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University of Illinois Extension

How to Avoid Overeating this Winter Holiday Season

November 19, 2012

The holiday season tends to stretch from the bags of leftover Halloween candy to the Champagne toast on New Year's Day. Of course, don't forget about all the days in between. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukah bring a multitude of holiday parties with family, friends and co-workers where there is sure to be a flurry of delicious treats, including pecan pie, eggnog, homemade fudge, and fruitcake. "It's no wonder people tend to overeat during the winter holiday season with all the delicious goodies put in front of them", says Jenna Smith, registered dietitian and University of Illinois Extension Educator.

Research suggests that the average American gains one pound during the winter holiday season. Unfortunately, most people never lose this extra pound, and thus, it accumulates year after year. Smith recommends focusing on maintaining weight during the holidays instead of trying to lose weight. "It's okay to indulge in some of those favorite holiday treats, but it's important to not go overboard."

The holidays often bring stress and for many, that leads to an automatic and sometimes unconscious response to eat. Try listening more to your body, and break the tension of stress by replacing impulse eating with a more healthy behavior. For instance, if you notice your shoulders getting tense and you feel an oncoming headache (signs of stress), try stopping what you are doing, take two deep breaths, and go on a walk or get in another form of exercise. Physical activity helps boost your energy levels, release emotional stress, and promote better quality sleep.

Planning ahead is another key step to eating healthy this season. To avoid the everyday treats at work, or at least to prevent over-indulging, take healthy snacks, such as fruit, whole grain crackers and cheese or yogurt. Filling up on healthy foods will lessen the desire to overeat the high calorie goodies. Also, Smith suggests drinking plenty of water throughout the day and a glass of water before the party, which will help fill you up and keep you hydrated. Avoid going back for second helpings. If you wait 20 minutes for you food to settle, you will most likely realize you are full!

The winter holidays can be tough to get through without putting on extra pounds. However, by following these steps and eating balanced meals to offset the occasional indulgence, you'll be able to fully enjoy the holidays without guilt and regret!

Source: Jenna Smith, Extension Educator, Nutrition and Wellness, jesmith6@illinois.edu

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