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Five Ways to Avoid Extra Holiday Pounds

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Updated November 02, 2011

It's a fact that many of us put on a few pounds over the holidays and it's not that hard to do. It all starts with Thanksgiving, a holiday known for impossible-to-resist homemade delicacies and the gorge-fest often continues until the new year, at which point we're left twitching from excessive eating and sugar withdrawal. It's possible to enjoy the holidays without overdoing it. By taking a few precautions, you can make this the year you don't gain a single pound.

Avoiding Those Holiday Pounds

1. Eat Regularly.  We all get extra busy over the holiday season, which can cause a major disruption in our diets. We may go for hours without eating, only to overeat later in the day. We also sometimes deliberately skip meals before holiday parties, hoping to offset any extra calories. The problem with skipping meals is that it only encourages you to eat unhealthy foods. After all, when you're starving, are you really going to choose a salad over the double cheeseburger? Make it easier on yourself and your body by eating regularly. Keep snacks handy - Nutrition bars, oatmeal, cereal, string cheese, fruit...anything that's easy to prepare and eat on the go.

2.  Sleep.  Lack of sleep not only leads to stress, it can also lead to weight gain. Some studies have shown that losing sleep can affect your metabolism and the secretion of cortisol, one hormone that regulates appetite. Think of a good night's sleep as a necessity (much like oxygen) to keep you sane and keep your stress and hormone levels in check.  Whatever else happens throughout the day, plan on winding down 30 minutes or so before bedtime to make it easier to relax into sleep.

3.  Exercise. Working out may seem like the last thing you have time for, but it's essential for keeping your weight in check and your stress at manageable levels. Like sleep, exercise is a necessity if you want to have the energy and focus for everything you have to do over the holidays. Instead of trying to fit in hours of exercise, why not make your workouts more efficient?  Try circuit training and focus on using compound exercises, so you work more than one muscle group at the same time. You can also focus on short, timesaver workouts to help you maintain muscle mass without taking too much time.

For your cardio, increase your intensity with interval training to burn more calories in less time. You can also set up 10-minute workouts or split your workouts into manageable segments by finding 15 minutes 2 or 3 times throughout the day for a quick workout (walking the stairs, frantic running through the mall to find the perfect gift, etc. You'll enjoy the holidays a lot more if you're relaxed, stress-free and feeling good about yourself.

4.  Relax.  You may think you don't have time to relax while there's so much to do, but finding a few minutes to breathe can make the holiday whirlwind that much easier to handle.  Try taking a bath, reading a book, doing relaxing stretching or yoga routine. Even a few minutes of deep breathing works. For a quick way to calm down, try this: Sit in a comfortable position and close your eyes. Breathe in for 1 count and out for 1 count. Now breathe in for 2, out for 2. Continue breathing, adding 1 count each time until you get up to 8 counts, then work you way back down to 1. By the time you get to the end, you'll be ready for anything.

5.  Indulge Moderately.  Special occasions offer things we don't usually indulge in: Pies, cakes, fattening drinks, grandma's butter cookies, Aunt Hilda's fried butter, etc.  It's easy to get caught up in the excitement and overindulge, but there are ways to enjoy yourself without overdoing it.

  • Eat a light meal before going to a party so you're not starving and, therefore, susceptible to overeating.
  • When you get there make a round of the offerings before making a decision. If there's a buffet, start with a plate of vegetables or fruit to nibble on as you make your choices.
  • Choose one or two treats and make them things you would only get during the holidays (you can have potato chips anytime, right?)
  • Fill the rest of your plate with healthy stuff like veggies, fruit and grilled items.
  • Try to avoid the high calorie drinks like Egg Nog and stick with wine.
  • For every glass of alcohol you have, drink a glass of water as well.  It will help you curb your drinking, stay away from empty calories and keep you from any drunken table-dancing or spontaneous karaoke at the office party.

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