Post-holiday health tips

Make a plan for you and your family



The holidays are about celebrating health, family, friends, gratitude and faith. Food is a way to celebrate, and the holiday season offers us many delicious ways to do so. In celebrating, many of us gain “holiday weight,” so this is the time, if you haven’t already, to make a plan for you and your family to be well.

Without a plan

My patients say, “I eat whatever during the holidays and I gain five pounds. I used to be able to lose it by summer, but now I can’t.” Many people want to lose weight, but a year later they still weigh two pounds more. Over 10 years that could add up to 20 pounds, which can increase your risk of disease.

Many holiday favorites are loaded with sugar and are highly processed. If enjoyed without restraint, you will gain wait and increase your weight set point, which is the weight your body tries to maintain.

If you weigh 180 pounds and gain five pounds, your new set point is 185 pounds. If you lose five pounds after the holidays your body will fight to get you back to 185 pounds. Our muscles get more efficient with weight loss  — you burn fewer calories with exercise and the number of calories you require daily goes down — and our hunger hormone increases. The result is an uphill battle that's difficult to win.

With a plan

By setting some goals, you can help mitigate holiday weight gain and potential negative consequences. The key is to make your goals measurable and attainable. Instead of making losing weight your New Year’s resolution, make it more specific following these suggestions.

Eating habits:

• I will eat protein before carbohydrates (meat before bread), so I don't overeat something that my body will turn to fat.

• I will not have foods around the house that I can't have just a few bites of.

• If I am hosting, I will have storage containers to give to my guests to bring food home so I'll have fewer tempting leftovers around.

• I will stick to water or seltzer water.

• I will bring a healthier dish to parties so I do not feel stuck eating something that is not part of my plan.

• I will continue to keep track of my my calories using whatever method works for me — a tracker, in a notebook or on my computer.

• I will say no if I do not want something at a party.

Exercise:

• I will walk for 20 minutes, five days a week.

Stress:

• When I feel stressed or lonely, I will take three deep breaths instead of reaching for a sweet treat.

Sleep:

• I will aim for seven to eight hours of sleep.

The Best Plan

There's no right or wrong way to create your own plan. Pick strategies that work for you and help you stick to your healthy habits. Share this plan with your family so you can all work together.   

Dr. Sarah Finn is the medical director of Dartmouth-Hitchcock’s Weight and Wellness Center. For more information, go to www.d-h.org.  For healthy recipes, go to www.dartmouth-hitchcock.org/stories/cooking-up-health.html.  

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