Tips to prevent weight gain during holiday season

Published 10:00 pm Thursday, December 1, 2016

Last week we learned the truth about holiday weight gain myths. This week I’d like to share with you several tips to prevent putting on the pounds during the Christmas season.

Exercise: Performing proper weight training and aerobic exercise can prevent you from adding extra body fat in two ways. Gaining lean muscle from weight training raises your metabolism, so you burn extra calories 24 hours a day (plus your body will be more toned and fit), and aerobic exercise will help burn those extra calories.

Never go to a soiree while ravenous: Before attending holiday parties eat some high quality protein (chicken, fish, eggs, or turkey), and some complex carbohydrate with plenty of fiber like whole grain bread, pasta, or potatoes with their skin. Protein will help stabilize blood sugar levels, and the carbohydrate with fiber will help you feel fuller. If you’re going to a potluck holiday affair, bring a lower calorie dish like a nice salad or vegetable or fruit tray.

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Chew slowly: While eating, it usually takes about 20 minutes for your brain to tell you you’ve had enough to eat. By chewing slowly and longer, you’ll have consumed less food, and fewer calories before you start to feel full. Also, the cells of plant based foods like fruits, vegetables, or nuts are covered by a cell wall made up of cellulose, which is microscopically like wood. We can’t digest it very well, so the more you chew, the more nutrients your body can extract.

Drink water: Drinking two glasses of water before socializing, and sipping water while at gatherings will help you feel fuller. Also, it’s a great way to stay hydrated during the winter.

Get plenty of sleep: Inadequate sleep drastically affects two of our hunger hormones, ghrelin and leptin. These two hormones act as a checks and balance system for our appetite. Ghrelin signals your brain that it’s time to eat, while leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough food. When you’re not getting enough sleep leptin levels plunge, making you hungrier. Also, sleep deprivation causes a cortisol spike. Cortisol is a stress hormone that signals your body to conserve energy. This will make it more difficult for your body to let go of those excess pounds.

Refrain from alcohol: Alcohol has almost as many calories per gram (seven) as fat, which has nine. Carbohydrates and protein have four calories per gram. Also, since alcohol is the only food that is not digested by the small intestine (it goes directly through the stomach lining, into the bloodstream), it’s easy to consume too much without feeling full. Another problem with consuming alcohol is that drinking too much can make you lose your inhibitions around food, allowing you to eat more.

Choose the stuff you really want: So many folks while at a smorgasbord, start at one end, then try a little of everything, even foods they normally would not choose. Inspect the entire buffet table carefully before putting any food on your plate, and choose only foods you really like.

Diet or exercise question? Email me at

David Crocker of Landrum has been a nutritionist and master personal trainer for 29 years. He served as strength department director of the Spartanburg Y.M.C.A., head strength coach to the USC Upstate baseball team, the S.C. state champion girls gymnastic team, and the Converse College equestrian team. He served as a water safety instructor to the United States Marine Corps, lead trainer to L.H. Fields modeling agency, and taught for four semesters at USC Union. David was also a regular guest of the Pam Stone radio show.