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Health & Wellness

Don't Let Holiday Pounds Get You Down

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It's the most wonderful time of the year? With holiday parties, office celebrations, and family gatherings, there is always something sinfully decadent lurking around every corner. Is rugelach your go-to pastry? Or, maybe gingerbread is your weakness. Perhaps you can't pass up the rum-laden eggnog with your holiday treats.

A bit of holiday indulging is OK, but don't overdo it. According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, Americans average about a one-pound weight gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day. Most will not lose the weight, adding up to excess pounds, year after year.

Want to maintain your weight through the holidays? Try these tips below to help stave off unwanted weight gain this holiday season.

Write it Down

According to a study published in the American Journal of Prevention, keeping a food journal is key to losing weight, as well as maintaining weight loss. The more the participants logged into their food journals, the more weight they lost. With phone apps, it's easier than ever. This may help make you aware of mindless grazing, as well as help you keep your portion sizes in check. Be sure to write down every sip, chip, and dip that crosses your lips.

Weigh yourself

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) is the largest US data base of people who have successfully lost weight. What do they have in common? They have a propensity to weigh themselves often. In fact, 44% of them weigh-in daily. This strategy proves to be especially beneficial for those trying to maintain weight. When weight starts to climb, it's a warning sign to ratchet back on the calories, and ramp up the exercise to promote maintenance of a healthy weight.

Exercise in the morning, before breakfast

Besides getting your workout in before obstacles can cause you to forego, you may burn fat more efficiently by working out prior to eating breakfast. An American Journal of Physiology study allocated participating men to one of three groups. While all ate a high fat, high calorie diet, much like you might eat around the holidays, one group agreed not to exercise. The other two groups exercised four times per week, one after eating breakfast, and one before breakfast.

Within just six weeks, about the length of the holiday season, the non-exercising group packed on an average of 6 pounds, and had insulin resistance. Those who exercised post-breakfast gained about half of that of the control group, while the group that exercised before eating breakfast did not gain weight, nor did they have insulin resistance, and they even burned dietary fat more efficiently.

Maneuvering the holiday buffet table

Don't make the large plate rookie move. In a study conducted at Cornell University, participants ate 16% more than those given a smaller bowl, but estimated that they ate 7% less than the smaller bowl group. This could mean that a larger plate will not only cause you to consume more calories, it will make you think you ate a smaller portion than you actually did. It’s ok to allow yourself small portions of your favorite holiday foods, but choose a small plate and survey the entire table before making your choices. Start with fruits and veggies and low cal protein items like shrimp cocktail. When going for the dessert, keep in mind that the fruit-based goodies are your best bet.

Get your Zzz's

Burning the candle at both ends with holiday parties and errands may lead to excess pounds. It has been long known that not getting enough sleep is associated with a higher body weight. While the causes are multi-factorial, hormones may play a role. According to the Wisconsin Sleep Cohort Study, less than 8 hours of sleep is associated with a higher BMI, and higher levels of ghrelin, a hormone that triggers hunger, and lower levels of leptin, a satiety hormone. The researchers concluded that these hormone changes could likely lead to increased appetite, and consequently, weight.

Don't spend New Year's drowning your sorrows in drawstring pants. You can enjoy your little holiday indulgences, while identifying opportunities to make healthful choices. Getting adequate rest and physical activity may help you maintain your weight through this holiday season.

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