Many people try to avoid holiday weight gain by being overly restrictive during the most festive time of year. While their intentions to prevent weight gain (and perhaps shed a few pounds in the meantime) are good, being overly restrictive with food can backfire, especially during the holidays when we’re faced with indulgent holiday meals, festivities, and higher-than-normal stress levels (fact).

Want the (not so secret) secret to avoiding unwanted weight gain this time of year? Strive for balance and moderation when it makes sense. Try not to abandon your healthy habits altogether, keep up your vegetable/fiber intake and stick to your workout routine.

You’ve worked too hard all year to just give up now and “restart” in the new year. Try implementing some of these simple strategies to make the hectic holiday months a bit more balanced.

1. Stick With Your Regular Habits During The Week

Don’t get caught up in the holiday bustle and let your regular eating or workout routines fall to the wayside. Keep eating nutritious meals in the correct portions and exercise as usual on “non-holiday” days. This strategy will give you a little more wiggle room for indulging or kicking back and relaxing a bit on Thanksgiving & Christmas.

2. Go Booze- Free!

Let’s face it- there are plenty of parties coming up! Work functions, neighborhood parties, friends-giving, family get-togethers… the list is endless and most have adult beverages at the forefront! So don’t forget that alcohol is a source of empty calories and, over the course of a month or so, those nightcap calories can really add up. If you want to avoid holiday weight gain, save your alcohol calories or limit to once a week.

3. Select a Smaller Plate

Research shows that the bigger the plate we take, the bigger the portion we put on it. Opt for a smaller plate (and avoid going back for another helping!) Don’t limit yourself, but be sensible!

4. Eat Only The Foods That You Love

If you’re going to indulge in one serving of high-calorie finger foods at a party, go for the ones that will bring you the most enjoyment; just strive to keep the amount modest and always be mindful. Seasonal treats — such as homemade holiday meals, decadent desserts, and cocktails — aren’t truly enjoyable if they just leave you feeling regretful afterward. So, if you’re going to torture yourself after you eat a treat, maybe reconsider it. But, if you’re going to allow it- ENJOY IT: savor it, accept it, and then move on.

5. Sign Up for a Charity Walk or Fun Run To Kick Off Your Day

There areas many charity events and fun races happening during the holidays. I’ve always wanted to do the Turkey Trot here in Columbus! Why haven’t I? Anyway, holiday races are a great way to stay motivated since you’ll have to train during the hectic holiday season. Plus, you’re less likely to blow it out at a party the night before! Better still, encourage friends and family members to get involved for added fun and motivation.

6. Get Enough Sleep

Sleep deprivation not only messes with your mind, but it also makes you feel hungrier, too. It’s not always easy to do at this time of year but, by getting enough sleep, your body will be better at regulating hunger and you’ll be less likely to overeat.

7. Bring Your Own Healthy-ish Dish to A Party

I am always “that person”. With as many food intolerances as I have right now, I always ensure that I bring something. Wheterh it be a veggie tray or hearty salad or a protein of choice, I ensure I have a healthier alternative to enjoy at holiday gatherings. You’ll be surprised how many others appreciate it also!

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