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Holiday Weight Gain: Your Survival Guide

It’s that time of the year again: the holidays. With fattening foods in abundance, putting on a few pounds is all but guaranteed. Or is it? Check out our tips to keep weight gain at bay this season.

’Tis the season for cocktail parties complete with elaborate spreads, neighbors dropping off holiday wishes (and pies) and fattening family dinners. If you are one of those people who still hasn’t lost the weight from last year’s festivities, now’s the time to break the cycle with these simple tips.

Stave Off Hunger Before you Feel It: Everyone knows that arriving at a holiday function hungry can spell disaster for your diet, but let’s admit it: indulging in holiday treats is all part of the fun. After all, we only get to eat some of this stuff once a year. If at all possible, eat a small portion of something healthy before you head off so you aren’t ravenous by the time you arrive. A high-protein power bar or a piece of fruit can work wonders on an empty stomach.

At the soiree, pick your poisons carefully. Stock up on fruits and veggies at the onset, and then allow for a little indulgence. Remember this rule: love it or leave it. If you don’t absolutely love the way that frosted Santa cookie tastes, ditch it after the first bite.

Know Thy Food: Ever wonder why holiday food tastes so good? One answer: fat. We know that pie, candy and cookies are surefire, no-holds-barred diet saboteurs, but ham, mashed potatoes and green bean casserole aren’t exactly health foods, either.

Let’s talk turkey—or ham. One serving of ham has approximately 350 calories, while the mashed potatoes come in at 237. Surprisingly, the biggest offender in this lineup is the cranberry sauce, at 418 calories per serving. We haven’t even factored in biscuits, Grandma’s famous gravy or dessert and we are already at more than 1,000 calories. The moral of the story is ignorance is not bliss. Half the battle of the bulge is to know what you’re eating, so take the time to do the research. Next time, you might think twice before going for seconds.


Watch Your Alcohol Intake: It wouldn’t be a holiday party without eggnog, but it’s best to beware of the booze. Besides the fact that a cup of eggnog is more fattening (343 calories) than that serving of mashed potatoes, drinking alcohol almost always results in consuming more food. Even after one drink, you won’t be as mindful about food, as your inhibitions will be reduced substantially. If you are going to drink, follow it up with a glass of water. You won’t eat as much and you’ll be less likely to feel the alcohol the next day. When all else fails, look at it this way: having more than two drinks at the company holiday party is probably not a good idea.

Keep (or Start) Exercising: The madness that ensues during the holidays provides a perfect excuse to skip workouts. When you consider that exercise helps our bodies to better manage stress, it’s vital that you keep at it during this time of year. Better yet, with all that delicious, tempting food crossing your plate, you should really consider upping the intensity and frequency of your workouts. If you aren’t exercising regularly, why wait for the new year to start? It’s a sad fact that most people who vow to start working out January 1 end up abandoning their regimen after a couple of weeks. Getting a move on now means that you’ll be in better shape come the New Year—then you’ll really have something to celebrate.

Just Say No: We all want to be gracious guests, but taking multiple helpings out of guilt is completely unnecessary. Most of us feel obliged to eat or drink more when prompted, but don’t. Many hosts may simply be looking to get rid of excess food before the party is over and probably won’t be offended if you pass. If your hostess insists that you absolutely must have a second helping of her pecan pie (503 calories), ask her to wrap it up for you to enjoy later.

One last note to mention: somewhere between Halloween and the first of the year, many of us throw caution to the wind, figuring we’ve “already done too much damage,” but nothing could be further from the truth. Adopting this kind of attitude can only result in excessive weight gain and depression. Instead, approach every meal as its own entity—a chance to eat healthfully and mindfully. When you do slip up (and you will), forgive yourself and move on; it’s the holiday season, after all.