Early Resolution

Start the New Year off happy by practicing good habits during the holiday season

It’s that time of the year again when most people seem to be stuffing their stomachs — not stockings — with goodies. By the end of the holiday season, Santa may not be the only one having a little trouble making it down the chimney.

After almost 10 months of following last year’s resolution to lose weight, even the most dedicated dieters and gym-goers tend to lose some momentum in the six weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s.

The general belief is that most people gain between five and 10 pounds during the holiday season. According to the National Institutes of Health, however, that’s well above average — most people gain about a pound. But don’t get too excited. There’s bad news along with the good.

“The good news is that people don’t gain as much weight as we thought during the holidays,” says Dr. Jack Yanovski, head of the Growth and Obesity unit for the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. “The bad news is that the weight gained over the winter holidays is not lost during the rest of the year.”

That means the extra weight you pick up around Christmas will most likely still be hanging around when next the Christmas rolls around, when you’ll pick up a couple more pounds.

It’s this cycle that causes many cases of obesity later in life — and those who are obese are more likely to gain extra pounds at the end of every year, according to the NIH.

The key difference between this time of year and other food-centric holidays, like Fourth of July barbecues and Halloween candy binges, is the length of the celebration. This is no quick gorge, then back to the workout. Instead, for weeks on end, we’re surrounded with food and drinks that are jam-packed with sugar and fat.

Not only is temptation around every corner in the form of goodies and snacks you wouldn’t even consider the rest of the year (eggnog, anyone?), the stress of finding the perfect gift for the everyone in the family and paying for the airfare to go see Grandma exacerbates. When we’re stressed, we seek comfort foods — and there are plenty of those to go around. No wonder so many people pack on the pounds.

With the odds stacked so high against us, most people might think weight gain is inevitable — but before you give up hope and succumb to piling on the pounds, there are ways to save yourself. Not only can you maintain your weight, you can keep losing and be the envy of all your friends.

You may only see commercials advertising gym memberships after New Year’s, but many local gyms have deals for the slower holiday season as well. Gold’s Gym offers discounts on their sign-up fees that may entice the stagnant to get moving before the holidays are over.

Finding the free time to even take a breath may seem nearly impossible, but you wouldn’t skip out on work or cancel lunch with a client to get more Christmas shopping in, would you? Give hitting the gym the same priority you give to the other important things in your life.

Schedule time to go to the gym and work out, and don’t break that appointment. This is the time you set aside to take care of yourself. With everything from work to family life, you deserve to be at the top of your own priority list for a few hours a week.

Spark People, an online weight loss aid, also suggests counting calories and keeping track of everything you eat — and they mean everything.

Keeping a food journal of your meals and snacks — on paper or with the help a smartphone app — will help you cut out the fatty foods that would normally be digested before you even realize you put them in your mouth.

The holiday season has a way of bringing the social butterfly out of the most antisocial hermit. With dinner get-togethers, potlucks and cocktail parties every week, it’s a wonder our pants buttons are closing by Christmas Day. But don’t think that the only way to stay skinny is to stay at home and miss out on all the fun.

Here are three quick tricks to surviving a dinner party and have a great time while keeping your waistline intact:

» Eat before you go. Going to a party on an empty stomach will have you piling your plate higher and make your afternoon workouts pointless.

» Bring a healthy dish. It’s hard to mind your caloric intake when you don’t know how the food you’re eating was prepared. Bringing a dish of your own ensures that you will have something tasty to eat that you know is healthy.

» Keep your alcohol intake to a minimum. This last tip may be the hardest to follow but will make a huge difference. Alcoholic drinks are jam-packed with calories, and your waistband will love you for your restraint. If you happen to have a drink or two, don’t forget to jot those down in your food journal too.

Unfortunately, with the number of cookies, cakes and popcorn tins given as gifts, temptation also exists at home. Get those out of the house as quickly as you can or you’ll polish off entire containers while watching “Miracle on 34th Street” or “The Santa Clause.”

If you feel guilty re-gifting these succulent goodies, Spark People suggests you either donate them to a local shelter or bring them to work and leave them in the office kitchen for those who don’t have the same willpower you enjoy.

While you’re out and about picking up gifts, squeezing in family time and planning dinners, one of the most important ways to save yourself this season is to relax.

It may seem easier said than done, but according to WebMD, although stress initially causes a loss of appetite, that is quickly followed by a more-lasting spike in appetite that will likely send your calorie count sky high.

Just because everyone else seems to be throwing better judgment and restraint to the wind as they pile on the pounds they’ll most likely never shed, that doesn’t mean you have to suffer the same fate.

Keeping slim is no problem if you put in a little effort, so make yourself a priority and stay healthy.

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