It's that time of year again. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are upon us, and along with them, the most weight-gaining window on the calendar. If you are trying to maintain your weight, it's a downright "dangerous" time.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine, people gain about 1 to 2 pounds each year in midlife, and that weight gain seems to occur largely between Thanksgiving and New Years. People who are already overweight tend to gain even more -- closer to 5 pounds during this time. And that weight gain is hard to lose.
Fortunately, weight gain isn't inevitable, but it takes some planning. So here are seven tips to help you maintain your weight during the holiday season:
1. Keep the serving dish off the table. Keeping serving trays off the table can reduce your food intake by up to 29 percent. Having to get up and go get the next helping makes us think harder about it and makes us think about whether or not we are really still hungry.
2. Control your sleep. I've mentioned this before in other articles, but it bears repeating: Sleep is a major factor in weight control. People who sleep too little, five hours or fewer each night, gain nearly 2.5 times as much abdominal fat as those who sleep six to seven hours. Before you pat yourself on the back for sleeping more than eight hours each night, research suggests that adds nearly twice as much belly fat as those who sleep six to seven hours. Click here for a free sleep diary to help evaluate your sleep.
3. Optimize watching TV. This tip comes in two parts. People who watch TV and eat at the same time tend to eat more. It's mindless, and studies suggest that you will even eat stale popcorn while you're mindlessly watching TV or a movie. On the other hand, we don't have to just sit there and vegetate. Something as simple as washing dishes or ironing burns 70 calories every 30 minutes. Researchers at the University of Vermont found that cutting TV time in half will burn an extra 120 calories daily -- about the equivalent of half a candy bar.
4. Eat slowly. People who wolf down their food eat up to 52 percent more before they feel full than those who chew small bites for at least nine seconds. They are also more than three times more likely to be overweight, according to a study in the British Medical Journal. That's because it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you've had enough so you get way more into your stomach. Think of chewing your food longer as "Chewdaism."
5. Take breaks. Psychologists call this eating mindfully. Instead of living to eat, eat to live. Be present. Put down your utensils or your sandwich or that drumstick between bites. As you slowly chew your food, savor the flavor. Breathe deeply and count to 20. Take a sip of your beverage. If you're eating with others, talk to them. You'll get full and fully satisfied eating much less food.
6. Limit alcohol. For many people, the holidays are a time of drink and merriment. So expect the opportunity to hoist a few more beers, eggnog, wine or hard liquor -- each about 200 calories per serving, depending on what you use for mixer. And alcohol reduces the amount of fat your body burns.
• Wine, 4-ounce glass: 62-160 calories
• 1.5-ounce liquor shot: 115-200 calories
• Gin and tonic: 280 calories
• Frozen creamy drink: 800 calories
• 12-ounce can of beer: 140-200 calories
• Alcohol + carbonated drink: 200 calories/12 ounces
• Eggnog + jigger of rum: 343 + 97 calories
• Water with a splash of lime: 0 calories
7. Monitor appetizers. Appetizers are often full of calories that taste great going down but can add 1,000 calories to your meal. If you eat an appetizer that has limited calories, you may find that your appetite at the meal is decreased. If your appetite is still cheering you on, lower intake at the actual meal or skip dessert.
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