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Avoid Weight Gain During the Holidays: Advice from an Expert Physician


By Jessica Logan   |   November 19, 2012
Dr. Eduardo L. Grunvald

Eating right is a challenge all year round, but sticking to a healthy regime is even more difficult during the holidays from the time the enormous bags of candy hit store shelves before Halloween until the last glass of champagne is gone after New Year’s.

Eduardo L. Grunvald, MD, director of the weight management program at the UC San Diego Bariatric and Metabolic Institute, offers some tips to eating healthy during the holiday season. A couple of "splurges" in moderation should not make a big difference in the long-term, but two weeks worth of daily indulgences could wreck progress made earlier in the year, Grunvald said.

Here are his tips:

Calories count! Strong evidence shows self-monitoring helps weight loss and maintenance. Calculate the calories you need to lose weight or maintain it, and have a "calorie budget" during the holidays. If that is unrealistic, keep a food record. This habit helps you become more conscious about caloric intake.

Don't go hungry or skip meals. The foods that are best at controlling appetite and keeping calorie counts down are fruits, vegetables, and lean protein (including skinless turkey breast). We call these foods "low energy density foods." In other words, you can eat more while keeping the calorie count down. It is more difficult to control impulses when you are very hungry. If you know you are going to a party with many delicious temptations, satisfy your hunger with low energy food, or even a nutritious, low-calorie protein shake, about 30 minutes prior to arriving. You can still have a few bites of your favorite delicacies, but you may avoid that strong urge to over-consume.

Minimize empty calories in liquids. This includes alcohol. Alcohol tends to relax our inhibitions, usually resulting in an unhealthy choice.  In addition, the calorie density of alcohol is almost as much as fat! One cup of eggnog has approximately 350 Calories. An average person would have to jog on the treadmill for about 40 minutes just to burn off that one serving.  Which brings us to the next point.

Exercise. Don't relax your usual fitness routine during the holidays. However, exercise should not be justification to over-indulge. For most people trying to lose weight or maintain it, energy expended during exercise is usually only a fraction of the calories consumed in most foods around us, especially over the holidays. And, if you go to a party with music and dancing, don't miss out on this opportunity to burn some of the calories off. It beats another 30 minutes on the treadmill.

Social support. This may be one of the most important factors. Before the holidays, have a discussion with your significant other and/or family members. See if you can all come up with a plan to minimize high-calorie foods in the house, and minimize eating out.

Save the trimmings for the tree. Trimmings on your plate are some of the highest calorie density items. Try to limit things like sauces, nuts, gravy and cheese.

Learn more about weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight with our Weight Management Program.