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Monday, November 9, 2009

You can avoid gaining pounds over the holidays

With the holiday season just around the corner, there will be lots of family and friends gathering to celebrate.

Some people accept the myth that most people gain 5 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year's and just figure they'll do the same and lose it later. However, a report from the National Institutes of Health indicates that Americans gain only about one pound over the holidays. The researchers found that only two factors influence weight gain: level of hunger and level of activity.

Researchers also found that the study's volunteers believed they had gained much more weight than they actually had. Fewer than 10 percent gained more than 5 pounds over the holiday season. However, overweight volunteers were more likely to gain 5 pounds than those who were not overweight.

"Weight problems result when recently added weight isn't lost before the next event that becomes an excuse for overeating. Putting your focus on maintaining a balance of physical activity and food intake is one of the healthiest ways to approach the holidays. Physical activity also is a proven way to reduce stress." With that in mind, here is a "Top 10 List to Prevent Holiday Weight Gain":

1. Plan holiday celebrations around activities. Start a family tradition of ice skating, sledding or skiing as part of the holiday. Park and walk to view lighting displays instead of riding around in your car.

2. Concentrate on quality, not quantity. What are the special food(s) you associate with the season? Concentrate on preparing only 1 or 2 special foods at each holiday. Keep your portions in proportion.

3. Give yourself the gift of planned physical activity. Physical activity is the common denominator to losing weight and keeping it off. Recommendations are to walk 10,000 steps, or about 5 miles, a day.

4. Never skip meals before or after a big celebration, this creates a famine-feast-famine cycle. To prevent overeating at celebrations drink a large glass of water before you eat, don't stand near a food-laden table, place food on a plate rather than eating straight from the buffet and don't eat while standing.

5. Remember that your attitude is your strongest asset when it comes to managing your dietary and physical activity habits during the holidays, in addition to managing your stress.

6. Spend less time in the kitchen. Do you really need to make dozens of different cookies, candies or breads? It's possible to modify recipes for baked products by reducing the fat and sugar by one-third.

7. Consider replacing your usual box of homemade candies for the neighbors with an assortment of fresh or dried fruits and nuts, a loaf of whole grain bread or a jar of your special pancake mix. Try your hand at a craft or give an IOU for a service such as car washing, babysitting or lawn work.

8. Practice being a slow eater. Give your brain 20 minutes to tell your stomach that you are satisfied before going back for seconds.

9. Get adequate sleep! Chronic sleep loss may affect various components of metabolism that influence hunger and weight gain. Being tired also affects your mental ability to resist temptations.

10. Plan ahead. Schedule time for yourself and physical activity on a daily basis; prioritize holiday celebrations to attend; schedule weekly family activities; be adventurous with physical activities.

By planning ahead, we can keep those unwanted and unhealthy pounds away during the holidays. Stop by the Cherokee County Extension Office at 209 Centennial Dr., Suite A for more great healthy meal ideas. We have recipes and publications to help you make it through this holiday season. You can also check out our website HYPERLINK "http://www.extension.iastate.edu/healthnutrition/" www.extension.iastate.edu/healthnutritio... for food preparation, diet and exercise tips.

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