Holiday weight gain might seem inevitable given that we often put a pause on our healthy habits until January. But having a strategy to avoid it could tip the scales in your favor — not just come the new year, but over the course of your life. Here’s why: On average, we pack on around 1 to 2 pounds during the holiday season and while that sounds like no big deal, studies suggest we don’t take it off. Ever. That means we enter each year a couple of pounds heavier — which can add up over the decades.

And if you enter the holiday season already overweight, it’s likely you’ll gain even more, say researchers who’ve investigated the matter. But as they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure so here are some expert-backed pointers for avoiding the typical holiday weight gain.

  • Keep moving. When holiday activities ramp up and we’re gearing up for some out of office time, workouts are one of the first things to slip. But even if you don’t have time for an hour-long spin class or your typical yoga session, put in what you can. Exercise has a number of mental and physical benefits, and the science suggests it can counter some of the metabolic effects of overeating, even if it doesn’t wash out all those extra calories you’re consuming. Resist the all-or-nothing mentality when it comes to workouts and do what you can when you can — even if that’s just a quick routine in your living room. It may be especially helpful to enlist a friend. One study found that doing so led to increased activity, particularly if the workout partner provided encouragement and support. So grab a pal and go for a quick walk or make a weekly date to attend a group class. If you can’t meet up in person, have a virtual check in to encourage each other to keep moving.

Contents

How exercise benefits your brain as well as your body

Nov. 15, 201802:03 Get the better newsletter.

  • Be picky about splurges. Chances are, you don’t love all holiday food equally so consider which ones are worth it to you and which ones you can live without (or at least, live with just a little bit). In other words, it’s fine to have a food thrill or two so between the mashed potatoes, the stuffing, the pies, fruitcake, eggnog, gingerbread cookies and other holiday fare, but decide which ones deserve a spot on your plate and enjoy them mindfully. Don’t reserve an equal spot for the stuff that doesn’t totally wow you. If the stuffing is your thing, have a spoonful, but if you’re not all about apple pie, you might want to skip that or just have a bite or two.

The best way to lose weight boils down to these three things

May 31, 201802:11

  • Don’t save your calories. It’s common to try to eat lightly in an effort to save calories for the holiday meal, but this plan can backfire quickly because when you’re beyond hungry, it’s hard to stay in control of your food choices. (Real talk: When you enter a party starving, do you make a bee line for the crudité? I don’t!) Instead of eating ultra-lightly or even fasting, try having a late but satisfying breakfast or brunch. Since holiday meals tend to be on the early side, you may not need to eat on your normal schedule so a meaningful brunch might be enough to keep you content and energized until you hit the main affair. Your non-holiday meal should include the winning combo of protein and fiber — the nutrient duo that helps tame hunger. Some examples: A yogurt parfait or smoothie made with Greek yogurt, berries and a portion of nuts or nut butter; a salad made with greens, leftover roasted veggies, canned tuna, and a drizzle of dressing; a grain bowl with the grain and veggie portions reversed (to boost your veggie intake) made with chicken or turkey. This format keeps things light but filling so you can stay in control of your holiday choices. It’s also a good structure for meals on your non-party days.

  • Drink wisely. Alcohol can weaken your inhibitions so while you might have intended to skip the baked brie, a couple of drinks might spur you to change your mind. Beyond that, alcohol can disrupt your sleep (which can impact your appetite and food choices), and leave you with a next day reminder (hello, hangover) that could also sway your food choices. (Have you ever craved leafy greens while hungover?) When possible, stick with the recommended caps of one drink a day for women, two for men, and try to avoid sugary mix-ins, which can worsen the impact of alcohol, among other things.
  • Remember your hunger/fullness cues. Just as it’s important not to enter a holiday affair starving, it’s also important to stay tuned to when you’re feeling content. Feeling content means you’ve satisfied your physical hunger and you’ve shown your taste buds some love. It’s not just about one or the other; you need to check both boxes to feel a state of contentment. Let’s assume your holiday food is doing its job of keeping your taste buds happy. Now it’s your job to figure out when you’ve had enough to eat. It’s a good idea to check in with yourself about mid-way through your meal to make a mental note of how you’re feeling. Just thinking this through helps you connect to what you’ve eaten and assess what’s left on your plate. And remember, there’s no need to finish what’s on your plate just because it’s there. When you’ve reached a point of contentment, show your body some respect by not pushing it past the point of fullness.
  • Bounce back. After each party, you have two choices: Continue with the holiday fare or revert to your healthy habits. Having one festive meal is no big deal, but having two, three, four and five can lead to weight gain. I always ask my clients this question: What do you do when your phone screen cracks —handle it gently from then on or throw it across the room and cause more damage? Inevitably, there will be some big meals and indulgent desserts during the holidays but there’s no reason why there can’t be healthy and lighter meals in between.
  • Limit the leftovers. Okay, you don’t have to leave the turkey and Brussels sprouts alone, but you might want to skip the leftover stuffing, mashed potatoes, and pecan pie. This gets to the point of bouncing back. I repeat: One meal won’t make much of a difference, but consistently splurging can really add up! A holiday meal is just that — one meal. Enjoy it, but try to leave the leftovers alone.
  • Weigh yourself. It’s hard to notice when you’ve gained a pound or two, but your scale can pick up these small gains, which is why weight monitoring can be such an effective way to prevent weight gain. In one new study among more than 1,000 adults, daily weigh-ins over the course of a year led to small, but significant weight loss, even though participants weren’t instructed to lose weight. Another study among college freshman found that routinely hopping on the scale wasn’t linked with any difference in mood, body dissatisfaction or unhealthy weight control behaviors (like excessive exercise or food restriction). Certainly, If the scale produces anxiety, makes you question your worth or causes any disturbances to your emotional well-being, it’s not the right tool for you. But if you can look at the numbers without judgment, the scale can provide useful feedback and help prevent weight gain.

