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8 Tips to Avoid Winter Weight Gain

.christmas snowflake foodphoto © 2009 Paula Fernanda | more info (via: Wylio)It’s that time of year. Holiday parties galore all that come packed with some of the most decadent treats you will see all year long. Skipping the holiday parties? Hibernating on the couch with a blanket and a bag of chips isn’t going to help the waistline either. I’m sure you have heard the statistic that people can gain up to five pounds over the holiday season. But did you know that those pounds contribute to long-term weight gain?

According to a recent study by researchers at Sweden’s Linköping University, the four weeks of winter bingeing can actually lead to long-term weight gain.

Essentially, the researchers took a group of healthy young people, increased their caloric intake by 70 percent, and lowered their exercise levels. They also had a control group whose diets weren’t altered. At 4 weeks, the participants in the test group had gained an average of 14 pounds. After 6 months, and no longer on an increased-calorie diet, only a third of these participants had returned to their original weight. After 1 year, the test group members were each still an average of 3.3 pounds heavier. After 2.5 years, the “gluttonous” group continued to gain, while the control group still maintained a stable weight.

Now, most of us don’t increase our calories that drastically for 30 days straight. Sure, there’s Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving leftovers, Hanukkah, the work Christmas party, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve, and New Year’s Day, not to mention the extra sweets, cocktails, and (ahem) fruitcake. But according to the New England Journal of Medicine, the actual average weight gain over the holidays is only 1 pound. (They obviously didn’t poll my family or friends.) So what’s the big deal? The problem is, a year later, the vast majority of people have not removed that pound. Continue this pattern over 30 or 40 holiday seasons and the problem becomes—quite literally—huge.

So how are we supposed to get through the holidays without causing weight gain? Here are eight effective ways to get yourself ready to beat the holiday bulge.

1. Buy clothes that fit right now. This first tip might be a bit pricy, but it’s a great motivational aid in staving off weight gain. A new addition to your wardrobe in a size that shows off your summer body can be all you need to prevent those extra pounds from creeping on. Imagine that beautiful holiday dress or great pair of pants, then imagine being unable to zip them up thanks to sugar cookies. So before you begin the festivities, go buy yourself something perfect to wear to your parties and hang it someplace visible, so it serves as a constant reminder.

2. Write it down. We try to write down everything we eat, right? We spend hours each month staring at a food diary, adding up our calories, and seeing if we got the correct balance of macronutrients. And then the holidays happen, and our little book ends up in the bottom drawer. It’s almost like we’re hoping that if we didn’t write it down, it didn’t happen. Unfortunately, the scale doesn’t fit in that bottom drawer. The truth is, if we would write down the not-so-perfect meals and treats, we could find a way to compensate for it, at least a bit. (Eat less fat at dinner, work out more etc.)

3. Keep exercising. It’s hard to remain balanced when you have a million things to do and gifts to buy. Yet the greatest gift you can give yourself is to stay focused on your fitness goals and get your workout in. Shopping getting in the way? Do it online and save some time. Parties getting in the way? Just show up later. Who cares if everyone else is a couple of cocktails ahead of you? You’ll be healthier, and you won’t have to worry about the embarrassing YouTube® videos in the morning. Just stay consistent, even if it’s inconvenient.

4. Eat before parties. Most holiday parties don’t focus on low-fat, low-calorie refreshments, so unless you’re organizing the event, the best damage control is to show up with a full tummy. Make sure you eat your meals and snacks throughout the day, and try to eat a healthy meal before attending any party.

5. Get junk out of the house. The majority of people don’t get into the car at midnight, drive to the store, buy the ingredients for cookies, bake them, and then stay up to eat them. But if those homemade cookies that Linda in accounting made for you are already on your kitchen counter, you better believe you’ll find a way to justify it.

6. Offer to prepare healthy food for holiday parties. This suggestion won’t be well received by those of us who’d rather spend Thanksgiving sitting around watching football than toiling in the kitchen, but if you do the cooking, you have the control. Your family could have a tasty and satisfying meal without ingesting thousands of calories and fat grams.

7. Choose wisely and proportionally. Something occurs during a holiday meal. It’s like a Las Vegas buffet—we feel like we have to eat some of everything. We feel almost like those foods will never exist again, and this is our last meal on the planet. This year, why not try to eat only your favorites, as in two or three items, and keep the portions to the size of your palm? If you’re still hungry, try to fill up on veggies (preferably ones that aren’t drowned in butter or cream-of-mushroom soup).

8. Don’t beat yourself up. Quite possibly the worst thing you can do is beat yourself up over a bit of holiday indulgence. Yes, it does stink to backslide after working your tail off. But sometimes it doesn’t stink as much as dealing with your mother when you turn down her brisket and potato pancakes. Sometimes, we don’t have time to go to work, buy a Christmas tree, decorate it with our kids, make dinner, oversee homework, tuck kids in bed, and spend an hour doing a workout. We can only do our very best. So if you happen to gain that one extra pound this holiday season, be part of the rare group who actually follows through with their New Year’s resolution and manages to shed it again. A week of hard work and a slight calorie deficit should do the trick. Resolutions don’t come easier than that!

Sources: beachbody.com

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