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Just Say No to Holiday Weight Gain

Here's a telling fact: The average overweight American gains five to seven pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years Day, while those who are not overweight tend to gain only one to two pounds. What does this tell us? People who maintain "normal" weight through proper diet and regular exercise will consciously increase their exercise and/or limit their caloric intake during the holidays, but overweight folks don't practice this balancing act.

It takes 3,500 calories to gain one pound of fat, and if you look around at the holiday cookie trays, pies, candies, stuffing and sauces traditionally served this time of year, it doesn't take too many of them to add 3,500 calories to your diet. Do that each week between Thanksgiving and New Years and there's the five to seven pound weight gain!

You can win this battle through movement and through learning how to say no.

If you exercise regularly you should increase your workouts by 30-50 percent during this period to avoid weight gain. If you usually workout three days a week, crank it up to five days a week. And if you usually do 30 minutes of cardio, bring it up to 45. Follow this action plan and you can enjoy some holiday indulgences and come out unscathed.

If you're not physically active you'll need to learn how to say no. You're about to sit down to a turkey dinner. Mashed potatoes and stuffing? No, choose only one starch. Gravy and cranberry sauce? Nope, it's either/or. Pecan pie and cookies? You get the picture.

Now, let's look at what you ate before dinner. A buffet of appetizers awaited you upon arrival along with several high-calorie drinks. You probably consumed more calories here than at dinner. You didn't have to. Stay away from pastry-based appetizers and anything resembling a dip. Eat protein like shrimp or crab and cheese without the crackers. Also limit your drinks and think about what goes into them. Use diet mixers or water and it will cut your drink calories in half! If anyone offers you eggnog, politely say no, then read the label and you'll feel good about your choice. Make it a point to socialize and talk with as many people as possible so you don't hang out around the buffet table. And never go to a party hungry.

Does it sound like too many restrictions when you should be enjoying yourself? Go back to paragraph four and get yourself to the gym. With adequate exercise you'll be amazed at how easy it is to maintain your weight. Schedule your exercise sessions as if they were a doctor's appointment or a can't-miss business meeting, and don't reschedule it. Not only will exercise allow you to easily maintain proper weight, it will improve your mood, reduce stress and sharpen mental acuity. A magic elixir? You bet it is.

Editor's note: Dan Zahler is an exercise physiologist and co-owner of Anytime Fitness in Wilton.

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