Patient Information

Jolly holiday season can be a weighty matter

The holiday season provides a perfect recipe for weight gain. Start with great tasting food and drink lurking at the edge of every gathering or celebration, add the stress of shopping and socializing, mix with the need to eat on the run or skip the time to exercise, and it’s easy to see why the average American puts on a few pounds between Thanksgiving and the end of the calendar year. It’s no wonder that weight loss is at the top of just about everyone’s New Year’s resolutions. If you’re planning to make losing weight one of your resolutions for next year, why not start working toward that goal now? If you can avoid adding a few pounds this month, you’ll be that much closer to your goal weight in the new year.

Here are a few tips to keep the needle of your bathroom scale from inching upwards over the holidays:

  • Take Inventory. Identify all situations (office parties, mall food courts, family gatherings and extra baking at home) that will make it difficult for you to eat healthy during the holiday season. Make a plan to stay on track in those situations. Use the tips below to steer you on your track. Eat something healthy before going out.
  • Whether it’s to a party or the mall, don’t head out the door on an empty stomach. A baked potato, some salad, fresh vegetables, fruit or yogurt are all good choices. If you’re heading for a shopping marathon, take along a bottle of water or some carrots or celery sticks to help avoid the temptations (and long lines!) at the food court.
  • Downsize your plate. You can still enjoy your favorite, “once-a-year” foods as long as you do so in moderation. Think how you would feel after overindulging. Was the taste really worth it? Could you have received the same pleasure with a smaller amount? Use a salad plate instead of a dinner plate and put some healthy buffet choices on it first before adding on the tempting treats. Take time to sit down. At a party, sitting down while eating helps in two ways. You avoid the tendency to snack your way around the room and you will tend to eat more slowly. Remember, it takes the brain about 20 minutes to realize the stomach is full.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol contains a lot of calories and many holiday drinks combine alcohol with additional calorie-laden mixtures.
  • If you are going to drink, a glass of wine is lower in calories than beer or mixed drinks and you can cut the calories more by alternating your wine with a glass of water or diet soda.
  • Know some foods to avoid. Foods that contain eggs or cream carry lots of additional calories, so limit the amounts of soufflés, cakes, cookies, custard or ice cream that you consume.
  • Look for ways to add exercise. Even though time may be short, you can still sneak in some exercise. If you’re shopping, park further from the entrance to the store. At a mall, go for a brisk walk from one end to the other before you start shopping and try to take the stairs instead of the escalator. Back home, carry your bags in one by one. Just like calories, all those added steps count, too.

Dr. Gupta is a physician with The University Doctors Department of Family Medicine in Stratford and the director of the Weight Management Program in the Department of Family Medicine at the UMDNJ-School of Osteopathic Medicine. To schedule an appointment, please call 856-566-7020.

7/18/08

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