How to Combat Holiday Weight Gain

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Merry as they may be to many, for those of us who try to eat healthy and keep our weight under control, the holidays can be brutal. We step on the scale, cookie crumbs barely brushed from our lips, and watch as the pounds tick up into the danger zone. Ho-ho-how did this happen to us again this year?

Of course, we know how it happened. We made a few too many trips to the snack table, drank more eggnog than we knew was good for us and indulged a little too enthusiastically at family dinnertime. The good news is that it all tasted delicious and we enjoyed it in the company of family and friends. The bad news is that feeling festive as we eat those holiday delicacies doesn’t make them any less fattening — for proof, just look at Santa.

Sure, we’ll resolve to be better next year: “Lose weight and eat healthier” is penned in at the No. 1 spot on our New Year’s resolution lists every year. But what if we could do something to start the year without all the disadvantages of those holiday pounds?

Writing in the Washington Post, nutrition expert Jae Berman offers 11 (count them!) tips for keeping the pounds at bay over the holidays. Her suggestions include eating a small balanced meal before you go to a holiday gathering and eating your vegetables and drinking water once you’re there. Savor every bite, don’t drink too much alcohol, bring snacks in your bag to make sure you don’t get super hungry between meals (and then go crazy heaping your plate when dinner is served), she advises, and don’t forget to exercise.

Possibly Berman’s most-important piece of advice? Don’t beat yourself up for the moments you fall short. “Be kind to yourself and give yourself a break,” she writes. “Acknowledge the successes.”

Table with appetizers for guests reception

Toby Amidor, M.S., R.D., Healthy Eats contributor and author of The Greek Yogurt Kitchen, agrees that eating healthy over the holidays is an entirely achievable goal. In fact, she says, the danger of overindulging in the calorie-rich foods that abound during the holiday season makes it especially important to stick to your healthy eating and fitness plans. “Deciding that you can ‘cheat’ from Thanksgiving through New Year’s can lead to unwanted weight gain,” she warns.

Amidor advises taking care to eat a well-balanced breakfast and lunch, with healthy snacks in between, on a day you’re planning to attend a holiday party or dinner. Going to a party hungry, she says, “is a sure way you can end up overindulging.”

And when you arrive at the party, Amidor recommends, stick to “Toby’s Two-Tablespoon Rule.” That is, “Scout the party or dinner for two or three dishes that you absolutely must have (including dessert), and take two heaping tablespoons of this food.” That way, she notes, “you can enjoy a small portion, which, combined with other healthy fare, can help keep weight gain at bay.”

As for exercise, Amidor suggests making it “a family affair”: Go outside and throw the football around with your kids, or toss on your sneakers and do “a few extra laps at the mall” while holiday shopping.

Then maybe you can hit the food court … for a salad, people. A salad!

Related Links:

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Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer.