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How to Enjoy the Festivities and Avoid the Muffin Top

By Laurel-Lea Shannon

Avoid weight gain at ChristmasIf you gain weight easily, navigating your way through the Christmas holidays is like picking your way through a calorie-laden labyrinth. Office parties, neighbourhood parties, family get-togethers—everywhere you turn there are sugary, butter-and cream-packed Christmas goodies, not to mention calorie-dense hors d’oeuvres, wine, spirits, and that glorious triple-digit-calorie punch: eggnog. Did you know that one cup of eggnog has 343 calories? And that’s before the rum is added. Just three of four shortbread cookies weigh in at a whopping 500 calories.

With those numbers, it doesn’t take long to add inches to your waistline or hips. If you allow the Christmas season to become a dietary freefall, it’s easy (and delightful) to taste and nibble your way to an extra five pounds or more before rolling into the new year. Unfortunately, taking that weight off in January isn’t nearly as much fun.

But relax. With a little bit of discipline you can enjoy the festivities and avoid the muffin top. Plan ahead and you can safely navigate your way through the Christmas calorie-maze, and arrive in January with your waistline intact. Here are a few tips to help.

  • Party time! Don’t arrive hungry. Snack. Snack. Snack. If you arrive at a party hungry, you’ll gorge rather than nibble. In a matter of minutes you could consume two-thirds of your daily calorie requirements.Before going to the party, make sure you have a snack that contains protein. Protein is digested more slowly than carbohydrates and helps dampen your appetite, allowing you to be more selective about what you eat at the party. Before heading out the door, eat a piece of chicken, or a few crackers with almond butter, or plain yogurt with a small amount of fruit.
  • Easy on the alcohol. Not only is alcohol mostly empty calories, it also tends to lower your inhibitions. Drink too much and you’ll focus on how good everything tastes, rather than the consequences of eating all that food.Starting out with a glass of water (plain, mineral or club soda), will reduce the amount of alcohol you drink. Choose wine over cocktails, coolers or eggnog–it has fewer calories. Remember, the amount of alcohol considered safe for a woman is one 5-ounce glass of wine, one bottle of beer, or 1.5 ounces of liquor. So sip that one drink slowly! If you have more than one, drink a glass of water in between.
  • Eat breakfast. Some women restrict calories during the day, thinking they can bank them and then splurge at the party. Big mistake. If you skimp on breakfast and other meals throughout the day, you’ll be hungry! And you’ll chow down at the party, stowing away excess caloriesthat, and there is no doubt about this, will find their way directly to your hips. Pay careful attention to your daily diet over the Christmas season. Eat healthy meals and snacks each day, starting with a healthy breakfast that includes protein.
  • Peruse the hors d’oeuvres—Sample. Don’t gorge. Starting at one end of the food table and nibbling your way to the other end is THE fastest route to a muffin top. Don’t go there. First, peruse the food table. Then select a few treats that you really want. And savour them. They’ll last longer that way.
  • Don’t deprive yourself. Avoiding weight gain at Christmas is all about moderation. Don’t deprive yourself. Enjoy the treats that come with the season, but eat small portions, and be selective about what you eat. Discipline isn’t just about knowing when to rein yourself in. It’s also knowing when to cut yourself some slack.
  • Exercise—Schedule some “me” time. The holidays can be a stressful time of the year, when extra commitments get added to your already busy schedule—attending parties, giving parties, arranging family gatherings, and shopping for Christmas presents, just to mention a few. If you don’t have time for your regular workouts, consider doing more with less. What you lack in time can temporarily be made up with intensity. Don’t have an hour? Tabata intervals take just four minutes! [http://www.womenscycling.ca/blog/cycling-coaching/a-four-minute-workout/ However you manage it, including “me” time will help you get and give more joy this holiday season.
  • Plan for success. Plan for a successful Christmas. Keep in mind that the season is a time to reconnect with close friends and family, and to remember the important things in life—love, generosity and kindness. That’s what Christmas is.

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