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How can I Watch my Weight During the Holidays?

Many holiday traditions center around the same rich foods and sugary desserts many dieters try desperately to avoid the rest of the year. It is still possible to watch your weight during the holiday season, but some weight loss experts suggest that an occasional lapse in culinary judgment should not result in permanent weight gain. What steps you take before and after a holiday indulgence can mean just as much as what you actually consume at Grandma's house on Christmas Day.

One way to avoid excessive weight gain during the holidays is to limit your definition of a holiday. Reserve any deviations from your normal food plan to actual holiday events, not an entire week's worth of leftovers and impromptu parties. December 25th may be Christmas Day, but December 26th through 31st should be viewed as non-holidays for dieters. If you are on a calorie-restrictive diet or low carbohydrate eating plan, resume your normal diet as soon as possible. Avoid treating an abundance of holiday leftovers as an excuse to overeat. On December 26th, make a normal-sized ham or turkey sandwich, not an overloaded plate piled with meat.

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Christmas parties featuring food can be devastating for a weight loss regimen. Never attend a holiday affair on an empty stomach. If you know you're going to be tempted by a display of rich foods or gourmet desserts, eat a filling but healthy snack before leaving your home. It can sometimes take 20 minutes or more for your brain to acknowledge fullness, so mingle with guests for a bit before heading back to the buffet line or the dessert table. Allow your stomach enough time to send fullness signals to your brain.

Portion control can help with weight control. Covered dish or potluck dinners can be dieting disasters just waiting to happen. Everyone will want to know if you've tried your cousin's meatloaf or your aunt's pumpkin pie yet. Saying "no" may sound a bit impolite, so your next best bet is to sample very small portions of all the dishes you care to try. You can still offer up an informed opinion on your spouse's gravy, but you won't be obligated to eat an entire portion of a high-calorie entree or dessert.

Another way to control your weight during the holidays is to create reasons for exercise. Instead of driving around your neighborhood to admire Christmas lights, park your car and walk around the block. Instead of napping in front of the television after a holiday meal, go sledding with the children or build a snowman. Impromptu snowball fights are also good forms of exercise. If the weather permits, make a point of walking on a public trail or playing a sport with visiting family members. Many fitness centers are open during the holidays, so you may also want to continue your normal workout routine whenever possible.

Above all else, remember that straying off a food plan occasionally is not the end of the world for most people. Unless your diet plan is connected to a medical condition such as diabetes or high blood pressure, you should be able to survive even a week's worth of overindulgence without significant weight gain. What weight you do gain can be lost again through exercise and portion control. Most human bodies tend to gain a few pounds during the winter season anyway, perhaps a genetic trait that helped our ancestors survive harsh conditions. A little more diligence during January and February should help you maintain your weight maintenance goals, so there's little need to feel guilty about any "holiday setback" you may experience.

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