The average American at a healthy body weight gains 1 to 2 pounds a year.  For folks who are overweight or obese, that number climbs to almost 5 pounds a year, at least half of which accumulates during the holidays.  Simply put, the holidays seem to be more dangerous for individuals already fighting the weight loss battle.  At Medi-Weightloss we provide support for individuals who struggle to lose weight on their own.  Our program is a unique physician-supervised weight loss program based upon the five keys to wellness:  nutrition, exercise, education, motivation, and medicine.  Medical professionals prescribe a weight loss program based on a patient’s goals, body composition, and past medical history.  In addition to nutrition and exercise, there are several other aspects of the program that assist patients in attaining their weight loss goals, including supplements, Vitamin B and mineral-based injections, as well as appetite suppressants in patients without preclusions.  Weekly accountability, education and motivation are the heart of program.  We educate our patients on how to lose weight while being surrounded by normal food, temptations, and challenges. This is the real world, and for patients to be successful in the long term they require a realistic approach that they can continue for life.  Here are just a handful of holiday tips that have proven successful for our patients:

The Rules – Write them down.

When a diet and weight loss roadblock like the holiday season presents itself, I advise patients to create a set of rules for themselves.  Sit down before the holidays and prioritize treats that you love.  If you don’t love it, don’t eat it.  Treat yourself to indulgences you truly treasure and skip the rest.  For example, my rules allow peanut butter haystacks while popcorn simply isn’t worth the splurge.

The Plan – Write this down too.

When a holiday approaches and the spread of traditional fare presents itself, formulate a plan.  For example, “If I eat mashed potatoes, I skip the dinner rolls.”  “If I have wine before, I don’t eat dessert after.”  “No appetizers for me.” Or, limit yourself to a little bit of everything but decide on the portion size ahead of time.  Consciously limit yourself to a serving half or less of what you typically would.

Out of sight, out of mind – Willpower has its limits.

Don’t tempt yourself repeatedly by keeping fatty, starchy, or sweet items in your home or personal workspace.  Take leftovers to work or send them home with guests.  If you’re attending a dinner party, contribute to the spread with something safe of your own in the event that there aren’t healthy options.

Compensate Wisely – Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.

Don’t skip meals, starve yourself, or save calories for special events.  You’ll end up feeling deprived, hungrier, and more likely to overindulge in the long run.  It’s ok to eat sensibly if you know you’ll be likely to indulge later, but be sure to have a plan.  Dedicating yourself to additional exercise or activity can promote caloric balance, but overdoing it can also leave you feeling hungrier and more likely to deviate from a demeanor of self-control.

The Booze – Use a decoy.

When it comes to alcohol, patients tell us all the time “I just need to have something in my hand.”  Beer, wine and liquor all have about 200 calories per serving.  So one little drink won’t hurt, right?  Wrong.  Liquid calories add up quickly and decrease your ability to resist temptation later.  It can also decrease the quality of your sleep, and poor sleep is known to increase the likelihood of weight gain.

At holiday gatherings, ask for a shot of liquor with club soda or water.  Squeeze in some lime juice and enjoy half of it.  Fill your glass back to the top with club soda and drink half again.  Continue that routine.  Over the course of the evening, you’ll feel as though you partook adequately in the festivities, but only sacrificed 200 calories, not 1000.  It also keeps your dominant hand busy, preventing you from getting grabby at the goodie table.

Keep It Simple – It can be done.

Christmas cards, gifts exchanges, baking, decorating…  the work that goes into making the holidays merry and bright often provides more stress and strain than it does comfort and joy.  Simplify things.  Suggest drawing names for family or workplace gift exchanges instead of worrying about presents for anyone and everyone.  Send thoughtful emails to loved ones and skip the post office.  If there is an endless holiday spread in your workplace breakroom, avoid the area altogether and eat lunch out of the office.  Be comfortable saying ‘no’.  You don’t have to attend each and every seasonal function.  Really, you don’t.  Reducing your stress level and not over-scheduling your social calendar can decrease the likelihood that you’ll want to overeat or have the opportunity to do so.

The holidays are all about tradition, generosity, and the company of loved ones.  No one wants to remember the Holidays of 2013 as ‘The Year I Was Dieting’.  Prioritize what’s special to you and let go of what’s not.  With a little forethought and planning, the most wonderful time of the year doesn’t have to leave you holly, jolly, and heavier.

By Tara L. Parr, MPAS, PA-C