Holding the (waist) line for the holidays

Holding the (waist) line for the holidays

Must we gain weight over the holidays?

The holiday season can seem like a plot designed to trick us into overeating and gaining unwanted weight. And even when we try our hardest, it’s hardly surprising that we gain weight. The shorter days and colder weather tend to interrupt our exercise routines. Holiday gatherings present us with tempting treats to eat, and at work the candy, snacks and party leftovers challenge our willpower all day long.

How much weight does the average person put on this time of year? Is winter weight gain inevitable? Different studies indicate different average levels of weight increase, as much as five pounds in one survey. A more recent study suggests that the average weight gain is lower, more like a pound, but also discovered that many people believe they gain much more winter weight than they actually do. People already challenged with obesity are likely to gain more on average, which the study warns may present “special risks.” One of the more surprising conclusions of this study is that however much it is, weight we gain over the winter tends to stay – no matter what resolutions we might make for the New Year. Over a lifetime, adding one or more pounds every year can add up to ‘middle age spread’ and the increased health risks of being overweight.

What to do about that pound or more of flesh? Try a combination of these exercise, relaxation and diet tips, and perhaps you can avoid accumulating and carrying the dreaded burden of Winter Weight.

Exercise and Weigh-ins

  • Step up your weight-check schedule: get a jolt of reality by getting on the scales early in the morning, twice a week.

  • Exercise early in the day – new research shows women who exercise in morning are more active all day, and less responsive to images of tempting food.

  • Less time for a workout? Concentrate your efforts – a vigorous 20 minutes on the elliptical trainer or a morning yoga stretch will help you stay fit on busy days when you don’t have time for a full workout.

  • Be choosy – Eat only the foods you really want.

  • Practice impulse control. Exercise your will power muscle in areas other than eating and diet, and you’ll find it easier to keep from overeating.

  • Don’t save up your hunger for the party – eat sensibly all day, and indulge with moderation at holiday gatherings. If you starve yourself to save calories for the party, you’re more likely to overindulge on fatty, sugary foods than if you stick to a healthy diet all day and arrive at the party already satisfied.

  • You don’t have to deprive yourself of dessert – a three-bit approach will get you the satisfaction of the treat without busting your diet. One bite to thrill, a second to sustain, and a final bite to linger – dessert’s done without doing in your waistline.

  • Send the leftovers home with others. If it’s your party, don’t set yourself up for the temptation of a fridge full of food the morning after. On the other hand, as a guest be cautious about what things you take home, so you don’t find yourself eating last night’s fabulous sweets for breakfast (morning-after food).

  • Tap into your willpower before you succumb, try this simple trick: Place the thumb and fingers of one hand on your forehand, a half inch apart.

  • Tap each finger one at a time, once per second, telling yourself, “Hold on.” Wait 15-20 minutes (return phone calls, check email), and the craving will disappear, according to Tufts University Research. Sounds crazy, but it works.

  • Avoid fizzy drinks – diet and regular soda may feel filling, but the gassy bloat has its own negative effects.

  • Drink some water in your meals – salads and fresh vegetables have higher content of water, and can help you hydrate without guzzling glasses of water. This helps keep your metabolism moving, among other benefits.

  • Have a cup of peppermint or chamomile tea – both can have the effect of calming stomach muscles and reducing gas.

  • Take the time to chew slowly and thoroughly – not easy when the pace of work is all ahead full, but you swallow less bloat-causing air, and you can feel satisfied before overeating.

  • Keep your potassium level up, to counter dietary sodium, and reduce water retention. Our favorite potassium possibilities: bananas, papayas, kiwis, strawberries, and cantaloupe. Or add asparagus or dandelion greens to get the bonus of a natural diuretic.

  • Practice a little deep breathing for stress-reduction before filling your plate at the holiday buffet. Lower stress helps combat impulse eating, and helps you fight weight gain.