It can be easy to pack on a few extra pounds during the holiday season, but it’s much harder to shed them in the new year.
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Whether it’s the caloric eggnog or the second trip to the buffet during a holiday party, studies show that people gain an average of one to two pounds during the holiday season. While two pounds alone isn’t bad, many people don’t shed the extra weight--and it adds up over time.
“At any time of year, unhealthy temptations in the form of great-tasting high-calorie foods are readily available, but over the holidays they are just everywhere and too alluring for many people to pass up,” says Dr. James Hardeman, author of Appears Younger than Stated Age –A Doctor’s Secrets on the Art of Staying Young. “It is important to realize the health pitfalls of the season and formulate a common-sense plan to deal with them.”
The holiday season is full of social gatherings offering high fat foods and alcohol that often trump trips to the gym. “Just the presence of treats is often a trigger to overeat,” says Malia Frey, a weight loss expert for About.com. “And if your willpower has been compromised by a glass of champagne or wine, it’s going to be difficult to stick to a healthy diet.”
She adds that it can also be hard to fend off “food pushers” during the holidays. “These are family members or friends who put pressure on you to eat more than you typically would. In an effort to be polite and make peace, we often give in.”
Avoiding tempting foods and alcohol is a surefire way to keep the pounds off, but it’s not a realistic strategy--particularly during the holiday season. Instead, health experts say moderation and sticking to an exercise regime are key to keeping off extra pounds.
Shelley Alexander, owner of holistic health company A Harmony Healing, recommends sticking to a maximum of two cocktails at every event and to drink a glass of water in between. This will help flush out some of the alcohol and create a feeling of fullness at the same time.
To help limit your food consumption, Frey recommends always eating from a plate and never from a bowl or tray. “It’s too easy to lose track of how much you’re eating when you mindlessly grab chips from a bowl or cookies from a tray,” she says.
Health pros also suggest eating a small meal or snack that is rich in fiber and protein before a party to avoid over eating. At the buffet, Alexander says to make sure your plate has two or three servings of vegetables because they are nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates that will help you stay satisfied longer than refined carbohydrates.
While shopping during this season can seem like a workout, don’t skip exercising during this busy period of time.
Instead of using the holidays as an excuse to abandon your exercise program, Hardeman says to consider working out as a way to indulge a little more.
It’s important to enjoy the festivities of the holidays and if you do end up packing on a few extra pounds don’t give up. “The worst thing you can do is to throw up your hands and give in,” says Frey. “This will only make the situation worse and make you feel bad about yourself. Accept the weight gain and move forward with a plan. Set daily goals to swap veggies for high fat starchy snacks or set a goal to do a cardio boosting walk with your friends.”