We're all headed for a lot of parties and family get togethers this holiday season. Even if you aren't the party type you will probably be around some holiday sweets and goodies. Gaining weight is not unavoidable. If you are expecting to gain those ten pounds you very likely will. If you plan to maintain your weight or even loose some that's possible.
The key is good planning. You can plan your holiday eating more than you think you can. You may not always know the specifics of a given situation but you can see social occasions coming. Chances are many holiday functions are already on your calendar.
The key to weight maintenance is to not consume more calories than you burn. It really is that simple in theory. In practice it's more difficult. Here are some tips to help you navigate the holiday season without gaining a lot of weight.
Know your Emotions: If you are an emotional eater the holidays can amplify the effects of your emotions on your eating. If you deal with loneliness or stress by eating the holidays can be a real challenge with workplace and family get-togethers. Be aware, be very aware of events that may trigger overeating. Anticipating an emotion charged eating session is the best defense. Plan in advance how you are going to deal with emotions that left unchecked would send you to the refrigerator. (i.e. may I suggest exercise)
Know your Triggers: Do you have trigger foods that you just can't help over-indulging? For me it's pumpkin pie. I'll eat about as much pumpkin pie as I can get my hands on. Whether it's mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie or Christmas cookies you need to anticipate being around your favorites and decide in advance how you are going to deal with them. If you know you want two pieces of mom's homemade pecan pie for dessert you need to severely limit the amount of mashed potatoes you eat at dinner.
Understand the Nature of the Event: Try to find out as much as you can about the nature of holiday events that you attend. Will dinner be served or is it just drinks and appetizers? Is it for dessert? Knowing what eating opportunities an event presents will help you plan your day's eating.
To be or not to be... Hungry: For some events you'll want to go hungry for others you'll want to not be hungry. You can adjust how much you eat during the day to accommodate a big meal or special event in the evening. For example you may want to be hungry for a dinner party with the neighbors so you'll have a light breakfast and lunch but you know the food at that office cocktail party isn't going to be worth eating. Best to plan on skipping the food altogether. If you aren't very hungry at an event don't feel bad about eating tiny amounts of food. Chances are people are paying more attention to their own plate than to yours.
Adjust your Eating: Anticipating eating situations help you balance your caloric intake. Whether you are an exact calorie counter or just an estimator you'll be better able to maintain your weight by not simply adding all of those holiday calories to your diet. Don't skip meals but do cut down on breakfast and lunch if you are heading for a party that night. Even if you just can't resist that plate of Christmas cookies in the office keep those calories in mind when you sit down to dinner. Those 150-200 calories in those 3-4 cookies won't be found as extra pounds on you if you pass on your normal seconds or trim your portions on dinner that night.
Guard your Environment: To the best of your abilities keep away from the temptations. Offices are full of candy, popcorn, christmas cookies and other goodies this time of year. If possible ask people not to bring things in. If vendors drop off goodies encourage others to take them home or donate them. Ask that food be kept out of sight in a break room. Stay out of that break room. At meetings sit out of reach of the candy dish. Don't even have the first cookie, soon you'll be back for more without realizing it.
Maintain or Boost your Activity Level: It's seldom possible to offset an additional blast of calories consumed by working out more but increasing or at least maintaining your activity and exercise level is important to maintaining your desired weight through the holiday season. Just as you need to adjust your eating to accommodate increased calories you need to guard your schedule to maintain your workout schedule. Don't carve the time needed for shopping, cooking and attending holiday functions out of your exercise time. It's too easy to be defeated and just throw out both diet and exercise until next year. Whenever and wherever possible a bit of extra activity and exercise will help you maintain your desired weight and feel better about that pumpkin pie you had last night.
Bottom line. Anticipation and adjustment can help you survive this intense calorie season. It's possible to weigh the same on January 1st as you did on November 1st. Be aware, be smart, anticipate, adjust and be consistent.
Feel free to add your own copping tips in the comments.