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10 Tips for a Long Healthy Holiday Eating Season

I had friends over for dinner on the weekend and we realized there were 6 weekends until Christmas, and the next day I received three Christmas Party Invitations!

Food is a significant part of many holidays, celebrations, and traditions.

As a result, many people gain a little (or a lot of) weight between Thanksgiving and the New Year. What's at fault? Well, it's all the enticing treats available during the holiday season. Maybe it's the increased emotional eating (whether it is from holiday stress or holiday joy) or the extreme carelessness with eating and physical activity regimens in anticipation for the strict “new diet and exercise preparation” you're going to begin January 1st. whatever the reasons, you don't have to avoid holiday festivities in an attempt to maintain your weight. Think about these tips for fully enjoying the holiday season without gaining weight!

  1. Focus on weight maintenance vs. weight loss during the holidays. If you are currently overweight and want to lose weight, this is not the time to do it. Preservation of your present weight is a big enough challenge during the holiday season. Don't set yourself up for failure by making unrealistic goals for yourself.
  2. Plan on NOT dieting after the New Year. Expectation of food restriction sets you up for binge-type eating over the holidays "I'll start January 1st, so go hog wild now..." Besides, limiting diets don't work in the long run. They increase your loss of lean body mass vs. fat, slow down your metabolism, increase anxiety, depression, and binge eating, and make weight re-gain more likely.
  3. Be physically active every day. Physical activity, especially aerobic activities (like brisk walking, jogging, bicycling, roller blading) can help relieve stress, adjust appetite, and burn up extra calories from holiday eating.
  4. Eat a light snack before going to holiday parties. It is not a good idea to arrive at a party starving. Not only are you more likely to overeat, but you are also less likely to resist the temptation of eating the higher fat and higher calorie foods. Try eating a piece of fruit, a small yogurt before you go.
  5. Make a plan. Think about where you will be, who you will be with, what foods will be available, what foods are really special to you vs. those that you could probably do without. It's much easier to deal with a difficult social eating situation if you've already planned for it.
  6. Take steps to avoid frivolous eating. While some foods are more calorie-dense than others, no food will make you gain weight unless you eat too much of it. At parties and holiday dinners, we tend to eat beyond our body's physical hunger simply because food is there and eating is a “social thing.” To avoid recreational eating, willfully make one plate of the foods you really want. Eat it slowly--enjoying and savoring every tasty bite.
  7. Reduce the fat in holiday recipes. There are plenty of low fat and low calorie substitutes that are amazingly tasty. Try using applesauce in place of oil in your favorite holiday breads; use egg substitutes in place of whole eggs; try plain nonfat yogurt in place of sour cream. Magazines are full of reduced calorie and reduced fat holiday recipes. Give them a try, and share your cooking creations with friends and family.
  8. Choose your beverages wisely. Alcohol is high in calories. Liquors, sweet wines and sweet mixed drinks contain 150-450 calories per glass. By contrast, water and diet sodas are calorie-free. If you choose to drink, select light wines and beers, and use non-alcoholic mixers such as water and diet soda. Limit your intake to 1 or 2 alcoholic drinks per occasion. And, watch out for calories in soda, fruit punch, and egg nog as well.
  9. Enjoy good friends and family. Although food can be a big part of the season, it is not the focus. Holidays are a time to reunite with friends and family, to share laughter and merriment, to celebrate and to give thanks. Focus more on these other holiday pleasures. The important thing to remember is balance and moderation. Just relax, enjoy the holidays, and remember what the season is all about.
  10. Maintain perspective: Overeating one day won't make or break your eating plan. And it certainly won't make you gain weight! It takes days and days of overeating to gain weight. If you over-indulge at a holiday meal, get over it. Get back on the wagon the next day.

49 days!

Yours in health! Stay Strong, and let me know about your parties!
GI Jane

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