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Avoid Holiday Weight Gain with 5 Easy Tips

by Eric Bockelman, Dietitian

Avoid holiday weight gainThe days have been growing shorter and the nights getting longer, and as we get further and further into the winter months it gets harder to be active and exercise. A difficult issue most endurance athletes run into during this time of year are those unwanted holiday pounds. Whether you intend to overeat or not, the average American consumes consumes around 4000–4500 kcals in a given day. This is a far cry from what the vast majority of us need simply to maintain our current weight. With proper planning it is possible to avoid holiday weight gain and still enjoy the season.

First, it is important to note that everyones metabolism operates differently, so it is necessary to find what works best for you. For example, what works for Jim the 220 pound power lifter may not work for Sally the 135 pound ultrarunner. Second, during these holiday months, the idea of losing weight may need to be put on the back burner and exchanged for weight maintenance. It's not quite as inspiring, but the vast majority of us would much rather be satisfied with maintaining our weight than run the risk of adding five pounds on the scale. This will allow you to enjoy the holidays, rather than starving yourself and then binging on grandma's holiday cookies. With that in mind, here are five easy tips that can help fight the winter weight woes.

1. Drinks

Avoid drinking caloriesTry to avoid drinking your calories. Whether it be alcohol, egg nog, or a combination of the both, these high calorie drink items pack a huge caloric punch. For example, your average 12 fluid ounce beer can range anywhere from 150 to 200 calories, and for those craft beer drinkers it can be 2–3 times that.

Although this may not seem significant, it is important to note how alcohol is metabolized within the body. When your beverage of choice enters your blood stream its primary site of metabolism will be the liver. (Hawkins, Metabolism of ethanol and its effects). Our liver for the average human can detox roughly 33% of an ounce of alcohol per hour. This translates to roughly 8 grams/hour. When the system is "overloaded" that is when we get into trouble. The body sees food typically in one of three ways: carbs, fat, and protein. However the one outcast is alcohol. The body treats alcohol like fat which is more calorie dense than protein or carbs. At the most basic level, the liver converts alcohol into fatty acids. These are then typically stored in tissue or adipocytes.

So remember to drink slowly and in moderation to allow your body time to metabolize the nutrients.

2. Appetizers

Replacing high calorie items can be a great way to reduce the overall calorie load. Appetizers are typically one of the most calorie dense items. Whether its grandma's cheese ball or fruitcake, these items can pack more than you would think. When replacing these items try to pick something veggie based. This will allow you to have a filling item but without a lot of the unnecessary carbs and fat.

3. Exercise

As always getting some exercise can be a great way to not only fight those unwanted pounds but to get away from the family for a few hours. The goal is not to workout so that you can eat, but eat to fuel your exercise. So be sure to plan some kind of activity whether it be a walk or cross country skiing into your day.

4. Fillers

Eat Healthy FillersAs those mid-day hunger pangs begin we all search for whatever food items are available. Plan on scanning the buffet table to find those healthier items to load up on. This will satiate your mind and stomach without loading a large number of calories and help you avoid holiday weight gain.

5. Portion Size

The most important thing to remember is that there are no bad foods, only bad portion sizes. If you like bacon, have a slice of bacon. Just be sure not have five slices of bacon. If you want a piece of pie, have one! I know I'm the bad dietitian. But, the simple fact is that if you remove these items totally, what will you crave? So satiate your mind with the correct portion but be sure not to over do it.

Most importantly the holidays are a time to enjoy your family and friends. So enjoy yourself and apply these nutrition tips to avoid holiday weight gain. Good luck and happy eating!

- Eric Bockelman, RD, LD


Hawkins, Rosemary, and H. Kalant. "The Metabolism of Ethanol and Its Metabolic Effects." The Metabolism of Ethanol and Its Metabolic Effects. Pharmacology Reviews., n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

Kathleen M. Zelman, MPH, RD, LD. WebMD Feature. "Calories and Portion Size Control Tips." WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 09 Dec. 2014.

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Katherine is our Content Champion. She has done triathlons in the past, and now focuses on mountain biking and long-distance gravel riding. She still has a soft spot in her heart for weird multi-sport events like indoor triathlon and aquabike. She also teaches indoor cycling.

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