  • Keep calm. The holidays can be a stressful time of year. The extra events — even if fun — can put a strain on your schedule that can be overwhelming, and family dynamics might also be challenging. Research suggests that stress can lead to less healthy food choices, and it also impacts hormones that can prompt you to store belly fat. A mindfulness practice can help dial down the stress (and the hormones), and help reduce cravings, according to recent research. Carve out a few minutes to do some deep breathing or a guided meditation to cope with holiday or family stress.

A Guided Meditation to Help You Sleep

Oct. 13, 201703:16

  • Get sufficient sleep. Insufficient and poor quality sleep really take a toll on your metabolism and health. In one study, sleep deprivation resulted in changes in brain activity up your desire for unhealthy, high calorie food—the type of fare that cause your clothes to feel tight. Researchers speculate that lack of sleep dampens your motivation to stay on track while also amplifying your cravings, making it doubly difficult to eat well. Know when to call it a night and aim for the recommended seven to nine hours of sleep each evening.

WHAT A NUTRITIONIST WANTS YOU TO KNOW

  • Bad nutrition advice dietitians want you to forget
  • Ask a nutritionist: Should I eat the same foods every day?
  • The best way to lose weight boils down to these three things
  • What you need to know about going vegan
  • What is healthier: natural sugar, table sugar or artificial sweeteners?

Want more tips like these? NBC News BETTER is obsessed with finding easier, healthier and smarter ways to live. Sign up for our newsletter and follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

  • 1. Whatever you do, keep burning those calories:

    Exercise is especially critical during this time of larger-than-usual meals. In addition to your regular exercise schedule, plan activities like walks, hikes, bicycle rides, and dances with family and friends. The extra calorie burning can really help control your weight – and you’ll enjoy some wonderful times together.

  • 2. Eat something before you go to the party:

    About an hour before the holiday dinner, eat some fresh fruit or veggies. Watch your will power soar while your waistline stays in place.

  • 3. Be a good guest (it’s good for you!):

    Call your host and say, “I’d love to bring something. What are you planning on serving?” If you discover that one of the dishes is particularly unhealthy (or tempting), offer to bring your own version.

  • 4. Don’t plant yourself in front of the buffet table:

    Settle down elsewhere, facing other pleasures. Is the band playing one of your favorite tunes? Grab a partner and go – far, far away from the buffet.

  • 5. Don’t give up hours of joy for 10 minutes of binging:

    After prime rib, a baked potato brimming with full-fat sour cream, and pecan pie a la mode, you’d be hard pressed to get out of your chair, let alone have fun with family or guests. The pleasure of a high-fat, high-calorie meal is short-lived.

  • 6. Select your first course foods so that they are low in calorie density:

    A huge green salad, a plate of fresh fruit, and a side of roasted vegetables add up to a lot of food, but not a lot of calories.

  • 7. Don’t leave the house without snacks:

    Without snacks comes hunger, those frenzied “gotta eat” cravings that carry you right over to the hors d’oeuvre table, and yes, the hunks of cheese and other high-fat, calorie-dense fare. Bring healthy snacks with you — in your glove compartement, purse, gym bag, and brief case. Whenever hunger hits, you’re ready.

  • 8. Dine like Europeans:

    Many people in Europe remain slim by eating leisurely meals with much smaller servings than we typically eat in the U.S. And they are more active in their daily lives, which certainly helps burn calories.

