5 ways to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain

5 ways to avoid the dreaded holiday weight gain


Estimated read time: 4-5 minutes

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SALT LAKE CITY — With less than 48 hours to go until the annual American food- fest, people are gearing up to stuff themselves full. It seems like everyone becomes a competitive eater on Thanksgiving, leaving no dish untouched before they put down their fork. You spend days in preparation for this bountiful meal, only to shovel the food in your mouth as fast as you can before you hit the food wall.

Have you ever thought of the calorie count of your Thanksgiving meal?

"The average calorie consumption just at the Thanksgiving meal is 3,000 calories," said registered dietitian Kary Woodruff, who works at The Orthopedic Specialty Hospital in Murray. "Just for the meal - this does not include meals/snacks leading up to the event! When you think that 3,500 calories equals a pound of weight gain, you can see how quickly it can all add up."

While it can be somewhat of an American tradition to overeat on Thanksgiving, it can be a dieter's nightmare. Because who can honestly only eat one of their mom's homemade buttery rolls? Woodruff said it's our mindset that is our ultimate downfall when seated around a buffet of food.

"We eat as quickly as we can because we feel that this is the only time of the year that we eat these foods, and so we want to eat as much as possible," Woodruff said. "The effect of that is that we don't give our bodies a chance to tell us that they are full."

All hope is not lost. There are many tips and tricks you can try to keep the pounds down and avoid gaining weight while still (slightly) indulging in your favorite foods.

  1. Keep your portions small: If you only have the mental energy to try one thing to limit your food intake during Thanksgiving, make sure it's portion control. You don't need to eat everything and it doesn't need to be a huge helping. Don't reach for seconds — take a second plate home for the next day. Remind yourself that this isn't the only time of year you can have pumpkin pie. Save a slice to eat at a later time, Woodruff said.
  2. Don't arrive at Thanksgiving dinner hungry: You are more likely to overeat when you are starving. Eat something healthy and drink a glass of water before you start on the big meal. Make sure your plate is made up of half fruits and vegetables, Woodruff advises. Avoid high-calorie beverages and stick to water. Don't be afraid to say no.
    "I think it is becoming more socially acceptable to politely say, 'no thank you.' We have to be our own advocates for our health, so ultimately we have to do what is best for ourselves," Woodruff said. "In some situations, just taking a bite can show your appreciation for their work without having to eat the whole thing."
  3. Keep exercising: Don't give up your exercise routine because it's a holiday.
    "It is ironic that during a period that can bring so much stress, we give up one of our best stress-relieving activities because we 'don't have time,'" Woodruff said.

    Make it a goal to maintain your routine, even if it you have to slightly taper it with family and friends in town. If the cold weather is getting you down, find an activity you enjoy, indoors or outdoors, that you can keep up with regardless of rain or snow. Workout DVDs are also a great way to exercise during the winter.
  4. Bring a healthy dish: If you aren't sure if there will be a healthy snack served at the meal, offer to bring it yourself, Woodruff said, and then you'll know there will be a healthy option. Steamed green beans, sautéed brussel sprouts, and even a fruit salad, are all great, easy options for healthy side dishes.
  5. Be accountable to someone: Having accountability is very important, Woodruff said. You can share a goal with a friend or family member to help you stay on track with your diet and exercise. Another way to be accountable is to track your calories with some kind of website or app. Write down everything you're eating so you know when you need to slow down.
Don't give up if you start to gain some weight. Adjust your exercise schedule and eating habits to help you get back on track. Don't abandon healthy habits at the first sign of failure.

"We have to be aware of what we are eating, drinking, and how much we are exercising," Woodruff said. "The holidays themselves are only three days, but the holiday season is more like 40 plus days. Three days may not do a lot of damage to our health, but 40 plus days can really accumulate negative consequences. We need to make sure we are being aware of what we are eating, and maintaining exercise has to be a priority for us."

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Tracie Snowder


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