Season’s eatings! What to do about those holiday extras

I’ve been dreading the arrival of the winter holiday season, since early September when the first party invitations started showing up in my email.

After all, I spent the summer months finally slimming down after the previous year’s revelry. I really don’t want to go through that again.

Still, I’m torn between knowing that I need to pay attention to portion sizes and choose healthy options and my childish desire to just let my hair down and party.

It’s this time of year when I’m most tempted. It’s too easy to be seduced by those white-gloved servers carrying silver trays overloaded with tasty morsels. Easier, still, when you’re on the road and away from your peers.

Who am I to refuse?

When did the eleven weeks leading up to New Year’s become an excuse for decadent holiday merrymaking often under the guise of difficult-to-miss networking events and requisite family reunions?

Is it just me or does every organization feel compelled to have a celebratory banquet for its supporters and employees or an annual dinner and fundraiser? I’ve even been invited to a “gratitude” dinner. Whatever that means.

How can I hope to keep off the weight when almost every other evening and some afternoons there is the temptation of a party I’ll need to attend for work, community or family?

Will I be able to turn down holiday delicacies like frosted cookies or Weihnachtsstollen without offending my hosts? After paying a lot per plate at the fundraising gala, don’t I deserve to eat a nice meal?

It’s no wonder that about 75 percent of annual weight gain occurs between the months of November and January. For most folks, it’s only one or two hard to lose pounds. Others, that end up spending hours in a car, train, plane or bus traveling from one side of the country to the other like me, aren’t so lucky.

What’s your strategy for keeping the weight off this winter holiday season? I asked a few friends and did some research to see what this year’s advice suggests. Here’s what I found:

Keep your regular eating schedule
Many events occur later in the evening than the average family eats. Plan to have a small meal or snack at your usual dinner time to keep from disrupting your body’s natural rhythm. When the circadian rhythm is interrupted, the body responds by storing extra fat.

Eat before you go
Have a snack of fresh veggies or fruit about an hour before you head out. You’ll be less likely to overeat and have a pleasant feeling of fullness. In particular, apples have a natural appetite suppressant in their skin.

Plan for your events
It may not be possible to know what’s being served at every function you attend, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a strategy in place. Try having lighter meals the days before or after an event to keep your weekly calorie intake inline with your current diet. Avoid eating out during the rest of the week. There are more opportunities to control your diet when you prepare your own meals.

Don’t multi-task
People eat up to 45 percent more when they’re distracted. You’re at the highest risk for overeating during the cocktail hour and receptions. Instead of just randomly grabbing hors d’oeuvres as servers interrupt your mingling, choose a set time when you will visit the buffet or bar and stick to it.

Track your intake
People who track their food consumption using an app or diary lose twice the amount of weight as other dieters. This can also benefit people maintaining their weight. Pay special attention to portion sizes and sauces that are a part of your meal. One of the easiest methods for calorie control is to eat only half of your serving.

Drink plenty of water
Water is one of the best beverages for weight management. Not only does it help the body flush out unwanted toxins but it can also make you feel full and keep you from overindulging. The signals the brain gives the body to let you know you are thirsty are very similar to the ones that let you know you are hungry. Before you grab the cheese and crackers, you might want to have a glass of water first and see if you feel better.

This is a good start, as far as strategies go. But there’s probably more we can do to keep ourselves from going overboard this holiday eating season and having to drop another three to five pounds this spring.

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