  • 9. Remember: It’s all about progress, not perfection:

    If after dancing and tree trimming, you find yourself right back at the buffet table, don’t beat yourself up. There’s a lot of area between a carrot stick and the whole chocolate cake.

  • 10. Start the new year on the right foot:

    Start fresh on January 1. Put the holidays behind you. Get right back on track. Far more important than what we do 15 special holidays of the year is what we’re doing the remaining 350 days of the year.

The holiday buzz is happening. It’s that time of year where lights, smells and sounds are in full holiday effect. In the name of being joyful this holiday season with wellness and fun in mind — and not letting all of those weight loss tips you stockpiled throughout the year go buh-bye — I want to set you up with a few healthy holiday habits.

How to avoid packing on the holiday pounds

Dec. 4, 201504:59

The average weight gain during the four-week holiday period is actually closer to one pound than the seven to 10 pounds that many people believe it is. Sounds like good news, right? Don’t whip out your noise makers in cheer just yet. The downside is that people don’t usually lose this one pound once they’ve gained it. The average weight gain per year is two pounds which breaks down to approximately 20 pounds in a decade!

Why is this so bad?

Well, add 20 pounds in your 40’s, another 20 pounds in your 50’s and all of sudden you have a big increased risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Holiday weight gain (if you gain that one pound and don’t lose it) could be blamed for half of this weight jump.

TODAY

Joys Bauer’s Spinach Lasagna

Joy Bauer

Not to be more of a grinch but it gets worse. Overweight people tend to gain more than this one pound. So if you are already trying to lose those extra pounds, then you’re even more at risk. One study showed that overweight people gain about 5 pounds during the holidays.

What is it about holiday lights, the smell of gingerbread cookies and Christmas music that packs on these pounds? It’s not necessarily one thing, but rather a combination of a whole bunch of factors including stress, alcohol, fried hors d’oeuvres, big celebratory meals, sweets and a reduction in exercise.

Let’s feel empowered this holiday season and not completely drained when we ring in the New Year. Here are 12 tips to pull in the reigns this holiday season:

1. Drink up wisely.

If you normally have drink seven drinks per week (moderate consumption for a woman) and then innocently turn that into 11 drinks for the holiday season, the extra 16 drinks (four drinks per four weeks of the holidays) equals about 1,600 calories.

Not so innocent anymore.

These extra drinks may also lead to poor sleep and a greater consumption of food. The calories may not sound so bad but they definitely contribute to that one pound weight gain. Instead, plan the nights that you will be indulging in alcohol and skip the nights that are not all that festive.

Probiotic drinks, seaweed, more: Were these 2016 health trends worth the cost?

Nov. 8, 201604:08

Do you really need that egg nog as you stop by your friend’s holiday work party?

Also, match each glass of alcohol with one glass of water or seltzer. Avoid the eggnog and fancy coffee drinks — those calories take the worst revenge and can plump you up in no time.

RELATED: Is sorghum the new quinoa? Meet the trendy super grain you need to try

2. Go clean.

All those fried “picks” and “bites” add up faster than you can rip open any gift.

Trending stories,celebrity news and all the best of TODAY.

Four pieces of a spinach and cheese puff pastry will cost you about 260 calories and 17 grams fat. A “clean” serving of the beautiful crudite platter? It’s only 15 to 20 calories!

TODAY

Spinach Artichoke Dip with Crudités

Danielle Walker

You’ll save calories but also the fiber and water volume found in crudite or salad before a meal can lead to reduced hunger going into a meal. If you are the one planning the soiree, pair that crudite platter with a healthy dip. Make it a rule this year that you will skip all fried apps.

Wasn’t that easy?

3. Use hors d’oeuvres to your advantage.

Protein will help satisfy you and help you eat less, but you need to choose your protein starters as wisely as choose your tree ornaments. Four pieces of shrimp cocktail will pack a big protein punch for just 46 calories.

Chicken skewers and prosciutto wrapped asparagus are other good options.

Chicken skewers, gin spritz: Tamron throws a holiday cocktail party

Dec. 15, 201503:45

Assess the situation before you dive into the pigs-in-a-blanket.

4. Plan your conscious indulgences.

A conscious indulgence is a planned treat that you add to your rockin’ lifestyle only because it’s delicious, makes you happy and is a part of being an empowered eater.

Your fave family get together with your Grandma’s famous chocolate cake? Plan an indulgence of a small slice. This will take out all the stress of “should I or shouldn’t I?” and the guilt feelings and overeating that may follow.

This holiday season, make sure you indulge this way and plan for no more than two each week during this season.

