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8-Steps to Surviving Holiday Weight Gain


One of the toughest times of the year for those trying to lose weight is the holiday season. While the holidays are a time to rejoice, celebrate and share fond memories, it also a time for eating, eating and more eating. Wherever you go, whatever you do, food always seems to be the central focus. Cookies, chocolates, fruit cake, eggnog, holiday breads and a myriad of other ‘goodies’ can been seen in the kitchen, on the coffee table, at the office, grocery store, drugstore, gas station, friend’s house… even your doctor’s office! How can you try to maintain your weight and heart-health during such a tempting time? We’ve conjured up 8-steps to surviving the holiday hoop-la that is sure-fire success – this season and in the future ones to come.

Get moving

One of the most effective ways to maintain or lose body weight is to engage in regular, sustained aerobic activity (*). Here at Preventive Cardiology we suggest aiming for 200-minutes aerobic activity per week. But any length of time is still better than no time at all. Exercise is a great way to burn those extra calories you may be taking in this time of year (remember those iced reindeer cookies you had with lunch?). Here are some ideas to get you moving:

  • If you have a stationery bicycle or treadmill at home, dust it off and put it in front of the television or radio for some background entertainment while you’re exercising. Why not watch your favorite television show and exercise at the same time?
  • Go to the library and get a book on tape or CD, listen to it and read (so-to-speak) as you exercise.
  • Haven’t used your gym-pass in awhile? Hire a personal trainer to teach you effective calorie-burning techniques, or join that kick boxing class you’ve always wanted to try.
  • Go for a morning or evening walk alone or with a friend.
  • Put a little kick in your cleaning technique. Fire up some music and dance while you clean. Who ever knew cleaning could be so fun?
  • If you’ve been told you are eligible for the Phase II or III rehab program at the Cleveland Clinic and haven’t joined yet, call your doctor and sign up today! You’ll learn the most effective ways to get your heart pumping and start burning some calories.
  • Have bad knees or other joints? Don’t worry – water aerobics or swimming is your answer! The water prevents your weight bearing down on the joints and is an effective way to burn calories.
    (*) If you haven’t exercised in at least 6-months, check with your doctor first before starting.

Aim for five-a-day
Making sure you eat five or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day is a great way to help fill-up your stomach but not your calorie level. When compared to other snack foods like chips, crackers and cookies, gram for gram, fruits and vegetables contain fewer calories and tons more nutrients. What’s more – the fiber in fruits and vegetables fill you up faster than traditional snack foods. Pack your refrigerator with bags of cut-up vegetables and whole or cut-up fruits. Grab a bag while on the go or at work. Make a pact with yourself that you’ll eat your five-a-day before you snack on any cookies or other holiday treats. You’re sure to take in fewer calories overall.

Control the risk for temptation
Controlling even the slightest chance of coming in contact with ‘tempting’ foods is one way to effectively reduce your intake. While you won’t be able to control all situations, focus on the many ones you can. For example, do you keep candy or cookies at your desk or workspace? Do you frequent the dining room table or pantry where you store all your holiday goodies? How many times do you pass the break room in your office to grab a chocolate?
Make a mental note of tempting places and try to control them. For example, make a pact with co-workers that goodies will be kept solely in the break room, not at the front desk or in various offices. Then, plan to go into the break room only once a day to take a small treat. Store your cookies in a pantry or in sealed containers. Only go near them when you are ready to take them out for a party or to give as gifts. When going grocery shopping or to the drugstore, avoid the candy or cookie isle and read a magazine while waiting at the checkout instead of eyeballing all of the sweets by the registers.
Mentally plan out how you will avoid tempting situations. If you can’t avoid them entirely, see number 4.

Limit to one-a-day
While you can’t control every situation, you can control how much food goes into your mouth. If you are constantly bombarded with holiday parties and displays of desserts or candies you can still effectively help prevent overeating and weight gain. One way is the one-a-day method. Allow yourself one small serving of a cookie or piece of candy each day during the holiday season. Remember that you may have to compensate for it later in the day by reducing your total caloric intake or by burning a few extra calories while exercising. If you aren’t confronted with holiday foods that day, just skip your one-a-day – but don’t compensate and double-up on your serving the next day.

Never go to a party hungry
One of the worst things you can do is skip eating all day to ‘save up’ for some type of binge-eating episode at a party. Have a nutritious snack like a low-fat trail mix, a piece of fruit, cut-up vegetables, yogurt, whole grain crackers with peanut butter or even a glass of skim milk before the party. This way you’ll be satisfied when entering the party and enjoy small portions of foods without overeating.

Plan ahead and bring a low-calorie dish with you
Offer to bring a dish with you to a holiday party. Whatever you bring, make sure it’s low in calories such as fresh fruits, vegetables or low-calorie dips. At least you’ll know you have at least one good dish to choose from.
If bringing a dish isn’t an option, choose the plan ahead method. Before the party, see if you can find out what is being served. If you don’t know ahead of time, peruse the room for foods being served at the table or buffet when you arrive. Make a mental note of healthy dishes, such as a fruit or vegetable platter, lean meats without cream sauces or broth-based soup. Plan to fill your plate with these foods first and then (if there’s room on the plate) sample a few of the other high calorie dishes. Once you fill your plate, walk away, sit down and enjoy the food. Wait twenty to thirty minutes before going for seconds. After that, if you still feel hungry, go back and enjoy a second helping of a low calorie dish. Planning what you will eat and how much you’ll eat ahead of time is a great way to cut back on calories while still enjoying the event.

Say No Politely
Many times you feel forced to eat foods because people keep putting it in front of you. Learn to say no politely, such as "No thank you, I’ve had enough. Everything was delicious", or "I couldn’t eat another bite. Everything tasted wonderful". You’ll find saying no isn’t so hard to do after all.

Focus on socializing
Don’t stand around the food table when you are at a party – focus your energies on making conversation with others instead of focusing on foods. Conversation is calorie-free.
Remember, the holidays are meant to celebrate good times with family and friends. Enjoy the holidays and plan effective strategies to help you achieve your weight loss goals. Achieving what you sought out for will give you one more good reason for holiday cheer! Happy Holidays!


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