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How to Avoid the ‘Holiday Bulge’

It’s not just the season for decking the halls. Along with the holidays and all the traditional food goodies associated with them comes a potential detour to dietary disaster. Call it the season of temptation. Eggnog, pumpkin pie, and the family recipe for the best turkey stuffing ever can spell big trouble for our waistlines. With all those holiday treats creating caloric landmines, it’s important to have a diet strategy before you attempt the ‘battle of the bulge.’

While a few pounds of holiday weight gain may seem harmless, data collected by the National Institutes of Health tells a different story. A new study indicated that weight gain during the holidays is not lost during the rest of the year. As the weight accumulates through the years, it becomes a major contributor to obesity later in life.

For seniors trying to stay on track with healthy eating habits, you can take control of your diet with the following tips to avoid holiday weight gain.

1 Size matters.
Healthy eating means portion control. Don’t act like a charter member of the ‘Clean Your Plate’ club. To help maintain correct portion intake. use a smaller plate for meals, and don’t take second helpings. Be aware of the ‘plate geography’ of a healthy meal. The majority of your plate should be filled with vegetables, with smaller portions of protein and starches. Protein in every meal is important, as it promotes fullness and helps with weight maintenance. Good sources of healthy protein are non-fatty meats, poultry, fish, beans and quinoa. Adding high-fiber foods to your diet can reduce caloric intake and creates a sense of fullness. Fiber rich foods include: vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
2 Drink up!
Reach for your water glass instead of sugary or high-calorie drinks. Staying hydrated is an important part of weight control, especially since we often mistakenly interpret thirst as ‘hunger pangs.’ Drinking water or sugarless beverages makes you feel full. Drink a full glass of water before sitting down to a meal, and continue to drink throughout the meal to add volume without calories. By comparison, one beer equals 150 calories, a glass of wine, 85 calories, and soda weighs in with 160 calories. Even worst are the creamy cocktails, like pina coladas or white Russians, which can add more than 500 calories. Alcohol of any type has no nutritional value while packing a caloric wallop. Is it worth sabotaging your holiday eating goals?
3 Use the ‘Rule of Thirds’ when dining out.
Whether at a restaurant or as a dinner guest, the ‘rule of thirds’ will help you reduce the temptation to over-indulge. When eating, set aside one-third of your plate. You can ask for a doggie bag and enjoy it for lunch the next day. You can try this simple tactic at home, too, which could save you more than 500 calories a day. That’s the equivalent of one bagel with cream cheese.
4 Get moving!
Staying active helps burn fat accumulation, and has the ‘domino effect’ on your system. Once you start exercising on a regular basis, your metabolism becomes more efficient, creating a calorie-burning ‘furnace.’ Even with poor weather conditions during the holidays, there are other ways to get in your daily exercise routine. Round up some friends and start a mall-walking club, with a hot coffee or tea as your reward after completing your laps. Exercise as a social activity creates a fun experience that you’ll look forward to each day, helping you to meet your exercise goals. Start a new holiday tradition with your loved ones by suggesting a family walk. Stop the cycle of ‘couch potatoes’ and become the ‘Fresh Air and Fitness’ club. You’ll all burn some extra calories and share the benefit of exercise.
5 Get ‘the skinny’ on your food cravings.
What’s really behind your obsession with holiday treats? Many people associate food with happiness and fond memories of past events. By over-indulging, they may be subconsciously trying to recreate those happy memories. Since our subconscious mind equates food with love, food cravings of this type are often about needing comfort. So before you reach for that cinnamon bun, think about how you’re really feeling. If it’s sad, bored, lonely or nervous, a quick treat won’t change anything. Instead, divert your attention from the goodies by doing something that will bring you comfort. Call a friend, listen to some music, walk your dog, or immerse yourself in a good book. By refocusing, you’re training yourself to understand how to conquer food cravings.
6 Know before you go.
Holiday parties or family dinners can be big setbacks in the battle against holiday weight gain. With the array of indulgent foods, it’s hard to resist temptation, and you don’t want to offend your host or hostess by refusing the food they’ve prepared. Instead, you can bring a healthy dish that you can share with everyone. To prevent overeating at dinner, have a salad with a big glass of water at home before you go.
7 Nobody’s perfect.
Don’t set yourself up for a diet fail. Feelings of deprivation, especially around the holidays, can trigger you to overeat. Keeping portion control in mind, focus on allowing yourself one favorite treat. Be aware that you need to draw the line and set limits for yourself regarding your food intake. Decide what foods are worth it to you, and which ones aren’t. It’s also important to understand that you may have an occasional slip-up. Don’t allow this to sabotage your dietary goals. Just move on, practice mindful eating, and make healthier choices the next time you eat.
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