5. Have a safe comfort food.

You’ve gotten through the Xmas office doughnuts and a holiday lunch with homemade mac and cheese. But then the stress of gifts and your bonus kick in at 3 pm. The celery and peanut butter you planned on having for snack may not do the trick. Don’t get caught head first in that bowl of chocolates on your colleague’s desk.

Have a safe comfort food snack ready-to-go:

  • 1 oz. of cheddar cheese and a small apple
  • 2 tsp. peanut butter with 1/2 oz. of dark chocolate
  • cheddar cheese and tomato grilled on whole grain bread may do the trick.

Almond Hemp Chocolate Truffles

Dr. Vincent Pedre

6. Freeze the leftovers right away!

People often over consume 3,000 calories at a big holiday meal and then again with leftovers the next day. Instead of keeping leftovers in the fridge, freeze them right away so it takes more effort to dig back in. You can also buy Tupperware in advance and gift away goodie bags to guests. Or, you can use them up in a yummy and healthy way: I heart a good ham frittata.

7. Keep your healthiest qualities in check.

Are you a breakfast eater? Do you always have a healthy afternoon snack? People often put their healthy behaviors aside during this time of year. Pinpoint and acknowledge two (we all have some!) of your very best habits and focus on keeping them consistent.

8. Wake up and get your exercise on.

Research shows that women who worked out in the morning not only moved more the rest of the day, but they also responded less to pictures of tempting food in comparison to the days that they have a morning workout. Also, research from the National Weight Control Registry shows that people who have lost weight — and kept it off — regularly exercise about one hour a day. Schedule it in! Don’t say, “I’ll get back to that in January.” How are you sweating today?

Start your morning with this quick workout

Oct. 26, 201601:06

9. Fab your gorgeous self out.

Wear something formfitting that makes you feel AMAZING. The idea behind this is that if you’re wearing something tight that makes you feel good about yourself, you are more mindful about overindulging and stuffing yourself silly. Take a few minutes before your guests arrives or you head out to your holiday soiree to make sure you feel good about how you look.

10. Think about someone you admire who exudes health, confidence and positivity (with a little sex appeal thrown in) and take a little inspiration.

Why not feel amazing on the outside?! You’re amazing on the inside! Keeping your appearance on the forefront of your brain may help you make good food choices.

11. Out of sight, out of mind.

Research shows that when food is in our line-of-sighe, we’re much more likely to eat it. So, get out of the kitchen, away from the buffet and find a game to play with the family.

12. Feast on good company.

I always encourage my clients to make their guests the focus of the day, rather than the food.

For real this time, be in the moment. Laugh. Really listen to your cousin’s story about his recent trip. Ask your grandma about what the holidays were like 50 years ago.

Balance fun and fitness during the holidays with these simple tips

Nov. 16, 201502:22

Make eye contact, connect and engage with every person who is special to you in the room and make sure that you leave the event full of love, rather than cheese puffs.

You don’t have to treat each festive meal like your last supper to be satisfied, nourished and full of holiday joy.

TODAY.com contributor Keri Glassman, R.D., New York, is the founder of Nutritious Life.

31 Science-Backed Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

1. Eat before drinking and celebrating.

Skipping breakfast or lunch in order to “save your appetite” probably isn’t the best weight-maintenance tactic.Neural responses to visual food stimuli after a normal vs. higher protein breakfast in breakfast-skipping teens: a pilot fMRI study. Leidy HJ, Lepping RJ, Savage CR. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 2011, May.;19(10):1930-739X. While the jury’s still out on how important breakfast truly is, not eating until the afternoon may lead to binging later on (read: four slices of pumpkin pie).Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. Astbury NM, Taylor MA, Macdonald IA. The Journal of nutrition, 2011, May.;141(7):1541-6100. Our advice? Stick to a reasonably sized breakfast with plenty of protein, which will keep you fuller longer and temper the urge to stuff your face later.

2. Pick protein.

Like we just mentioned, protein can help maintain a healthy weight because high-protein diets are associated with greater satiety (bonus benefit: It’s important for healthy muscle growth).Effects of a high protein diet on body weight and comorbidities associated with obesity. Clifton P. The British journal of nutrition, 2012, Dec.;108 Suppl 2():1475-2662. Make sure to serve up some turkey, roasted chicken, or prepare animal-free alternatives like quinoa, lentils, or beans.

3. Bring your own.

Rather than try to figure out what’s in every dish at a friend’s party (or avoid eating altogether), bring a healthy side dish or dessert. Taste the what you want, but know you have a healthy alternative to fall back on.

