Battling the Holiday Bulge

If you’re like most people, it’ll be a lot easier to gain the average of 7 to 10 pounds during the holiday season than it will be to get your shopping done. Perhaps, like owner-operator Benson Runyan of Prattville, Ala., you’re looking forward to home-cooked meals. For him, it’s Cornish hens he can’t wait to savor, though he has a plan to keep his weight constant.

“Everything I eat, I make sure I work it off somehow – running, bicycling or swimming,” Runyan says. “And I carry dumbbells and a bicycle with me on the road, which also helps to relieve my stress.”

Even if you lack that dedication to regular exercise, there are things you can do to break the tradition of a holiday weight gain. With a little forethought and discipline, you can make sure those new clothes fit when you climb back into your rig after New Year’s Day.

PLAN AHEAD. Save calories for special seasonal treats. Bypass common chips and dip and enjoy a slice of homemade chocolate pie instead. Also anticipate handling situations such as multiple parties on one evening or the relative who gets offended if you don’t indulge in seconds. Don’t try to avoid holiday excess by declining party or dinner invitations because being alone during the season might lure you to find emotional comfort in food.

PACE YOURSELF. Don’t skip meals in order to splurge. If you arrive hungry, you’re far more likely to overeat. Enjoy a reasonable breakfast and lunch.

SAVOR THE FLAVORS. Don’t pile up your plate with Aunt Jane’s cookies or Mom’s dumplings just because they’re your favorites. The first few bites of any food are the best, then you begin to hit the point of diminishing returns. Relish your favorites, but budget your calories for the next round of treats.

SAVE THE SPIRITS. The more you drink, the less control you’ll have over what you eat because alcohol wipes out defenses. And watch calories: While a can of beer or glass of wine is a little more than 100 calories, a cup of eggnog averages about three times that amount.

Consider diluting alcoholic drinks or alternating them with other beverages.

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Add frazzled nerves to the temptation of holiday confections, and you have a good recipe for greeting New Year’s Day with that same old resolution of losing a few pounds. The holidays come only once a year, so enjoy them, but eat wisely.

There’s no single cause for the holiday blues and no single remedy. Here are a few things you can do to keep your holidays happy.

  • ACCEPT SADNESS. The holidays cannot deliver nonstop happiness. Embrace the season’s full range of emotions.
  • HAVE REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS. Manage this brief time wisely by listing the most important activities and the people you want to see.
  • RESIST RETAIL THERAPY. Instead of focusing too much on stressful gift shopping, drive to light displays. Sing carols. Go to church. Enjoy holiday movies. Volunteer time to help those less fortunate.
  • AVOID CONFLICTS. If a fight is inevitable when you and certain family members get together, avoid those situations.
  • LET GO OF THE PAST. Each holiday season is different. Find ways to enjoy new activities as well as traditions.