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Six Tips to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Holiday dinner

We are in the middle of one of the most dangerous seasons for overeating. The onset of winter, combined with back-to-back holidays, provides endless temptations. Dr. Holly Hull, a researcher at the University of Oklahoma who studies holiday weight gain, affirms our own experience: during the next few weeks, we'll face an enticing array of opportunities to consume calorie-dense snacks, finger foods, appetizers, desserts and alcoholic drinks.

You don't have to be a researcher to notice how much weight Mr. and Mrs. Claus have put on over the years. Given all the cookies Santa consumes on Christmas Eve while delivering presents, one expert asserts that Santa has (or is at risk for) " heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, cancer, gallbladder disease, gallstones, osteoarthritis, gout and breathing problems."

Here are six tips to help you, your family and the Clauses enjoy wonderful occasions without packing on extra pounds:

  1. Slow down. Enjoy leisurely conversation while eating. By eating slowly, you give your body the time it needs to send a message that you have eaten enough, and you will find that you're able to eat less and still feel fully satisfied.
  2. Fill up. Eat an apple before a major meal so you won't be so hungry. Keep a pitcher of water on the table to drink throughout your meal and before giving in to the temptation to have a second helping. Drinking other liquids (broth or green tea, for example), will also create a sense of fullness.  
  3. Manage hunger. Forget starving yourself all day so you can splurge at the party. And forget crash diets. Both deprive your body of food that you need to function and will trigger a rebound of overeating. Eliminate empty calories, such as sugared drinks. When eating, focus less on counting calories and more on making calories count.
  4. Nurture yourself. Find sources of comfort and satisfaction that don't involve food. For example, a massage does wonders for lifting one's mood. Reconnect with an old friend. Visit a shut-in friend and bring a thoughtful card or small gift. Get down on the floor and play with some toddlers. Go to a funny movie or lose yourself in a good novel. And don't be too hard on yourself if you slip up and overindulge. Take a lesson from the weather-it pays no attention to criticism.
  5. Get moving. Keep your exercise routine despite the hectic demands of the holiday. Commit to a minimum of 30 minutes of demanding exercise, such as a brisk walk, each day. When you shop, park at the perimeter of the lot. Wear a pedometer so you can monitor your daily steps.
  6. Stay mindful. Pay attention to your thoughts and feelings during the delightful and stressful moments. Set aside a few minutes to meditate each day. During these quiet times, be mindful of your body sensations, for example, whether you feel rested or when your body hurts or feels tense. Notice food cravings without resisting them through willpower. Instead, acknowledge them and simply let them pass like white clouds passing in a blue sky.

By foregoing calorie-dense foods, you can skip lightly through the holidays without gaining weight. And by adopting these strategies, you can begin the New Year feeling good about your accomplishment.

P.S. When you set out the treat for Santa this year, forget the cookies and milk. Do your part to promote fitness: Leave a piece of fruit and some spiced tea.

Photo credit: mdid on Flickr

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