The holidays bring a plethora of tasty treats and indulgences to tempt even the most pious among us. For some of us, the anxiety and burden of the holidays sends us to comfort foods to fill a void. Over a 6-week period, adding just 200 extra calories can lead to a 2-3-pound weight gain that many of us will not shed in the new year despite good intentions and gym memberships.  We know that a modest reduction in weight can lead to health benefits such as reduced blood pressure, blood sugar and cholesterol. Conversely, an addition of weight can be detrimental to our health. When I was younger, I took a course in defensive driving- to look out for pitfalls and identifiable hazards and to adjust my driving to avoid them and arrive safely. Similarly, we can use defensive eating skills to recognize those holiday pitfalls and make it to Christmas without the holiday weight gain.  Some of my favorite suggestions:

  1. Be informed – Apps like “FatSecret” or ‘YAZIO” and others can show you how many calories are in the foods you are choosing. Sometimes the results will surprise you!
  2. Set a budget – Think of calories like money. You wouldn’t go into a store and load up your cart with items you can’t afford. Likewise, don’t fill your plate with high caloric foods that will hurt your body.
  3. Limit the Liquid Lunches– A glass of rum and eggnog is 500-600 calories. Beer, wine and spirits can range from 150-300 calories. Drink a glass of water between alcoholic beverages can help to limit their impact. Also, alcohol on an empty stomach can increase your appetite and reduce your self-control.
  4. Pause Often- You’ve heard the phrase, “Stop and Smell the Roses”, correspondingly, take time to enjoy family and friends.  Your stomach and brain don’t always speak instantaneously, and it takes a few minutes for the brain to receive the message that you’re full. Pausing between bites and courses allows time for the brain to catch up
  5. Absence make the heart grow fonder (and healthier) – don’t plant yourself next to the snack table. Proximity to snacks makes it easier to mindlessly pop food while you talk. Instead, work the room-you can enjoy a variety of stimulating conversations and your heart and waist will thank you.
  6. Go Green- Adding more fruits and vegetables to your plate can reduce the consumption of fats and carbohydrates and add some much appreciated fiber to your diet while keeping your calories in check.
  7. Focus on What is Important- While food and beverages are an ingrained part of our holidays, the focus should be on family and friends.

I’m not saying that we need to punish ourselves over the holidays. Eat, drink and be merry, but do so in a way that avoids over-indulgence and avoids those nasty dangers. Take care of yourselves and each other.