Between the pumpkin spice lattes, pies, holiday drinks, buttery rolls, and extra-delicious food, the holiday season can leave us with more than just joy—it can also leave us with a couple extra pounds.

The Good NewsWe think we gain about 5 pounds during the holidays, right? Wrong! Researchers found that the average American only gains about one pound during the holidays.

The Not As Good News: Holiday weight gain is real. And not just for Americans (contrary to popular belief). A recent study from Cornell University monitored the year-round weight of people in Germany, Japan and the United States. Their results?

The weight we put on during the holidays (October-December), can take more than five months to lose!  This means we don’t shed those extra pound(s) until Spring has sprung.

“About 70% of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, and gaining weight in adulthood is a risk factor for all kinds of bad outcomes, including type-2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” reports TIME magazine.  “Once it’s on, losing weight can be incredibly challenging.”

Celebrate, eat and enjoy this holiday season, but do everything in moderation. Don’t deny yourself the delicacies of the season, just add restraint and subtract a few bites.

“You can have fun without throwing away your healthy habits,” Elisa Zied, RD, author of Nutrition at Your Fingertips, told Health.com

Moderation is a great word, but how exactly do we moderate? What does that look like? Here are a couple of tips on moderation this holiday season:

 

Be mindful

Before you reach for the chips or sugary dessert, fill up on vegetables and food high in protein and fiber. Also, eating a healthy snack before going to a party can help you avoid diving for the fluffy rolls the first chance you get.

“Vegetables are natural appetite suppressants, while bread is an appetite stimulant,” Louis J. Aronne, M.D., author of The Skinny: On Losing Weight Without Being Hungry, told Glamour.

Be mindful while eating, not mindless. Turn off the T.V., and be conscious of your food choices. Choose a smaller plate when serving yourself food—and eat slowly; it will make you feel fuller, faster. Also, adding that variety of vegetables will give your plate color and flavor!

 

Beware of triggers

The holidays can be stressful. Extra time with family and friends, going to events, buying gifts, etc.

2011 study showed that stress can trigger unhealthy habits including overeating and increased cravings—particularly for sugary carbohydrates. Knowing how to self-care is important, especially during the holidays. Make sure your take time to de-stress and relax to avoid overeating this year.

Stress can also lead to another unhealthy habit—poor sleep. Not enough rest can decrease our willpower and self-control, causing us to make poor eating choices. But, getting enough rest gives us a clear mind and the strength to make positive eating choices. Whether it’s due to a lack of time, or anxiety about all you must do, practicing healthy sleeping habits will help you get a good night’s rest and ward off those extra pounds!

 

Walk it out!

It doesn’t matter if you live in a snowy, magical climate that rivals the North Pole, or you are tanning on the beach with palm trees; the holidays are a great time to go for walks! Sure, there’s nothing like gathering around a table with loved ones and breaking bread, but there’s ALSO nothing like going for a walk together.

“Exercise not only burns calories but also puts you in a positive mind-set, which can help you make smarter food choices,” Joy Bauer, the TODAY show’s nutritionist and author of Your Inner Skinny: Four Steps to Thin Forever, told Glamour Magazine.

Burning calories? Check. Positive choices? Check. Happiness? Check. Reese Witherspoon was right when she said it in the movie, Legally BlondeExercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy.”

 

Flex that muscle

Flexing your physical muscles is great, but we’re referring to that muscle in your mind: self-control.

Cravings are fierce and unhealthy food is tempting. Especially when holidays cookies, cakes, pastries, breads and every craving we desire is at our reach. But cravings can also be restrained. HealthLine has some quick, easy tips to stave off cravings:

  1. Drink water
  2. Eat protein
  3. Distance yourself from the craving
  4. Don’t fill up on sugary food

 

Dessert vs. drinks

Actress Kate Hudson, famous for her washboard abs and bubbly personality, told Shape Magazine that her lifestyle changed after an encounter with a French woman.

“I was at my favorite French restaurant in Paris … eating everything I love … steak, fries, lots of wine. Then the dessert came, and I was having strawberries and cream pastries plus the wine. [Then,] a svelte, sophisticated woman approached [my] table. She pointed to my glass of wine. “This is your piece of cake. That’s how you should be thinking.” And I always try to remember that: Everything in moderation!”

Now if you want to delight in both a drink and dessert, stick to these tips:

  1. Alcoholic Beverage: choose one drink, and pour into a tall narrow glass—you’ll drink less. Research showsthat we pour less liquid into tall glasses, than into short, wide glasses.
  2. Dessert: pick your absolute favorite dessert and eat one normal portion, instead of small portions of five different desserts.

“If you pick the stuff you really want and have it in moderation, you’ll stave off those cravings that can get you in trouble later on,” obesity expert Tim Church, MD, professor at Pennington Biomedical Research Center at Louisiana State University, told health.com.

 

Remember the reason for the season

The holiday season isn’t about food, but the quality time we spend with family and friends. As the Today Show put it, “Feast on good company.”

Remember: moderation isn’t about sticking to an intense schedule or diet, it’s about self-control and balance.

So go ahead. Have your cake and eat it too. (But after you eat your vegetables).

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