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December 5, 2013 | 3 minute read

The Biggest Holiday Hangups I Hear

Are you trying to maintain a healthy body weight (or even lose weight), but finding it hard this time of year? You’re not alone! I work with people to help them lose weight and live healthier. Here are some of the biggest holiday hang-ups I hear around the holidays, and some tips to help you overcome them.bigstock-Health-care-concept-53585122

“I can’t resist all the leftover Halloween candy.” If you still have candy sitting around, the first step is to get it out of sight. Toss it, send it to troops overseas or even hide it in the back of the freezer and take out individual pieces as occasional treats. You are much less likely to over-eat if it isn’t sitting in a candy jar right on your counter top.

On the day-of the holiday, like Christmas or Thanksgiving, “I want to try a bit of everything.” My recommendation: select just your favorites. Be a food snob – if you don’t absolutely love it, don’t bother! Fill your plate just once, and build it according to AICR’s New American Plate: 2/3 vegetables, fruit and whole grains and 1/3 lean protein.

One of the biggest hang-ups I hear is that there are “constantly cookies, cakes, chocolates and other treats in the office.” For a healthier option, my sister-in-law started a health challenge where each week a different person brings in fruits or vegetables for the office. If it’s your week and you want to try something different, slice up jicama and add a squeeze of lime juice mixed with a little bit of finely chopped jalapeno pepper.

At family gatherings or potlucks, sometimes “there isn’t anything healthy.” Don’t hesitate to bring the vegetable! Bring enough for everyone, you might find it’s not just you who wants the extra salad or roasted veggies. By bringing a healthy dish you can ensure at least one item offered will be lower calorie, fiber full and packed full of cancer-fighting phytochemicals. Try this roasted Brussels sprouts recipe for a crowd-pleasing side dish.

“There’s alcohol everywhere.” Alcohol has almost twice as many calories per gram compared to carbohydrates or protein, which is why alcoholic beverages can quickly pack on the pounds. Drink in moderation, and consider watering down your white wine with some sparkling water. Drink beverages like eggnog or cider in small cups to help you portion control.

Lastly, make it a plan to relieve stress. I hear all the time that “stress makes me over-eat, especially on sweets.” We tend to eat more when emotions are running high, and while the holidays are enjoyable, they are also often stressful. One of the best ways to relieve anxiety is to exercise! Blow off steam with a long walk or by lifting some hand weights. And don’t forget to take some personal time – listen to music, take a long bath or read a good book.

With a plan to stay healthy this holiday season, you can maintain a healthy body weight and reduce your cancer risk while enjoying the company of friends and family.

How do you avoid holiday hang-ups this time of year?

Sonja Goedkoop, MSPH, RD, is a clinical dietitian at the Massachusetts General Hospital Weight Center. She has a passion for promoting a healthy lifestyle and reducing obesity through improved nutrition and physical activity.

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