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Culpeper Times • December 13-19, 2018
H E A LT H Beating the Holiday Weight Gain Picture a typical holiday party, and what comes to mind? Sugary, frosted cookies; rich, whipped cream-topped drinks; tables covered with enough food to feed an army? A common theme among all holiday traditions and celebrations seems to be food, and often plenty of it. A delicious spread of party food can be pleasurable in the moment, but for many, overindulging throughout the season results in weight gain and regret. Even though the weight gain may be moderate, (a recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine found that the average American actually only gains 1 to 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and the New Year) the issue arises when those extra pounds hang around. Those modest gains can add up over time. “You may be able to avoid weight gain around the holidays simply by being mindful about what you’re eating, why you are eating and being strategic about your choices,” says Teri Travi, RD, a Registered Dietitian and Novant Health UVA Health System diabetes educator. “By making a plan and setting realistic goals, you’ll feel empowered and successful when the New Year rolls around.” So, how do you combat the excess intake and make sure you’re balancing treats with healthy, energizing foods? Travi offers the following tips to curtail increasing weight. 1. Practice moderation and mindfulness. Freshly-baked treats are tempting so be selective and set personal limits. Find the things that you love and aren’t available at other times of the year and allow yourself to enjoy. Fill half of your plate with vegetables first to leave less room for calorie dense foods and eat the vegetables first. By the time you get to the other foods, you will be less hungry. While eating, savor the texture, flavor and
smells. Eat slowly and pay attention to how you are feeling. (It may take 20 minutes before your brain gets the signal that you have had enough). Set limits on portions that are realistic and achievable. 2. Incorporate activity into your day. Hit the pavement solo, or if you’re with family invite them to join and use a walk as a chance to catch up while being active. Schedule active family events instead of sedentary ones – go bowling or hiking or even caroling! Keep up with your usual exercise routine. Getting your body moving after a meal kick starts energy utilization and will help keep you alert. 3. Simplify. With all the shopping, cooking, hosting and busy schedules associated with the holidays, feelings of stress and anxiety are common. An increase in the body’s stress hormone, cortisol, makes our bodies more resistant to insulin and may increase blood sugar and contribute to weight gain. Remember to relax, prioritize and simplify. Decide what is really important – it probably isn’t the food, gifts and activities! Remember, it’s okay to say no and not wear yourself out. 4. Drink smartly. Gatherings often include alcoholic beverages and it comes as no surprise that many people wind up drinking more during the holidays than at other times of year. But with alcohol comes empty calories that can really make a difference in your waistline (a single glass of eggnog can have as much as 400 calories), not to mention your judgement. If you are drinking, consider alternating a glass of water or club soda for every alcoholic beverage you have. Choose calorie free mixers and use lots of ice! You’ll
be more likely to make good decisions about food choices and you will feel more energized the next day. 5. Out of sight, out of mind. A study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition determined that people are more likely to eat – even if they aren’t hungry – when there is food in front of them. This is particularly true when the person is distracted by conversation or other entertainment. To help avoid mindless eating, socialize away from the buffet table or gather for a game or puzzle in the living room. Put away leftover treats at home rather than leaving on the counter or send them home with guests. Only make what you know will get eaten at the first sitting. Move tempting foods to the back of the refrigerator. (Many treats can be frozen and eaten at a later time!) 6. Swaps and substitutions. Access to health and fitness information and culinary advances have brought us more healthful alternatives to a variety of foods, making it easy to create more nutritious versions of your favorite comfort foods with more nutrients and lower calories, saturated fat and
cholesterol. Are mashed potatoes a staple at your holiday dinner? Try mashed cauliflower instead or a combination of the two. Do you love to bake? Switch up a recipe or two by using unsweetened applesauce or sunflower oil and/or whole grain flour for part of the white flour as tasty substitutions. Do you crave a big bowl of pasta after a long day of party prepping? Trade carbohydrateheavy noodles for spaghetti squash or spiralized zucchini. Travi suggests being realistic in setting your holiday eating strategy to avoid weight gain. Aim for maintenance rather than weight loss and don’t dwell on what has already happened. Look ahead and be mindful. Avoid skipping meals to “save up” for an event – it almost always results in excess intake at the next meal. While following all of these tips may not be possible, adopting a few will keep your weight goals in check and give you a healthier start to the New Year! Novant Health UVA Health System offers Nutrition and Diabetes Education services. Call 703-369-8405 for more information.
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