4. Eat and chew slowly.

Eating slowly may not be easy when appetizer options are endless, but it pays off to pace yourself. The quicker we eat, the less time the body has to register fullness.Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos A, le Roux CW, Alexiadou K. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 2009, Oct.;95(1):1945-7197. Eating slowly led to decreases in energy intake within meals in healthy women. Andrade AM, Greene GW, Melanson KJ. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2008, Jul.;108(7):0002-8223. Weight loss during the intensive intervention phase of the weight-loss maintenance trial. Hollis JF, Gullion CM, Stevens VJ. American journal of preventive medicine, 2008, Sep.;35(2):0749-3797. So slow down and take a second to savor each bite of baked brie or scoop of spiced nuts.

5. Serve meals restaurant-style.

When you sit down for the main event, leave food in the kitchen (away from reach) rather than display a basket full of piping hot rolls, multiple casseroles, and an entire turkey directly on the table. When you’ve cleaned your plate, take a breather, and then decide if you really want seconds. Changing up the environment—in this case, by leaving food near the stove—can help reduce overall food intake.Eating as an automatic behavior. Cohen D, Farley TA. Preventing chronic disease, 2007, Dec.;5(1):1545-1151.

6. Fill up on fiber.

7. Use smaller plates.

Plate sizes have expanded significantly over the years.The largest Last Supper: depictions of food portions and plate size increased over the millennium. Wansink B, Wansink CS. International journal of obesity (2005), 2010, Mar.;34(5):1476-5497. Whenever possible, choose the smaller salad plate (8-10 inches) instead of a tray-like one (12 inches or more). Using smaller plates can actually make us feel fuller with less food. The brain associates a big white space on the plate with less food (and smaller plates generally require smaller portions).Normative influences on food intake. Herman CP, Polivy J. Physiology & behavior, 2005, Oct.;86(5):0031-9384.

8. Make room for (healthy) fats.

Cutting butter and oil can slash calories (and it’s easy to swap in foods like applesauce, avocado, banana, or flax into holiday baked goods!), but not all fats are bad fats. We need fat in our diets to provide energy and absorb the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K, plus fat helps us feel full.Get healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats from avocadoes (hello, guacamole), nuts, and olive oil (in baked goods, on veggies, or in homemade dressings).Effects of dietary coconut oil on the biochemical and anthropometric profiles of women presenting abdominal obesity. Assunção ML, Ferreira HS, dos Santos AF. Lipids, 2009, May.;44(7):1558-9307. Bonus: Combining fat with fiber—like dipping veggies in guacamole—has been shown to increase fat’s power to make us feel full.

9. Ditch added sugar.

Holiday cookies, cakes, and pies are nothing short of tempting, but all that added sugar may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and obesity.Consumption of added sugars and indicators of cardiovascular disease risk among US adolescents. Welsh JA, Sharma A, Cunningham SA. Circulation, 2011, Jan.;123(3):1524-4539. High-fructose corn syrup: everything you wanted to know, but were afraid to ask. Fulgoni V. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 2009, Jan.;88(6):1938-3207. Stick to sugar that comes in its natural form (fruits, veggies, and whole grains) and try small tastes of the desserts you’re truly craving rather than loading up a full plate of bland cookies.Sugar-sweetened beverages, weight gain, and incidence of type 2 diabetes in young and middle-aged women. Schulze MB, Manson JE, Ludwig DS. JAMA, 2004, Aug.;292(8):1538-3598.

10. Sneak in the veggies.

Munching on vegetables has long been recognized as a way to protect against obesity.Relationship of fruit and vegetable intake with adiposity: a systematic review. Ledoux TA, Hingle MD, Baranowski T. Obesity reviews : an official journal of the International Association for the Study of Obesity, 2011, May.;12(5):1467-789X. Mix puréed veggies (like pumpkin) into baked goods or casseroles, or sneak them into pasta or potato dishes. Adding veggies increases fiber, which helps make us fuller.Dietary fibers reduce food intake by satiation without conditioned taste aversion in mice. Rasoamanana R, Even PC, Darcel N. Physiology & behavior, 2012, Dec.;110-111():1873-507X.

11. Just say no.

Though your relatives may encourage overeating by shoving seconds onto a cleaned plate, it’s OK to respectfully decline. “I’m full” or “I’m taking a break” should be enough for friends and family members to back off (and give you time to decide if you’d really like more).

12. Wait before grabbing seconds.

Like we’ve mentioned, the quicker we eat a meal, the less time we give our bodies to register fullness.Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1. Kokkinos A, le Roux CW, Alexiadou K. The Journal of clinical endocrinology and metabolism, 2009, Oct.;95(1):1945-7197. Since it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to get the message that dinner’s been served, it’s best to go for a walk or chat with friends before dishing up seconds.

