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Enjoy the Holidays Without Gaining Weight

Enjoy the Holidays Without Gaining Weight
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The typical American only gains about a pound during the holidays, according to the National Institutes of Health. But if that sounds like a license to unbridled eating from now till New Years Day, put down that gingerbread cookie. Here’s the problem: the average adult doesn’t lose those extra sixteen ounces; in fact, that piddling little pound added at this time of year can be blamed for much of midlife weight gain.

So call this the season to eat, drink, and be wary. You already know the tricks about portion control at the big meal and crudités (sans dressing) at the buffet. Here are some sneakier strategies to help you outwit weight gain and still enjoy your share of festive fare.

Indulgence is a do! That’s what celebrating is all about. Denying yourself tempting foods is likely to backfire, so simply balance party pleasures with a more ascetic approach before and after treating yourself. “Switch to a plant-based diet or juicing for a few days with no unnatural, processed foods,” recommends certified health coach Yvette Rose.

Sleep it off. The weight gain, that is. Sleep affects the hormones that control hunger, so if you don’t get enough rest, you’re likely to overeat. Adequate shuteye can be challenging at this busy time of year, so try revving up with exercise early in your day. “This will keep you energized for all you have to do and prepare you for a good night’s rest later on,” says Rose. Remember, too, the importance of unplugging at least an hour before you retire. The blue light gadgets emit inhibits the production of melatonin, the hormone that regulates sleep. So no online shopping prior to bedtime!

Find smarter stress solutions. Holidays can be notoriously stressful, and it’s all too easy to “treat” anxiety with food and drink. Plus, overeating can stress you out, starting a destructive cycle. So tame tension in healthier ways, with exercise, meditation, massage or even a warm bath.

Sit at the kids’ table. Helping little ones with dinner—cutting up their food, making sure they don’t give it to the dog—will keep you pretty busy, so less likely to stuff yourself. Of course, if there are finicky small fries in your family and you’ll be tempted to eat what they leave on their plates, stick to sitting with the grownups.

Incorporate extra activity. You’ve done the math: Burn the calories you consume and you won’t add pounds. That means move it! Trawl the mall instead of shopping online; gather guests for a walk between dinner and desert; challenge loved ones to a snowball fight or vigorous game of charades after the meal; and don’t be a wallflower—dance or at least mingle widely at parties.

Practice your best “no thank you.” You’d be surprised how much you’ll eat just to be polite. Instead, employ a kind yet firm refusal. Just say no, nicely, to the host foisting a tray of evil hors d’oeuvres; ditto to second helpings. Keep in mind that you’re entitled to turn down invitations, too. If your waistline doesn’t need another cookie-trimming party, courteously decline.

Skip cleanup duty. Packing up leftovers is synonymous with picking at leftovers, and a few bites here and there add up fast. If you can’t entrust someone to put away the remains of the meal, at least get a helper—and pledge to keep each other from nibbling.

Be alert at evening affairs. According to a recent study in the Annals of Behavioral Medicine, dieters who were able to stay on track during the day succumbed to temptation at night. Since your willpower is bound to wane when the sun goes down, eat properly during the day. “Starving yourself by day makes you more likely to overeat later, and those calories won’t be used since it’s so close to bedtime,” says Rose. When not roaring with hunger at the PM party, a few small nibbles are more apt to satisfy.

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An all-around wordsmith, Nina Malkin is a journalist, novelist, copywriter and memoirist. She’s also an avid collector of lovely things from eras past—read her musings at