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8 Tips for Holiday Weight Control

According to *The New England Journal of Medicine, the period contributing most to yearly weight change is the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. Most people believe that typical holiday weight gain is between 6 and 8 pounds. For health conscious people, it's probably less. Unfortunately, even a small increase in weight over the holidays can add to the cumulative increase that happens over time for most adults. The good news is that there are ways to avoid packing on the pounds this holiday season. Here are 8 helpful tips for enjoying the holiday season without stressing about those extra pounds

1. Focus on MAINTAINING Your Weight During the Holidays

If you are looking to shed a few pounds, the holidays are not the time to work towards that goal. Maintenance of your present weight is a big enough challenge during the holiday season. Set a realistic goal to develop a healthier eating strategy for the New Year and work towards maintaining your current weight over the holidays.

2. Don’t Gear Up for the “Big D”Research shows that restrictive diets do not lead to long- term weight loss. If you anticipate a food restrictive diet in your near future, you may be setting yourself up for binge eating over the holidays. Plan on NOT dieting after the New Year. Instead, consider choosing resolutions based on long- term healthy lifestyle modifications.

3. Keep Your Exercise Program GoingIf you have a weekly workout schedule, the holidays are not the time to change your schedule. Keep your normal workout schedule throughout the holiday season. Nothing helps you reach (and maintain) a healthy weight like physical activity. If you’re traveling for the holidays, bring along a jump rope or plan for a morning run. It’s far more difficult to get back on track than it is to stay on track! 

4. Make a PlanIt is not a good idea to arrive at a party famished. Eat a light snack, like almonds or an apple, before going to holiday parties. Plan ahead. Think about where you will be and the foods that might be available, consider those foods that are really special to you (that you really want to eat) versus those that you can sacrifice. Planning ahead can help you maintain discipline in the face of temptation. If you do arrive hungry, drink some water to fill up before filling your plate. 

5. Get Creative and “Healthy Up” Your Baking Recipes!Try replacing coconut oil for recipes calling for shortening.  Replace processed white sugar with coconut palm sugar. Due to its low glycemic index, Coconut palm sugar is the new rage among health nuts. It’s also called coconut nectar sugar and coconut sugar. 

6. Limit Your Alcohol Intake and Choose Your Beverages WiselyAlcohol is high in calories. In fact, some alcoholic beverages contain 150-450 calories per glass. Limit your intake to 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per occasion or try skipping alcohol altogether. Beware of holiday coffee drinks, as well. Eggnog lattes, pumpkin lattes and peppermint mochas can have in excess of 400 calories each. Avoid extra calories from soda, as well.  As a rule, drink water and always keep a bottle of water handy! 

7. Maintain PerspectiveOvereating one day won't make or break your long- term goals. If you overdo it once or twice, let it go, regain your focus and get back on track right away!

8. Remember What MattersEnjoy good friends and family. Although food can be a big part of the season, it doesn’t have to be the focus. Holidays are a time to reunite with loved ones, to share laughter and cheer, to celebrate and to give thanks.

*Yanovski, Jack A., M.D., Ph.D., Susan Z. Yanovski, M.D., Kara N. Sovik, B.S., Tuc T. Nguyen, M.S., Patrick M. O'Neill, Ph.D., and Nancy G. Sebring, M.Ed., R.D. "A Prospective Study of Holiday Weight Gain." The New England Journal of Medicine 342.12 (2000): 861-67. Print.

Jennifer Lima is the owner of Energeia Fitness in Los Gatos, California and the Director of Group Fitness at the South Valley YMCA. She is a NASM certified personal trainer and nutrition fitness specialist. When she isn’t coercing her clients into doing ridiculously effective exercises, she enjoys riding her dirt bike, rock climbing and watching Downton Abbey in plank position.