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How can I Maintain my Weight During the Winter Holidays?

The winter holidays can be a time of excess, both in spending and in eating. Many people find themselves staring at a scale with uncomfortable numbers on 1 January, and making resolutions to lose the 5 to 10 pounds (2.26 to 4.5 kg) of weight that excess eating has created. There are sensible ways to maintain your weight during the winter holidays so your New Year’s resolutions don’t have to include promises to lose weight. Instead, set your resolution now and commit to healthy eating and exercise patterns throughout the months of November and December.

You can help to maintain your weight by planning your menus in advance. When holiday shopping and activities get overwhelming, it’s easy to decide not to cook dinner each night and go to a fast food or restaurant instead — usually at a high calorie price. Instead, plan meals and commit to a bi-monthly shopping excursion to get what you need. Make sure your meals are calorie conscious, offer you satisfying food in appropriate portions with plenty of vegetables and fruit, and are easy to cook.

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Having family meals is also important, since on average, you will consume fewer calories when eating with your family then you would if everyone eats at different times. When this isn’t always possible, consider at least preparing meals everyone can eat at different times. Crockpot stews or soups, for instance, can provide lots of vegetables and low fat meat, and the meal can be kept warm for family members on different schedules due to the holidays.

Winter tends to usher in bad weather. This means that you will have to do some extra planning to get exercise to help you maintain your weight during the winter holidays. If you don’t want to join a gym, there are a few ways to get needed exercise each day. Buy a few exercise tapes for the home that include 20-30 minutes of cardiovascular activity, like dancing, Tae Bo, or step aerobics. Alternately, if you have a treadmill or exercise bike, commit to a daily workout or at least work out every other day.

Greet every break in the weather as an opportunity to walk or jog outside, in addition to pursuing indoor aerobic activity. Don’t forget actual holidays either, since there are many activities you can do with the whole family. There’s often plenty of time on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, or Christmas to take a family walk, for example.

On an actual holiday, don’t deprive yourself of holiday treats. Treats are great once in a while, and you shouldn't completely deny yourself that piece of pie, turkey and stuffing, cookie, or glass of eggnog. The goal is not to avoid eating on these days, but to eat sensibly and well on all the days surrounding the holidays, so that the occasional treat has less impact on your weight.

If you must attend several parties during the holidays, you may want to start deciding just how many treats you should have. When you’re out at cocktail parties every few days, then all of the food presented to you can affect whether you maintain your weight during the winter holidays. Instead of indulging at each of these parties, look for ways to fill up on healthy offerings. For instance, a vegetable platter, fairly common at cocktail parties, can be a great way to fill up on healthy foods. Just skip the dip, which is usually high in fat.

Instead of drinking cocktails or wine throughout the night, drink flat or carbonated water. You might limit yourself to one drink, and then commit to lots of water, which can help augment weight loss. Remember to limit portion size of foods, too &mash; you don’t have to clean your plate if you’ve been served a lot of food, and if you’re serving yourself, take smaller portions.

With exercise, attention to diet, and conscientiousness at holiday parties, you can maintain your weight during the winter holidays. Further, you can do so and still enjoy the occasional treat so that you don’t feel deprived on the major days. The goal is daily consistency and overall good eating and exercise patterns.

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