5 small steps to fight holiday weight gain

Our lifestyles usually change around the holidays. CONTRIBUTED
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Our lifestyles usually change around the holidays. CONTRIBUTED

Cooler weather, shorter days, parties and hours of watching football games while sitting in front of a television create a recipe for weight gain during the holiday months.

“The holiday season means people are engaged in less physical activity and more social gatherings, which are often filled with high-caloric foods,” said Christopher Lauricella, MD, of Family Medicine of Vandalia. “Our lifestyles change too. It’s no small thing that we go from doing yard work to sitting on the couch watching football and eating snacks.”

Dr. Lauricella, a family physician with Premier HealthNet, says everyone is at risk of gaining a small amount of weight during the holiday season, which he says typically runs from October through the beginning of January. Those who battle with weight on a regular basis may find the holidays a struggle, but even those who don’t battle weight can gain anywhere from three to five extra pounds, he said.

A person can make a significant impact on their weight loss or gain by understanding that calories are king.

“When you do the math, the difference between weight loss or weight gain is very often about 10 percent of your daily calorie intake,” he said. “If a person’s daily calorie intake is supposed to be 2,000 to 3,000 calories, then that means 200 to 300 calories is what will tip the scales. You’re talking about small choices throughout the holidays that will mean you put on weight or maintain where you are at once the season is over.”

Dr. Lauricella said the following steps can help a person stay on track during the holidays:

Watch liquid calories. Hundreds of calories can be consumed in drinks alone. Sugar sodas, cocktails, seasonal lattes, alcohol and egg nog can add a significant amount of calories in one day. Avoid such drinks when you can or reserve them as a treat on occasion.

Diversify your plate. Make sure raw, steamed or sautéed vegetables are a part of the holiday dinner plate you're creating. This will help balance meats and starches and ensure that those items don't dominate your calories.

Everything in moderation. Don't deny yourself a treat from time to time. You can still be a part of holiday gatherings and enjoy those once-a-year treats if you set a limit to one item or a small portion.

Don't operate on empty. Eat a healthy, small snack prior to going to a holiday gathering. You can also drink a large glass of water. Both will help fill up your stomach and make it less likely that you will give in to the impulse to overeat out of hunger.

Move from temptation. Make the decision beforehand to stop eating or munching once your stomach tells you it is full. Take simple steps such as moving away from tables where small snacks can be unconsciously picked up and eaten while socializing over a period of time.

Dr. Lauricella says the most powerful tool is accountability even if it is just with yourself.

“Especially during the holidays, it’s important to be honest with yourself about how much you eat and then start recording it,” he said. “I see patients who start recording what they are eating to begin to catch themselves. They stop reaching for the M&Ms. It’s hard because it’s not something any of us want to do, but in the end the small choices add up to positive results.”

For more information on weight gain during the holidays or to find a Premier HealthNet provider near you, visit www.premierhealthnet.com/provider.