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Diet & Nutrition | Wellness
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How to Overeat Less and Enjoy the Holidays More

7 ways to avoid weight gain

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Staying healthy over the holidays is all about taking care of ourselves. From a holistic standpoint, we need to adhere to a healthy diet, to exercise, to manage stress and to sleep.

Here are seven tactics for soaring over stumbling blocks during the holidays:

1. Weigh in every other day

Most holiday traditions are centered around food. When we’re not eating well, we tend to avoid the scale. Then on Jan. 1, we weigh ourselves and say, “Holy Moses!”

Studies show that weighing yourself every other day during the holidays will help you keep your weight down. This is true whether or not you keep a food diary. Do it first thing in the morning, without clothes or always wearing the same clothes.

2. Don’t try to lose weight

If you’ve successfully lost weight, make maintaining weight your goal. Don’t try to lose pounds over the holidays. It can be frustrating and lead to overindulgence. Focus instead on weight maintenance.

3. Write everything down

Keep a diary of everything you eat and drink. Write down what you’ve had when you get home from a party. It may make you think twice when the next party rolls around. You’ll be much more aware of how easy it is to overindulge when you’re in a large group.

4. Indulge, but watch portions

I tell my patients to appreciate the “happy medium” during holiday season. I want them to have fun, without focusing too much on their diet — but without going overboard either. You can still have whatever you want, but have it in much smaller portions. Really enjoy a small piece of pumpkin pie, eating slowly. Fully appreciate the taste and texture. Save your sweet tooth for the treats you love —not just for anything with sugar on it.

5. Buy, don’t bake, party desserts

When friends ask you to bring cookies or desserts to parties, the leftover ingredients linger. You’ll have chocolate chips, butter, white flour, etc., hanging around your house. You’ll also be licking the spoon and/or having a few cookies. If you buy something, you’re not going to touch it because it’s packaged or because you want it to look pretty.

6. Switch up cookie swaps

Decline all cookie swaps, and suggest a different swap instead. Cookies are a big part of the holidays, but they don’t have to be a big part of YOUR holiday. Focus on foods that will help you stay healthy. How about swapping favorite teas, beloved spices or whole-grain holiday muffins and breads?

7. Trade in some traditions

Make new traditions, centered on healthy behaviors:

  • Ask the family to take a hike. Instead of going straight to dessert after Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner, propose a family walk around the block. We know that when we get up out of the chair and walk, we’re much less likely to have dessert because we’ve distracted ourselves. (We tend to be on autopilot at Thanksgiving and don’t even realize what we’re eating.) And we’re getting some exercise.
  • Find new ways to have fun. Suggest a gift-wrapping party with your sisters instead of shopping for presents. If you wait until the night before Christmas or Hanukkah to wrap your kids’ gifts, you’ll be tired the next day. Lack of sleep will alter your digestive hormones, causing you to overeat. Another fun tradition could be an afternoon hike in the snow with your girlfriends — or even sledding. Hiking up those hills is great for the legs!
Tags: healthy diet, holiday season 2012, integrative medicine
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Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, is a registered dietitian and wellness manager for the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute.

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