’s cookie season…

Are you afraid of the holiday temptation?

There’s no time like the present to reassess your health. Avoiding the holiday scale tip will make you smile–you won’t have to make up lost ground in the new year. Holiday foods and events are temptations, for sure, but they’ll be there tomorrow. Your health might not be.

Don’t worry if you’ve been off course a while, do a restart today. High-five yourself, don’t grumble.

That’s what I’m doing. I’ve been menu planning, creating menus, and Instagramming my food, which inspires me to eat healthier. It’s my gift to myself.

That’s the secret–have fun, be positive, be inspired. That’s the best gift you can give yourself any time of year.


  • Tackle temptation. Remember…there will always be treats later. Don’t feel compelled just because they’re there. You can make it another day.
  • There’s no time like the present to start or keep up a good workout habit, even if it’s just a small routine.
  • Go to bed at bed time.Your work will wait until tomorrow. Rest, and tackle your job refreshed.
  • Eat before you treat! Often, I crave treats when we’re hungry. Ending a meal with a treat means me have fewer of them and enjoy them more.
  • Reduce or ditch the bad stuff. It takes about a week to get used to no sugar. This helps avoid weight gain over time and promotes good health.
  • Drink water–it helps combat weight gain and dehydration. If you struggle drinking water like I did, add a bit of lemon or ginger. I like it more.

Any menu requests?

Send them over in comments, to dawn@broketeacher.com or comment on the @broketeacher Instagram. I’ll make a healthy, waste-free, affordable recipe for you! Or, share your favorites, and I’ll post them in both places in your name.