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12 Surprising Ways to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Enjoy the season and its goodies without going overboard

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    Eat, Drink and Be Mindful

    En español l ’Tis the season for enjoying heaping helpings of wonderful food — until you step on the scale New Year’s Day. Don’t worry, says Charlotte Markey, author of Smart People Don’t Diet. You can have a great holiday season and still avoid the extra pounds. Here’s how.

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    1. Sip Soup First

    People who eat soup feel satisfied with fewer calories, so start meals with soup whenever possible, says Washington, D.C., dietitian Katherine Tallmadge, author of Diet Simple. Just make sure the soup is broth-based and not full of cream.

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    2. Choose the Right Glass

    Studies show people pour 12 percent more in wider red wine glasses than in taller white wine ones. You’ll also pour less wine into your glass if it’s sitting on the table instead of in your hand, says Brian Wansink, director of Cornell University's Food and Brand Lab.

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    3. Snack a Little, Then Wait

    A lot of the calories we consume during the holidays come from what we nibble on before the meal is even served. Cornell studies show if people eat a quarter of their usual snack and wait 15 minutes, they feel as full as if they ate the whole thing.

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    4. Pick Your Party Spot

    Sit at least six feet away from the food and you’ll eat half as much, research shows. Men especially are less likely to shovel down seconds if they have to stand up to get them. Socialize while you’re eating and you’ll be distracted from overeating even more.

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    5. De-Stress Yourself

    Studies show that stress often triggers eating, Markey says. So, rather than reaching for your favorite fattening comfort food, try healthy stress management techniques, such as a brisk walk, a relaxing bath, a good book or a great massage.

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    6. Regift the Chocolate

    When your well-meaning boss sends you the fancy tower of chocolate or other goodies, don’t let them lurk in the house, tempting you. Markey recommends joining in the time-honored tradition of regifting — to friends, family, the office potluck, anywhere but your sideboard.

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    7. Choose Cocktails Carefully

    Did you ever notice that the longer the name of the cocktail, the more calories it seems to contain? Hot buttered rum, for example, has a whopping 420 calories and 17 grams of fat, while a 4-ounce glass of Champagne is only 85 calories, less than the usual servings of other wines or beer.

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    8. Avoid the What-the-Hell Effect

    If you forbid yourself to eat certain foods and then say, “Oh, what the hell,” and give in, you will eat more than if you didn’t label them as off-limits in the first place, Markey says. “Be reasonable and try to avoid throwing up your hands in defeat."

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    9. Add Variety

    Variety is the largest factor for determining how much we eat, says Tallmadge. “If we serve a variety of healthy dishes, people will eat those without being the wiser,” she says. So offer colorful big green salads and steamed or sautéed vegetables alongside the creamy garlic mashed potatoes.

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    10. Pick 3 Favorites

    Before a big meal, pick three favorites for a splurge and don’t waste calories on other things, Tallmadge recommends. If you know you must have a slice of that chocolate bourbon pecan pie, for example, then skip the cheese and crackers and dinner rolls.

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    11. Fend Off Food Pushers

    Don’t tell anyone you are on a diet or that you’re watching your weight. They’ll just try and talk — or push or guilt — you into eating, says Tallmadge. Instead, politely deal with food and alcohol pushers by firmly saying, “No, thanks.”  

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    12. Focus on the Future

    When people were asked to think about the future, they chose healthier food items than when they focused on the present, says University of Delaware associate professor Meryl Gardner. So think about 2015 health goals (or fitting into your favorite jeans) and you may find it easier to resist temptation.

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