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The holidays are packed with celebrations, but for many of us, the colder weather discourages outdoor workout routines, our stress levels are high and we may be getting less sleep than usual. Combined, all of this can lead to weight gain over the holiday season.
In a 2000 study of 195 adults, 14% gained over 5 pounds in the 6-week period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day.
While most participants gained 1 pound or less during the study - which does not seem like much - this weight is usually never lost and accumulates year after year.
The researchers found that 51% of most people's weight gain over a 12-month period occurred during the holiday season.
If one of your favorite parts of the holiday season is your grandmother's famous sugar cookies, you need not put them off limits. Allow yourself to have a cookie, enjoy it and move on. But do not feel bad about skipping Aunt Betty's fruitcake that you never really liked anyway.
When at a dinner party or buffet, survey the entire table before making a plate. Decide on one or two dishes that are worth indulging in, and eat in moderation. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables, fruits or lean protein.
More quick tips to survive the holidays:
If you think skipping breakfast or lunch will save you calories, think again. When you skip a meal, you are more likely to overeat twofold at your next meal.
It is especially important to not skip breakfast in preparation for a party or event, because if you do not eat within a few hours of waking, your metabolism fails to start and your body will hold on to and store fat for energy as a survival mechanism.
If your normal exercise routine involved outdoor activities that simply do not agree with the winter weather, now is the time to find a new one you enjoy indoors. Contact gyms in your area (or where you are traveling) and see if they offer a week-long free trial. Try new classes like cycling, hot yoga or aqua sculpt.
Keep trying until you find an instructor or class structure that you enjoy. Find a friend to play racquetball with or join an indoor basketball or volleyball league. Sign up for a spring 10K, triathlon or adventure race that requires you to train through the winter.
The key is to find an activity that you look forward to. If running on a treadmill is not enjoyable for you, skip it. Maybe you would enjoy a Zumba or hip-hop dance class instead.
Focus on maintaining your weight and not gaining during the holidays, instead of losing. Count it as a victory if you are still fitting into your favorite jeans by February.
If most of your current traditions focus around food, make new ones. Round up the family and go sledding, ice skating or skiing. Take dance lessons or get crafty and make your own holiday decorations. Take old family recipes and revamp them to make them healthier.
Replace white flour with whole grain or replace oil and lard with applesauce and Greek yogurt. At gatherings, take advantage of seeing those you do not get to see often; talk more and eat less.
Cranberry-Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies
Makes 34 cookies.
Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Cream Cheese
Copyright: Medical News Today
Not to be reproduced without the permission of Medical News Today.
Holiday weight gain: fact or fiction? Roberts SB, Mayer J., Nutr Rev. 2000 Dec;58(12):378-9. Accessed 2 December 2013.
Healthy Holiday Eating, Nutrition 411, Review Date March 2011. Accessed 2 December 2013.
Cranberry-Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies, Nutrition Awareness. Accessed 2 December 2013.
Low Fat Pumpkin Bread with Cinnamon Cream Cheese, Nutrition Awareness. Accessed 2 December 2013.
Visit our Nutrition / Diet category page for the latest news on this subject.
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Nordqvist, Joseph. "Healthy eating during the holiday season." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 10 Dec. 2013. Web.
8 Mar. 2014. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269577>
Nordqvist, J. (2013, December 10). "Healthy eating during the holiday season." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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