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Weight Control

How to Avoid Holiday and Winter Weight Gain


You cast your eye on the table. Mmm … one after another, great heaping dishes of food. Comfort food.Holiday food. You dig in, savoring every bite. Now the meal is over and you are going through that terrible cycle of holiday remorse. Sure, it's great to be able to indulge in some festive food favorites, but there is always that guilt afterward.

You can avoid this psychological turmoil by adopting a more sensible approach to holiday eating and exercise, Sari Greaves, R.D., C.D.N., a registered dietitian at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center said. "You will not gain weight from one meal by itself. Consistency is the key; if you eat healthy meals during the months before the holidays, a splurge or two can be fit in."

"Don't deny yourself the occasional treat. What people need to realize is that everybody can eat something of everything – it's just a question of how much," she adds.

The following is the holiday feast survival guide – a road map of sorts to keep you and your diet from straying too far this year.

  • Plan ahead. Remember the "calorie bank" concept. Save calories the week before to give yourself more calories to eat during the holidays.

  • Never go to a party hungry. Snack on whole-grain cereal, fruit, non-fat yogurt or vegetables before you leave for the party. You will be less tempted to overindulge while you're there.

  • Take control of your environment whenever possible. Never engage in conversation while sitting next to a platter of your favorite cookies.

  • Bring a low-fat dish to the party. Share with other guests. Vegetable crudités with low-fat dip, or shrimp cocktail serve as delicious low-calorie appetizers. Creative salads (such as mixed greens sprinkled with walnuts and dried cranberries) make a satisfying side dish. Fruit salad with a scoop of non-fat frozen yogurt is a nutritious way to satisfy a sweet tooth after dinner.

  • Use small plates. Studies show that people fill their plates according to dish size. Smaller plates are a built-in way to control your portions.

  • Fill your plate with steamed or fresh vegetables and lean protein foods (i.e. fish, skinless poultry, lean cuts of beef) – then add small "tastes" of high-fat dishes.

  • Eat slowly and savor every bite. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to your brain that you are full.

  • Decide in advance how you will handle gifts of cookies and candy. Don't leave them out in the open so that you will be tempted to binge. Keep one or two and give the rest away.

  • Limit alcohol consumption. Not only does alcohol contain many calories, but it can also stimulate your appetite and reduce your willpower. Try a wine spritzer, or, better yet, avoid alcohol completely and drink seltzer or mineral water with a twist of lime, or a non-alcoholic tomato juice cocktail. If you do choose to have a drink, moderation is the key: 2 drinks per day for men and 1 drink per day for women. One drink is equal to a 12 ounce beer, 1.5 ounces of liquor, or 5 ounces of wine.

  • Don't allow holiday activity to slow down your exercise program. Exercise can help burn off extra calories and make you feel good about yourself. Exercise does not have to be limited to running on atreadmill. Take a leisurely walk with family and friends, go ice skating, or ride your bicycle to take care of local errands.

  • Moderation is the key to weight maintenance. A forkful of cheesecake will do less damage than a whole piece. Remember, an occasional indulgence will not destroy your weight-loss attempts.

For more information visit www.med.cornell.edu.


© 2006 Health Resources Publishing