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10 Ways to Help Prevent Weight Gain During the Holidays

Get practical tips from Roberta Messner, who lost almost 100 pounds, and has kept the weight off.

Eating healthy with a tossed salad and fresh fruits.

It’s been nine years since I lost nearly 100 pounds following the advice and coaching of my sister-in-law. I wrote about it here last Christmas, and I’ve received more reader mail from it than anything I’ve ever shared. The number one thing people wanted to know was how I followed Ellen’s tips during the holidays when folks typically gain at least a pound and then don’t take it off when the New Year arrives.

While it’s admittedly not easy, it is possible. I’ve managed to not gain weight from Thanksgiving through New Years for all of those nine years. Here’s what I try to do:

1. Limit liquid calories. Liquid calories tend to be empty calories.  So even though I adore Cherry Cokes, I exchange my favorite beverage for water. It makes me feel better and more energetic, too.

2. Weigh myself regularly. Every Friday morning finds me at my doctor’s office weighing myself on an empty stomach on the same scales, just like I did when I was losing. My sister, Rebekkah, is following Ellen’s advice and coaching now like I once did. She’s right there with me, weighing herself and cheering me on as I jot the findings in my journal. If we don’t lose every single week, we don’t beat ourselves up either. We try to analyze what might have gotten us off track, get right back on the wagon, and weather those humps. And if we lose, we give ourselves a small reward.

3. When hungry, eat real food. When you’re starving, that’s not the time to munch on chips or polish off a piece of mandarin orange cake (even if Aunt Flora did make it just for me). It’s the time to eat a healthy, lean protein-rich snack, fruits or veggies, or a meal with real nutrients.

4. When baking snacks to share, consider substituting calorie-laden candy with dried fruit. My friend Jenny does this and it’s a welcome respite from traditional semi-sweet chocolate chips to have the dried cranberries.

5. Watch those buffets. At most parties through the holidays, foods are served buffet style. If you find yourself in such a situation, chow down on the lower-calorie, fiber-rich choices, such as garden salad, first. Then when you’re fuller, reach for the higher-calorie indulgences you really like in small amounts.

6. Choose a tinier plate. At home or at an event, to help with portion control and to encourage smart choices, reach for a dessert plate for your main meal. Make the focus on conversation and enjoying people not pie.

7. Don’t forget your exercise when traveling. If you usually take a one-mile walk at home, get the whole family together for a walk in the neighborhood you’re visiting.

8. Get plenty of sleep. Inadequate sleep lowers metabolism, and when you’re tired, you’re more likely to reach for high-calorie foods as well. Try for seven to eight hours of sleep per night, and if insomnia plagues you, discuss it with your doctor, as research shows that people who don’t receive adequate sleep actually don’t live as long.

9. Watch stress levels, too. When we’re stressed, we simply eat more. Engage in yoga or a favorite exercise after a hard day at work. And avoid multi-tasking. When you snack while wrapping gift packages or any other activity, you aren’t practicing mindful eating. You scarcely notice what you’re consuming and don’t make the best choices.

10. Avoid taste-testing when cooking. Those calories add up…and fast!

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