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How to not gain weight during the holidays

Beat the bulge this holiday season! These tips for mindful eating from registered dietitian Sue Mah can help you avoid weight gain

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holiday weight gain

Beat the holiday bulge

While I firmly believe that food should be celebrated with friends and family, it’s easy to go overboard with indulgences at this time of year. Studies show that the average weight gain during the holidays is about two pounds. That doesn’t sound like much, but it may be a large proportion of the total weight you’ve gained over the rest of the year. So how do I get through it all without putting on extra weight? By practising mindful eating. I take time to really focus on what I eat and, more importantly, how I eat. Here are eight ways that I-and you-can practise mindful eating and still enjoy all the joyous festivities of the season.

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holiday Christmas party

1. Do a walkabout around the table

Before you put even a single piece of food on your plate, take a stroll around the buffet table and check out all of the different options. Mentally classify dishes as “must try” (yes, even desserts) or as “can do without it today.” Start with a small portion-the size of a few bites-of your top five “must try” foods plus one “must try” dessert. Make sure that at least two of the “must try” foods include vegetables.

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eating cherry tomatoes

2. Slow down when you eat

Researchers at Harbin Medical University in China found people who chewed their food 40 times ate 12 percent less compared to people who chewed their food 15 times. I don’t think I chew my food 40 times, but the take-away is
we need to savour every bite. In fact, between bites, put your fork down and have a sip of water.

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glass of water

3. Drink from taller glasses

Fluid looks deceivingly like more when poured in a tall, skinny glass versus a short, wide glass. With short tumblers or glasses, you may end up pouring yourself a larger drink, which means extra cal­ories. The same holds true for tall versus shorter coffee mugs.

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Small portion

4. Watch portion size

“Big dishes and big spoons are big trouble,” says Brian Wansink, author of one of my favourite nutrition books, Mindless Eating. According to Wansink’s research, the problem with big spoons and plates is that you may be scooping up and eating more food than you really need. Switch to smaller lunch-size or salad plates to keep a better eye on how much you are actually consuming.

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diet temptation

5. Keep your distance from food temptations

Avoid standing near the party nibbles unless you have incredible willpower. When food is easily within reach, chances are you’ll pick up a bite or two-or three. Let’s say that two hors d’oeuvres have 100 calories: By the time you’ve eaten a few, you have had the equivalent of a small meal.

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food on plate

6. Put everything on a plate

No eating over the sink! Even if it’s an ounce of dark chocolate or a single shortbread cookie, put it on a plate, then sit down and enjoy it. This helps you pay attention and allows you to see just how much you’re eating.

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holiday party friends

7. Socialize with friends and family

After your first plate of food, sit back and take a planned break to chat with friends. It takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain you’re full. Then ask yourself if you’re really hungry for seconds. If you are, choose just one or two foods that are on your “must try” list, and have even smaller portions than before. If you realize you’re not hungry after all, pat yourself on the back for listening to your satiety cues.

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wine toast cheers celebration

8. Say cheers with water

Liquid calories can add up, so go easy on alcohol, cocktails and high-calorie beverages. Try calorie-reduced fruit juice or light beer instead. And nothing beats water-it’s refreshing, calorie-free and the perfect palate cleanser. My favourite is sparkling water with a splash of cranberry juice and a wedge of fresh lemon.

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