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HEALTH AND FITNESS: Maintain weight this holiday season

December 3, 2018

Now that Thanksgiving has passed, the holiday season is in full swing. In addition to spending time with family and friends, the big events of the season also seem to involve shopping and eating. This will almost certainly result in big numbers on your credit card bill. And, because holiday weight gain is a reality for most people, on your bathroom scale, too.

Research shows that, on average, people gain about 1 pound between Thanksgiving and the new year. The problem is that this extra weight may not be lost during the spring or summer, meaning that holiday weight gain can be a contributor to the gradual increase in weight, about 1 pound per year, that most people experience over time.

The good news is that the weight gain that typically occurs during the holidays can be prevented. Since people tend to gain less than 1 pound, even small changes to what you eat and your activity can make a difference, without taking away from your holiday cheer. Here are some strategies:

1. Stay active. The average holiday weight gain could be prevented by adding 1 mile of walking, or about 20 minutes, per day. Since time may be a factor, you can turn a shopping trip into a chance to be active by taking an extra lap around the mall or parking further away in the parking lot. Go for a walk when you have free time—and take your family and friends (and dog) with you.

2. Stay away from the food. Most holiday parties include lots of food, and usually not the healthiest choices. You can reduce the amount you eat by limiting your time near the food—literally, fill your plate and move away from the food. Using a smaller plate will reduce the amount of food you take, too.

3. Create no food zones. Get rid of the candy dish on your desk at work or the plate of treats on the countertop at home. You are less likely to eat treats that aren’t right in front of you.

3. Don’t drink your calories. Alcoholic beverages, soda, and juice all contain calories and can add up to a big part of your total calorie intake. Many beverages, including hot chocolate and coffee drinks, can easily contain hundreds of calories. This doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy your favorite drinks, but enjoy them in moderation. And make water your beverage of choice at other times.

4. Plan ahead. If you are trying to watch what you eat, have a healthy snack before you go to a party. You will feel less hungry so you will probably be less inclined to eat as much. If you are bringing a dish to the party, make it something healthy that you like.

5. Focus on family and friends, not food. The holidays are a time to enjoy special meals and events with family and friends, and that should be your focus. You should enjoy your favorite foods and drinks, just do it in moderation.

6. Give yourself a break. Healthy eating and exercise are always important, but they are more difficult to do around the holidays. According to one study, even people who were trying to lose weight over the holidays ended up gaining about a half pound. So, do your best maintaining your healthy habits, accept that you may struggle, and make a commitment to get back on track after the holidays.

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