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Holiday weight: How to maintain, not gain

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Nov 17, 2020.

When you're trying to lose weight, the holiday season — and the tasty treats that come with it — may seem to pose a threat to your weight-loss goals. But there's a way to navigate the holidays without sacrificing your hard-earned progress. It's called weight maintenance.

Some evidence suggests that people gain an average of 1-2 pounds during the holidays, and slightly more for those who are already overweight or obese.

But weight maintenance can refocus your energy on balancing the calories you eat with the ones you burn through exercise. And with the right formula for your body and lifestyle, you can avoid the holiday gain while enjoying the fun of the season — a few tasty treats included.

Here's what the experts recommend:

  1. Savor it — While common weight-loss strategies focus on avoiding certain foods, food restriction, especially during times of celebration, can backfire and cause overeating. The good news? The opposite is true of savoring and enjoying your foods. The more you enjoy the food you eat, the greater the likelihood that you'll be satisfied with less.
  2. Focus on portions — You don't need to alter every recipe or family favorite. Instead of sacrificing the taste of your signature casserole or grandma's famous cookies, simply pay attention to how hungry or full you are during each meal and be mindful about the portions you're dishing up.
  3. Keep it simple — Drop that long list of "do's" and "do not's." Instead choose one strategy, like cutting out sugary sodas, eating a protein-rich breakfast, or planning one or two days to hit the gym each week. Setting an attainable goal during your busy holiday schedule will increase the likelihood that you'll achieve it — and be proud of it.
  4. Incorporate movement — Balancing the calories you consume with those you burn is a staple of weight maintenance. So as you fuel up with foods that will naturally give you more energy to move around (i.e., that infamous sugar rush!), capitalize on it. Grab your snowshoes, go sledding or go on a snowy walk with family. Movement isn't just exercise — it's making memories, too.
  5. Reflect and repeat — Maintaining your weight is all about balance, and finding yours will take time. Don't let setbacks deter you. Instead, make it a habit to be mindful. Spend time reflecting, meditating, and journaling about your progress and experiences. Over time, you'll notice patterns that help you figure out what sticks and what to swap out.

So during the next holiday baking event, remember to have fun. Savor the moment, the laughter, the smell of cookies baking in the oven and the delicious taste of them when they come out. Food is incorporated in tradition for a reason — it can make memories you'll remember for years to come.

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