13. Take it easy on the white stuff.

Simple carbs are often the white stuff—white bread and refined sugars (like those in soda and candy). These foods provide energy, but often lack the same nutrients as complex carbohydrates (which are found in starchy foods, such as legumes, potatos, corn, and whole grains). While some simple carbs can be good for us (a.k.a the kind found in fruit and low fat dairy products), in general, the body breaks down simple carbs more quickly than the complex kind, which creates a spike in blood sugar (insulin) that can leave us feeling hungrier, faster.The role of carbohydrates in insulin resistance. Bessesen DH. The Journal of nutrition, 2001, Nov.;131(10):0022-3166.Stick to whole grains (whole-grain bread, brown rice, or quinoa) and stay full on healthy proteins (like we mentioned previously).

14. Invest in some toss-away tupperware.

Before guests leave you with half-full platters of food, have some Tupperware at the ready. Load up containers for friends and family to hand out as they leave. Bonus points for getting containers that are holiday-themed or for adding a festive bow to your parting gift.

15. Freeze it.

If you end up with loads of leftovers on your kitchen counter, pack up the extras and store them in the freezer for a later date. Studies show that when food is out of sight, you’ll be less likely to reach for a second helping.’I just can’t help myself’: effects of food-cue exposure in overweight and lean individuals. Ferriday D, Brunstrom JM. International journal of obesity (2005), 2010, Jun.;35(1):1476-5497. Do distant foods decrease intake? The effect of food accessibility on consumption. Maas J, de Ridder DT, de Vet E. Psychology & health, 2011, Jun.;27 Suppl 2():1476-8321.

16. Turn off the tube.

Though turning off the TV during any football game or family movie might feel like a sin, eating while watching television is linked to poor food choices and overeating.Mediators of longitudinal associations between television viewing and eating behaviours in adolescents. Pearson N, Ball K, Crawford D. The international journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 2011, Mar.;8():1479-5868. Plus, getting sucked into It’s a Wonderful Life or Elf may bring on mindless eating, since it can be easy to lose track of just how many chocolates or candies you’ve had. And it’s not just the mindlessness of watching television that’ll get us. Commercials for unhealthy foods and drinks may increase our desire for low-nutrient junk, fast food, and sugary beverages.

17. Chew gum.

Studies have conflicting results on whether chewing gum will actually help curb your appetite and lead to weight loss in the long run.Acute and chronic effects of gum chewing on food reinforcement and energy intake. Swoboda C, Temple JL. Eating behaviors, 2013, Feb.;14(2):1873-7358. Short-term effects of chewing gum on snack intake and appetite. Hetherington MM, Boyland E. Appetite, 2006, Nov.;48(3):0195-6663. However, in the short-term, chewing can keep you busy when socializing amongst a sea of hor d’ouevres or when you’re full but still eyeing a second plate of dessert.Effects of chewing gum on short-term appetite regulation in moderately restrained eaters. Hetherington MM, Regan MF. Appetite, 2011, Jun.;57(2):1095-8304.

18. Turn your back on temptation.

The closer we are situated to food that’s in our line of vision, the more we’ll actually consume.The office candy dish: proximity’s influence on estimated and actual consumption. Wansink B, Painter JE, Lee YK. International journal of obesity (2005), 2006, Dec.;30(5):0307-0565. A simple fix? Face away from the dessert spread to listen to cues from your gut rather than your eyes.

19. Beware of booze.

Not only does alcohol add unnecessary calories to your diet, but getting boozy has another effect on us, too. Drinking too much in the presence of champagne, eggnog, wine, and beer can make us lose our inhibitions around food and start eating irresponsibly. Take it easy with the bubbly before you start saying things like, “Eh, what’s one more cookie?”

20. Cave in to cravings.

Finally, a suggestion we can all get behind. It’s smart to acknowledge a few cravings instead of pushing them away completely. Caving to a craving—as long as it’s in moderation—can curb the desire to go at it like a kid in a candy store.Forbidding a specific food or food group during the holiday season may only make it more attractive. Still want more of that apple pie after a couple of bites? Try thinking of your favorite holiday activity, like opening presents, watching Christmas movies, or playing in the snow. Research shows that daydreaming about pleasant activities or distracting yourself with just about any activity can reduce the intensity of food cravings.Replacing craving imagery with alternative pleasant imagery reduces craving intensity. Knäuper B, Pillay R, Lacaille J. Appetite, 2011, May.;57(1):1095-8304.

21. Choose tall and thin.

When you’ve got a hankering for some seasonal eggnog, reach for a tall, thin glass, not a short squatty one. Research shows people pour less liquid into tall glasses than into their vertically challenged counterparts. With a taller glass, you’re likely to down less in one sitting (which is especially helpful when drinking booze).

