8 Ways to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain

It starts with Halloween and plastic pumpkins full of sugary treats, then continues through Thanksgiving weekend, with plentiful mashed potatoes and gravy, stuffing, pies, and leftover turkey sandwiches. And don't forget December: office parties, cookie exchanges, and that food-filled week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Given all of this, you might think that most Americans pile on five or ten pounds during the holidays. But believe it or not, the average holiday-season weight gain is much less: It's actually closer to one pound. That's good news, right? Well, not so fast. According to experts, most people never end up shedding that pound they gained between Thanksgiving and New Year's. The cumulative result: ten extra pounds every decade.

Seasonal Eating Tips

What's a sensible eater to do? It may be tougher to eat healthfully during the holiday season, but it's not impossible. Try these tips to stay on track:

  • Keep active
  • This may sound like unnecessary advice, considering the whirlwind of the holidays, but during extra-busy times, exercise is often the first thing to be dropped from the to-do list. Be sure to keep up a regular workout schedule.

  • Don't get too hungry
  • Starving all day to "bank" calories for a splurge later on is a recipe for disaster. A growling stomach and feeling light-headed can lead to bingeing and a lack of control in the evening. It's fine to eat light during the day, but be sure to eat something at regular mealtimes.

  • Take some "me" time
  • The holidays can be stressful for most people. Take some time out to avoid getting overwhelmed. Staying relaxed can also assist in maintaining a sense of control about portions and food choices.

  • Bring healthy treats
  • When attending a potluck or office party, provide low-calorie alternatives to diet-busting appetizers or desserts. Attractive fruit or vegetable trays are nutritious as well as festive.

  • Limit alcohol
  • Cocktails increase calorie count without adding any nutrition. Enjoy one drink, then sip mineral water or club soda.

  • Be selective
  • When faced with a mind-boggling buffet, don't go overboard with a variety of high-fat side dishes or desserts. Instead, choose one favorite and indulge in a small portion without guilt.

  • Just say no
  • Don't be afraid to decline that second portion or extra drink. But it's usually easier to avoid arm-twisting by claiming to be full, rather than on a weight management program.

  • Don't start a new diet during the holidays
  • Trying to drop a few pounds during the holidays can be a losing game. Maintenance is a realistic and attainable goal.