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Eight Steps to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

By Vincent Pedre M.D.
December 16, 2011
File under: Healthy Eating, Snacks, Weight Control

Brace yourselves, it’s the holidays again and with all the parties and celebrations, there will be food, drinks and more food.  In fact, for Americans fully 51 percent of weight gain each year occurs during the six week holiday period.

It is thought that people gain five to ten pounds over the holidays and research suggests that if you are already overweight, the strikes are against you.

One study followed 195 adults from September through March, and found that the average weight gain was about 1 pound (0.37 kg).

However, in adults who were already overweight or obese, weight gain was greater, 14 percent averaging a weight gain of 5 lbs.[1]

In another study, the same was true for elementary school children.  Those overweight or obese were most at risk for gaining weight during the holidays.[2]

The good news… With these healthy tips you can maintain your weight and avoid the holiday bulge.

Eight Steps to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Get moving! One of the most effective ways to maintain weight is to exercise.  Whether treadmill, stationary bike or spin class, your cardio exercise should last at least 30 minutes three times a week.  Bump this up during the holiday season to 1 hour to make up for extra calories.

Prep-Snack. Pack your refrigerator with whole fruits and ready-to-go bags of cut-up vegetables.  The fiber in these foods fills you up quickly, and having grab bags makes it easy on the go, especially in the morning.  When temptation arises, reach for your fruit snack.

Keep temptation away. Tempting cookies and treats will be everywhere during the holidays, but they shouldn’t be in easy reach.  Snacks like these pack on a ton of calories, with little nutrition.  Keep them away from your desk or kitchen.  However, if you feel the urge, allow yourself one small serving when the desire arises to keep yourself from feeling deprived, which can lead to overindulging.

Never go hungry. When attending holiday parties, expect the bread and hors d’oeuvres to be among the most fattening items on the menu.  Once you start, it’s hard to stop.  Eat a healthy snack, such as fruit, low-fat yoghurt or a handful of nuts before the party, so you don’t overeat.

The One Rule = one plate or one bite. When at a holiday party, limit the richest and creamiest items to one bite or one spoonful.  When it comes to the dinner plate, limit to one plate, not allowing the food to flow over the edges of the plate.  Eat slowly, savoring the flavors and textures, to allow time for your brain to sense that you are full.

Watch the alcohol tap. Drink in moderation.  Beer, wine and liquor are full of calories that have a particular affection for belly fat.  Beer will bloat and liquor will make you bigger.  For a lower calorie beverage, try a wine spritzer with club soda.

Hydrate. If you are well-hydrated, you will feel less hungry.  The body often confuses dehydration for hunger.  Make sure you’re getting at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day and drink even more water if you consume dehydrating beverages, such as coffee, tea or alcohol

Focus on being social. The holidays are all about conversation and connecting with family, friends and peers.  Make it as much about the gathering as it is about sharing food together.

When all else fails, you can always make up for it in the New Year with a Doctor-supervised Weight Loss Program to set your body back to where it was before the holidays.

Vincent Pedre, M.D. is an integrative, Holistic General Practitioner and Board-Certified Internist in private practice in New York City. Follow Dr. Pedre on Facebook and Twitter.

[1] Roberts SB, Mayer J.  Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction?  Nutr Rev. 2000 Dec;58(12):378-9.

[2] Branscum P, et al. An Evaluation of Holiday Weight Gain Among Elementary-aged Children.  The University of Cincinnati, Health Promotion and Education.  J Clin Med Res. 2010 Aug 18;2(4):167-71.

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