For many of us, the Holiday season is the best time of the year. All these festivities have a common denominator…delicious and succulent food.
Some studies have shown that the average American can easily gain one to two pounds throughout the Holiday season. However, based on my experience treating overweight and obese patients, I have seen much higher numbers than the results of these studies. Weight gain during the Holidays can be a major setback for many individuals who have successfully lost weight during the year. With proper planning, it is possible to maintain the weight and still enjoy your favorite dish.
The traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas feast provides approximately 3500 calories per person, not counting additional parties, functions and other gatherings we will be attending. It will take approximately six to seven hours of moderate to intense cardio-aerobic exercises to burn the amount of calories consumed in only one day.
A few years ago, I came across a great article written by Shawna Gornick-Ilagan, MS, where she described the Three T Method.
I have used this methodology to counsel my patients, not only during the Holidays, but also while they are on vacations or attending social gatherings.
If you follow these steps, you will be able to maintain or even lose weight.
The “First T” is for “Tips” to avoid Holiday weight gain
1. Keep healthy snacks with you during this busy time and do not skip meals. Yes, it is true….there is no time for all those activities we need to accomplish before the big celebration day. However, always have with you a good quality protein bar or shake—it will help control cravings, help you avoid eating large portions of food at the end of the day, and help make better food choices.
2. Do not go to a party hungry. Before you head to your celebration, eat a lean protein or unrefined sugar snack—it will control your hunger and decrease your cravings.
3. Watch your portions. Moderation is always the key for successful weight maintenance.
4. Limit high fat and refined sugar items. Eat a well-balanced meal and increase your water intake. If possible, continue to exercise. If you have been good so far, enjoy a small portion of your favorite treat.
5. Keep alcohol to a minimum—it contains empty calories and can stimulate your appetite.
The “Second T” is for “Tricks” to avoid Holiday weight gain
1. You arrive at a party and find an abundance of exquisite treats on the table. To avoid indulging in them, move away from the buffet table and mingle with family, friends and guests. Wearing fitted attire will prevent you from overeating.
2. Select salad, vegetables and turkey first. It will fill you up and you will avoid the blood sugar rollercoaster frequently seen with items high in refined sugars. Be careful with salad dressing, stuffing and gravy. These items can easily add three to six hundred extra calories.
3. Instead of going for seconds, have the host pack some food to bring home.
4. Drink more water or reduced caloric fluids, it will help you eat less and keep you hydrated.
5. If you are staying with family or friends, ask them if you could have some space in their fridge. Pack and bring your own healthy snacks. Remember, low-fat food items are not necessarily a healthy snack. Read the food label and determine the amount of refined sugar, protein and fat.
If you are the hostess: You want to offer your guests some goodies, but remember their health, too. Be creative. Find recipes for attractive and appetizing dishes that may be good for you! Also, plan activities that will take the attention away from the food.
The “Third T” is for “Techniques” to avoid Holiday weight gain
1. Substitute ingredients in your recipes to reduce calories, fat and refined sugars. For example, unsweetened apple sauce is an excellent substitution for oil or butter in most pastry recipes.
2. Use appetizer-size plates. Eat slowly, allowing yourself to enjoy the flavor and texture of the food.
3. If you are invited to a family or friends’ house, bring a healthy dish that everyone will enjoy.
4. If possible, keep your usual routine of exercise or enjoy a nice walk with your loved ones. To keep yourself active while shopping during the Holiday season, park far away from the store entrance or walk the mall before you shop. Team up with a family member or a friend to keep you on track.
5. Do not wait for the New Year to start your resolutions. Keep your eye on the prize: a healthier you in the New Year.
Remember to enjoy the reason for the season—it’s not just the food!
Test Your Holiday Food IQ