22. Gulp H2O

Drinking water helps people feel full, and as a result consume fewer calories.Drinking water is associated with weight loss in overweight dieting women independent of diet and activity. Stookey JD, Constant F, Popkin BM. Obesity (Silver Spring, Md.), 2008, Sep.;16(11):1930-7381. Rather than guzzling calorie- and sugar-laden sodas and juices (which are associated with increased body fat and blood pressure) treat yourself to a glass of wine with dinner and keep your allegiance to water for the rest of the day.Effects on uric acid, body mass index and blood pressure in adolescents of consuming beverages sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup. Lin WT, Huang HL, Huang MC. International journal of obesity (2005), 2012, Aug.;37(4):1476-5497.

The holidays are a time when family and friends gather to enjoy each other’s company — and eat! Indulgent meals, bountiful buffets, cookie swaps, holiday parties… it’s no surprise that maintaining a healthy weight can present even more challenges during the holidays than throughout the rest of the year. Each year, on average, we tend to gain a small amount of weight (about one pound per year). According to some research, most of that weight is gained over the holiday season.

Study suggests you can control holiday weight gain

Does that mean we are destined to see a bigger number when we step on the scale in January? Or can we keep the end-of-year weight gain at bay?

A study published in The BMJ sought to find out. Researchers examined the effectiveness of a brief (four to eight week) behavioral intervention to prevent weight gain over the Christmas holiday period. The researchers randomized 272 adults into one of two groups. The intervention group was given a behavioral intervention intended to increase their restraint of food and beverage consumption. The intervention involved three components: encouraging participants to regularly weigh themselves and record their weight; providing specific weight-management strategies; and providing information on how much physical activity would be needed to burn off the calories consumed in typical holiday foods and drinks. The control group received information on healthy living.

Results showed that the intervention group lost an average of 0.3 pounds, while the control group gained 0.8 pounds. This may not seem like much, but research shows that weight gains are not fully lost in the months following the holidays. Although the yearly gain is small, it can add up to an increase of 10 pounds over 10 years.

10 top tips for weight management

Study participants in the intervention group were encouraged to follow these 10 tips to help prevent weight gain:

  • Keep to your meal routine. Try to eat at roughly the same times each day.
  • Go reduced-fat. Choose low-fat foods when possible.
  • Walk off the weight. Aim for 10,000 steps each day.
  • Pack a healthy snack. Choose fresh fruit or low-calorie yogurt instead of chocolate or chips.
  • Look at the labels. Check food labels for fat and sugar content.
  • Caution with your portions. Don’t heap food on your plate, and think twice before having second helpings.
  • Up on your feet. Stand up for 10 minutes every hour.
  • Think about your drinks. Choose water or calorie-free drinks, and limit alcohol.
  • Focus on your food. Slow down, and don’t eat in front of the TV or on the go.
  • Don’t forget your 5-a-day. Eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables each day.

How much activity would it take to burn off this eggnog?

Physical activity — or at least understanding how much physical activity it would take to burn off calories, and possibly considering that information when making choices about what to eat — also played a role in preventing weight gain. In the study, the researchers provided the intervention group with a chart that showed the approximate amount of activity it would take to burn the calories found in a given amount of festive foods. For example, it would take approximately 12 minutes of walking or six minutes of running to burn off the calories in five pigs in a blanket, and it would take approximately eight minutes of walking or four minutes of running to burn off the calories in 5 tablespoons of gravy.

More strategies to prevent holiday weight gain

Here are a few more tips to help you keep your weight in check without foregoing your holiday traditions.

  • Mark all of the holiday events you’ll be attending on your calendar so that you’ll remember to plan ahead. If the meal is not at your home, eat lighter the day of the event to balance the extra calories you may consume at the party. If the event is in the evening, have a healthy breakfast and satisfying lunch, with a light snack before the event to avoid overindulging later.
  • If you are the host and struggle with tasting while cooking, try chewing sugar-free gum while preparing the meal, or have a small snack before you start cooking. Serve plenty of raw vegetables and yogurt-based dips to start the event and fresh fruit to finish. After the meal, send leftovers home with friends and family.
  • The workplace can be hazardous around the holidays; holiday lunches and office parties can make it difficult for even the most health-conscious employee to make smart choices. If the team is going out for a special holiday lunch, choose lower-calorie items and go light on dinner that evening. Move holiday cookies and candies to a high-traffic area to spread the goodies around.
  • Start new traditions that don’t revolve around food. For example, attend a holiday concert or show, or take a drive or walk to see holiday lights. Catch up with a friend over a yoga or Zumba class instead of meeting for a peppermint mocha latte.

Preventing weight gain over the holidays can be a challenge. But it is possible!

