By Maria Jauhar, M.D.

Pick a number. Every year we read something new about how many pounds the “average American” gains between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. Six, four, 10, whatever the number is this year, if we ever meet one of those “average Americans,” we would surely like to help.

If it were just a matter of keeping steady on our routines or counting calories, then holding the line on our weight during the holidays wouldn’t be such a problem. The difficulty is that traditions and memories and expectations may be even more powerful than just the attraction of those delicious holiday meals and treats alone.

Yes, when friends and family gather, when we see the decorations or hear the music, compelling signals fire off in our brains and we want to complete the picture by eating the way we did – and he way we could – when we were growing children.

Don’t Let It Add to Stress

Underlying every tip on holding the line during the holidays is the importance of managing and minimizing the stress we often associate with the season. An expression heard among Broadway dancers who must exert enormous energy and yet stay slim and agile is, “don’t eat your feelings.” What we can learn from them is to make friends with ourselves and consider our needs and feelings, too, in the “season of giving.”

So taking a tolerant and understanding view of what we feel is important for minimizing those urges to hold on too long to the bowl of candied popcorn, or take just one more helping of turkey and dressing. Let’s allow ourselves to think clearly about the images and expectations we might feel. Trying to live up to memories might be one of the unkindest pressures we can put on ourselves.

Let’s remember these are celebrations, not competitions.

Maybe Keep a Checklist Handy

We’ve had all our lives to build up these habits and associations with holiday eating, so turning them around or even tempering them might go better with some reminders. Writing down just a handful of reminders to keep with you might be all the encouragement you need.

Scanning five tips for avoiding holiday weight gain, it’s interesting to note that none of them has to do with self-denial. In fact, one of the interesting tips is to take time and pay attention when we decide consciously to enjoy a special holiday dish. This element of conscious permission and enjoyment can be a big help in avoiding binge eating.

After All, It’s a Practical Matter

Another key to success might be just to look at avoiding holiday weight gain as just a practical matter. It doesn’t necessarily have to be taken so seriously.

Simple things we’ve heard before can be our best tools. Don’t go to parties hungry. Pay attention to the size of your portions at holiday meals. Slow down a little and enjoy every bite. Lighten up a little on sauces and dressings. And remember that a great many holiday calories are liquid. Drinks, not food, may be the biggest difference in holiday calorie intake for many of us, so saying, “not for me, thanks,” a bit earlier in the evening can pay big dividends.

And remember, your family physician is standing by you in these days as well as all the others. To schedule an appointment with us at Island Family Medical Center, call 912.897.6832 or use our online appointment request form.