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How to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Avoid Holiday weight gain.

Did you know most people gain 10-15 pounds during the holiday season?  Every January, we vow to do better.  Unfortunately, most people never lose that weight.  Over the years this adds up and leads to health problems. 

Here’s how to prevent holiday weight gain.

  1. Be selective. If there are 1 or 2 things you really enjoy, go for it.  Enjoy your gingerbread, eggnog or whatever is meaningful for you.  Do not eat or drink every single holiday treat.  You will gain weight, feel bloated etc.  I remember working in a large clinic where every single day a coworker would bring in a holiday treat.  Do you know what happens when you eat sugar?  It affects receptors in your brain making you crave it more.  If you have a treat every day, your body is going to require it.  You’ll actually go through withdrawals when you try to stop.  Fortunately, after a few days of abstinence, it will get easier.  If avoiding sugar is a new habit, it may take 2 weeks for the cravings to go away.  But they will go away.  When we eat sugar, the pancreas has to release insulin to maintain a normal blood sugar.  Unfortunately, this results in a subsequent drop in blood sugar causing symptoms of fatigue and irritability. 

         When I am in situations where it would be rude to refuse a treat, I just cut a           small piece.  This  allows me to have a taste without all the side effects.  Be             wary if you’re a sugar addict.  Some people find that if they have even a little           sugar, it creates a loss of control and binge eating situation. 

  1. Find alternatives.  There are ways to make holiday staples healthier.   Use the internet to find healthier recipes.  First of all, turkey by itself is naturally low in fat and high in nutrients (white meat).  Even the darker, more fatty meat isn’t that bad for you.  It’s the fixings that can do you in.  Some notoriously high calories sides include mashed potatoes, stuffing and mac and cheese.  The good news is you can keep the flavors of these items using cauliflower for both the potatoes and mac and cheese.  You can also make a vegetable stuffing using stuffing seasonings.  You won’t miss the bread. 
  2. Exercise! Move your body.  Incorporate family walks and other activities.  Here in Florida, we’re fortunate to have weather conducive to outdoor fun.  How about a holiday Kayak?  It doesn’t have to be complicated.  Just take a walk.  We’re also fortunate to have many walking and biking trails.  This is great when you have children.  You can worry less about them running in front of a car.

         Try to add more movement to your everyday activities.  Park further away in           the parking lot.  Take the stairs when available.  Get up and stretch during               your workday.   I find that on my admin days when I’m sitting a lot, my body           will start to ache.  I’ll move my computer to a countertop that allows me to             stand and move a little while I’m working.  If you spend most of your time at           a desk, consider a stand-up desk which will allow you to alternate between             sitting and standing during the day. 

         If you’re watching tv, get up and stretch periodically.  I tend to remember to           do this, when I’m sore and achy.  A little bit of movement can be very                       helpful. 

  1. Meditate. There is inevitable stress that can come with the holidays.  Find ways to diffuse that stress.  Some of the world’s most successful individuals have some sort of meditative practice.  As a beginner in this practice, I downloaded an app called headspace.  There are many meditation options of less than 5 minutes.  Some are quick breathing exercises.  They also have sleep stories.  This isn’t really my thing, but a lot of people enjoy being told a relaxing story as they fall asleep.  The app even has some 10-minute videos that include baby animals playing or falling asleep.  Just watching something relaxing can have a positive effect on the mind. 
  2. Set New Year's goals. The new year is a great time to reset and refocus.  I love setting some sort of goal to motivate myself in the new year.  It’s not an excuse to totally blow it during the holidays but it’s ok to give yourself a little leeway. 

Have a wonderful, happy and healthy holiday,

Dr. Amy

Dr. Amy Coopersmith

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