By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board Certified Chiropractic Pediatrician and Nutrition Counselor

The holidays are almost here and so is the challenge of not packing on holiday pounds. With the parties, travelling, and all of that yummy temptation, how does anyone not put on at least a few pounds? The CDC states that about 40% of Americans are obese. Ouch! Here are strategies you can do to prevent packing on the pounds this holiday season. For the most part you know our holiday party schedule in advance. This includes Thanksgiving and Christmas. You can do a few simple things leading up to holiday season to combat those holiday pounds.

Detoxify Your Body
A week or two before holiday season consider doing a 10-day detox. We are exposed to 700 or more different toxins daily. Toxicity in your body has a multitude of negative effects in the way your body functions and feels. It can also contribute to weight gain or the inability to maintain a healthy weight.

Eat 1/3 less the week before your party
This has worked for me over the years. When I know of a holiday party, I am conscious of eating less the week before. What does that mean? Stick with lots of steamed veggies and protein combined with healthy fats. Skip the starch the week before. I strive for four to six small meals daily (salad plate size). Eat protein and veggies with every meal and snack. Here is a portion guide:

Palm = Proteins. Make protein portions the size of your palm. Protein is found in animal products, like fish, chicken, beef, pork, wild game, eggs and cheese. Some veggie protein sources include legumes (beans, etc.), tofu, tempeh and quinoa.

Thumb = Fats. Fats are important, but they’re also very dense, so match fat portions to the size of your thumb. Good fat sources are avocados, avocado oil, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts and seeds.

Fist = Fruits, Grains, etc. Your bread, fruit, cereal, rice and grain portions should be about equal to the size of your closed fist. Remember that it’s always preferable to consume non-GMO, organic whole grains.

Hand = Veggies. Open your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can. That’s a good vegetable portion. Raw vegetables are loaded with fiber and nutrients, and they contain very few calories. Steamed al dente is great too, especially in the winter. Remember adding 1-2 cups of steamed greens like spinach, kale and Swiss chard.

Drink more water
We should be drinking half of our body weight in ounces of water each day. For example, if you weigh 140 lbs. you should be drinking about 70 ounces of water daily. Through the holidays, drink a glass or two more. Have a glass of water 30 minutes before you eat to fill your tummy. No water with your meal as it dilutes your digestive juices. Start drinking water again about an hour after your meal.

Get moving
A little exercise everyday goes a long way. Strive for 150 minutes each week and especially over the holidays. That is only 30 minutes, five days of the week. If you don’t have time for a full workout, a few things you can do to move more are to park at the end of the parking isle at the store; walk a couple of times around the block at lunch; take 10 deep breaths; and stand up and sit all the way down in your chair 30 times (3 sets of 10). Exercise increases your metabolism, helps lower your blood pressure, reduce your stress hormone Cortisol (remember Cortisol makes us FAT), removes toxins and improves circulation, among other benefits.

Hold yourself accountable
Enlist the help of someone whether a friend or relative. Committing to exercise with someone increases the likelihood of doing it. You can also join a class at one of the health clubs or hire a personal trainer. Writing down what you eat or using a smart phone app will also hold you accountable to making healthier choices.

Party Day Tips
Eat breakfast – A breakfast with protein and good fats will keep you satisfied. Eating breakfast jump starts your metabolism which will help you burn those extra party calories. An omelet or scrambled eggs with chopped peppers, green onion, spinach or kale, black beans, and salsa is an easy option.

Drink water – You can’t drink too much. Add some lemon or lime slices, fresh mint and cucumber to add some flavor. Start drinking water first thing in the morning and drink 8 ounces every hour including while at the party. Water will fill you up and help your body process the holiday food and drink. Water also increases your metabolism.

Get moving – Exercise boosts your metabolism, so you’ll be burning more of those holiday calories for a few hours after you exercise. Take a morning walk, do a holiday 5K walk/run, do yoga or lift weights. It doesn’t matter what you do, just GET MOVING.

Scale down your plate – Choose the smallest plate there is at the party, teacup size if available. Some protein and veggies is a better choice than crackers, chips and dips. Even if you go back for more you will still be eating less with the smaller plates. The water that you drank earlier and when you arrived has your tummy already full. This applies to all of the pre-dinner noshing on Thanksgiving and Christmas as well.

Enjoy the party – Have fun and enjoy the holidays as we have enough stress in our lives.

The holiday season is about enjoying your family and loved ones and being thankful for all of the blessings in your life. Use these tips to avoid packing on the pounds during this time of celebration.

Dr. Wendy Henrichs is a board certified chiropractor and nutrition counselor at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, or call 715-362-4852.

Avoid holiday weight gain

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *