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What are you looking forward to most this holiday season? The turkey and stuffing? Pumpkin pie? Aunt Marie's famous almond biscotti? Cousin Steve's sinful peanut butter fudge? Food is an important part of many celebrations, family and cultural traditions and many people gain a little (or a lot of) weight between Thanksgiving and the New Year. Odds are, you are going to be one of those people.
According to studies, the average person gains just one pound during the winter holidays. While this doesn't sound bad, most people do not lose that pound and, year after year, it adds up. People who are already overweight tend to gain five pounds or more during the holidays, pounds they will not lose.
Many factors can lead to holiday overeating. Perhaps the most obvious is the ready availability of feasts and tempting treats. The traditional holiday dinner with appetizers can pack around 3,000 calories per person, possibly more with extra butter and fat. That's not counting dessert! Other factors that lead to overeating include the influence of family and friends and emotional eating from holiday stress, depression or even joy.
For most of us, some holiday indulgence isn't necessarily a bad thing and may be better than depriving ourselves of special holiday foods or feeling guilty when we overdo it. Balancing the good and bad, going for variety and keeping things in perspective are key to keeping your holiday eating from becoming a free-for-all.
Maintaining healthy weight means striking a balance between diet and exercise. While most people increase the calories they consume during the holidays, they often don't increase the amount of physical activity they get. Worse, some may forego exercise altogether in the hustle and bustle of the season. Exercise burns calories, regulates appetite, relieves stress, boosts metabolism and improves your circulation - all factors that will help your body deal with Aunt Marie's biscotti and other goodies.
Make physical activity a part of your celebrations. Take your family for a walk after dinner. Go to an ice or roller skating rink instead of the movies. You can even play some fitness-related video games. The goal is to be physically active every day, even if it is just for 10 minutes at a time.
Most of all, maintain perspective. It takes days of overeating to gain weight. If you over-indulge at a single holiday meal, don't beat yourself up. Put it behind you and return to your usual eating plan the next day without guilt.