It’s so common to experience a little holiday weight gain, it’s almost expected. The problem is, very few of us ever take the holiday weight gain back off, and over several holiday seasons, it can add up to major health problems. Not to mention having to buy new pants.

We all know that we should stick to the raw celery platter at parties, avoid sauces, limit the booze, and never go to an event hungry, but that isn’t always enough to prevent those new little love handles from forming.

holiday weight gainSo what else can be done to avoid holiday weight gain and keep our pants fitting throughout the season of food-and-drink-related cheer?

Avoid holiday weight gain by being aware and making a plan.

The number one reason people gain weight during the holidays is because they just sort of bob along with parties, feasts, cookie-baking, and so on without really thinking about how it’s going to affect their weight and health. Most of us know what is fattening and what isn’t, but we mindlessly eat whatever passes in front of us just because it’s the holidays and that’s what you do.

Being conscious of the effect of everything that goes in your mouth is key. Advance planning, including a schedule for workouts, strategies for party eating, and making sure you have enough time to eat something healthy before a party so you aren’t starving, can make a huge difference overall.

Avoid holiday weight gain by indulging consciously.

It’s unrealistic, not to mention inhumane, to deprive yourself of everything delicious over the holidays, especially your most favorite treats. Plan to indulge, but do so consciously. Pass on things that you can have anytime, and instead allow yourself a portion of a once-a-year treat, like pumpkin pie or your favorite cookie.

Portion control is key, here. Take just enough of your favorite goodie to satisfy your need for indulgence, and savor it, while skipping things like bread that you can eat year-round. Planning ahead is key here, too. Know in advance what one thing you’ll allow yourself to have at each party or event.

Avoid holiday weight gain by scheduling in extra exercise.

If you don’t already exercise, you should start during the holidays—even a 20-minute walk per day can offset your little indulgences. If you are already an exerciser, increase your time by 15 minutes per session. 

If you can’t stand to spend that extra time on the treadmill, do a quick routine of 20 jumping jacks, crunches, and squats in the morning when you get up and again right before or after dinner. Actually scheduling when you’ll work out and making sure you do it every day can quickly add up to several pounds worth of calories burned.

Avoid holiday weight gain by knowing a little psychology.

Researchers have found that how much we consume depends more on external, visual cues than hunger. You can use this knowledge and other sensory cues to your advantage during the holidays to keep from overdoing it with the calories:

  • Use a small plate, especially at a buffet. You will feel like you’ve eaten more if it looks like the plate is full.
  • Don’t go back for seconds. Get it all on your plate to begin with, so you are conscious of how much you’re eating.
  • If it’s an appetizer party without plates, keep track of your toothpicks, so you’re aware of how many canapés you’ve had.
  • If you can see it, you’ll eat it. Put holiday treats away, out of sight, instead of displayed in the open. This includes alcohol.
  • Wear something a little snug to a party, so your waistband reminds you when you start to overdo it.
  • Never stand next to the food table while chatting with other guests. You’ll lose that critical awareness of what you’re eating.
  • Chewing sugarless gum or having a mint after eating will help you avoid going back for another taste.

Avoid holiday weight gain by adding it all up.

If you are the primary cook in your house, you’ll probably be doing significantly more cooking and baking during the holidays. If so, be conscious of tasting as you cook. Every taste, especially things like gravy and sauces, contains calories, and they can add up very quickly.

This goes for eating the broken cookie, having just a corner off the fudge, or taking just one candy from the jar as you walk by. Though you don’t feel like little tastes here and there will add up to much, you would be amazed by the number of extra calories you can take in this way.

Avoid holiday weight gain by focusing on something else.

For many of us, holiday celebrations are more about the food than anything else, but if you consciously focus on another aspect of the event, you are much more likely not to make poor eating choices. Make the conscious decision to focus on socializing, enjoying family, and other aspects of the party or holiday in lieu of making it all about the meal.

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