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Surviving the Holidays without packing on the pounds!

Posted: November 24, 2009

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Q: How can I survive the holiday season without packing on the pounds? 

A: We've all been there.  You go home for Thanksgiving with the best intentions of not overdoing it, then out come the cookies, cakes, cocktails (whatever your weakness may be) and you blow your diet every time. And it's not just the overabundance of yummy food that does it; add the stress of traveling, being back home, dealing with family and suddenly we find ourselves stuffed like a Thanksgiving turkey!

The days between Thanksgiving and New Years can be dangerous for the most strong-willed of us.  Here are a few strategies to prevent packing on the holiday pounds and heading off those New Years resolutions:

  • Have a light snack before going to dinner.  Fresh fruit, skim milk, a small salad - any of these will fill you up just enough to stop you from overloading your plate when you sit down to a big holiday dinner. If you starve yourself beforehand, you'll eat much more food when dinnertime finally comes.
  • Watch your portion sizes.  Don't load up your plate with huge portions; it is well known that people eat more than they intend to when confronted with large portions. A couple of good rules of thumb: one serving of meat is about the size of your palm or a deck of cards.  A serving of potatoes is about the size of a racquet ball.  A whole turkey is not one portion.  Neither is one pie.
  • Try not to go back for seconds.  Eat slowly and savor what you have on your plate so you can avoid that overfull feeling at the end of the meal.
  • Drink plenty of water.  This will also keep you feeling fuller and make you less likely to overeat.
  • Watch your alcohol intake.  This is a tough time of year for overdoing it with the booze as well - meeting up with old friends, eggnog at holiday parties, the stress of being around family.  Don't forget that alcohol is loaded with calories and can pack an especially big punch when combined with heavy holiday meals.
  • Don't forget to exercise.  Even if it means dragging yourself out in the cold for a walk around the old neighborhood, don't let being home throw you off of your workout schedule.

If you're doing the cooking this holiday season, there are many strategies to cut down the calories. Here are just a few:

  • Try cooking with skim milk or low fat yogurt instead of whole milk or half & half - chances are nobody will notice the difference.
  • Cut out half the fat in baked goods and replace it with applesauce or smashed banana - they will stay moist and lose much of the fat.
  • Put out fresh fruit & veggies instead of the cheese platter - you'll cut out a ton of salt and fat.

For more tips, check out the CDC, Mayo Clinic and WebMD 

Angela Walker, Med IV (Ohio State University College of Medicine)

John A. Vaughn, MD (Ohio State University Student Health Services)

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