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Family Holidays: A Dieter's Survival Guide

Your game plan for sensible celebrating
By
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic - Expert Column

Drinks before dinner, Aunt Sarah's famous pies, the family favorite sausage dressing, and all those other wonderfully delicious, traditional holiday foods just waiting to be gobbled up: What a quagmire for a dieter!

Should you forget about your eating plan for a day, and eat to your heart's content? Or should you try to stay on course as you navigate this minefield of temptations and family prodding?

My advice: Do both.

Throughout the holiday season, temptations are everywhere -- a busy social schedule, office and school parties, family functions, and neighborly gestures of sweets and treats. You need a strategy for dealing with the abundance of calories that are part and parcel of the holiday season.

Just Try to Maintain

Most people gain 2-5 pounds each year during the feasting season that starts at Thanksgiving and ends New Year's Day -- unless you live in New Orleans, where it continues through Mardi Gras. So how do you buck this trend and keep from adding back those hard-lost pounds?

The plan: Aim to hold steady at your current weight and focus on not gaining any additional pounds by Jan. 1. Adhere strictly to your plan until Thanksgiving, then cut yourself some slack ­ but not too much.

Just knowing that you don't have face the pressure of losing weight during the holiday season -- and that you won't feel deprived as others celebrate -- will make it easier to balance your calories for maintenance.

If you prefer to keep losing, on the other hand, by all means stick with your eating plan through the holidays. Just be mindful that a dieter's most difficult time of year is upon us.

The Sensible Splurge

It is so hard to resist temptation, but it gets easier if you're equipped with a plan. Follow these tips to help you survive family gatherings without sabotaging your diet.

  • Review your eating plan and see if you can reserve a few food items during the week to save up for the holiday feast. Be careful not to take away too much food, which could leave you hungry during the week. Getting hungry between meals can lead to bingeing, and we sure don't want that to happen!
  • Portion control is critical to prevent weight gain. Enjoy small portions of foods high in fat and calories, share a dessert, limit alcohol, and fill up on simply prepared, nutritious selections like turkey breast and vegetables.
  • Enjoy a small but filling meal before the gathering to prevent overeating. Include a lean or low-fat source of protein, as well as fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, or whole grains for lasting fullness. A salad, a bowl of vegetable soup, or a sandwich on whole-grain bread are all good examples of mini-meals.
  • Don't stand near the buffet or appetizers at a holiday gathering. Instead, survey the offerings, choose the best nutritional bets, put them on a plate, then go sit down and enjoy the meal. It's hard to know when you've had enough food when you stand around nibbling!

 

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