Strategies for keeping off holiday weight

So the holiday season is officially upon us. It is a great time of year. Unfortunately, some people dread it. They resign themselves to the fact that they will gain lots of weight and there is just nothing they can do about it. This could not be further from the truth. There are many ways that you can avoid gaining weight during the holidays — and maybe even lose some.

Most people think that the big holiday meals are the worst for their waistlines. In my experience, this is not the case. After all, it is just one day and nobody can get fat in a day. I know there are lots of high-fat dishes and desserts, but you still can’t do that much damage in just one day. Leftovers can be a problem though. If you are hosting a meal, send your guests home with the leftover food. If you are a guest at someone else’s home, try not to leave with any of the extra food. This will help prevent a one-day event from becoming a four-day marathon.

While you can’t get fat in a day, you certainly can gain weight if you are going to three or four holiday parties every week. Holiday parties are the biggest problems that my clients have. Your friend or coworker invites you to a party, you have to go and then you get there and there are no healthy food options. We have all been there. But there are a few strategies to surviving holiday parties. The most obvious strategy is don’t go to parties that you don’t want to attend. I know that does not always work, thanks to office politics and such, but try to avoid them if you can.

Holiday parties seem to always have two things in common: high-fat foods and lots of alcoholic drinks. If you are trying to avoid weight gain or if you are trying to drop a few pounds before that New Year’s Eve party, you need to go easy on the high-fat foods. At all of the parties I’ve attended, there have been veggie trays. Vegetables are great for low-calorie snacking. If you are really hungry, try to find low-fat options. Some examples are chicken kabobs, shrimp cocktail and fruit.

While we all know that high-fat foods can put on the pounds, I am amazed at how many people are oblivious to alcohol’s role in the process. This is where holiday parties start to wreak havoc on waistlines. Whenever we go to an event like this, one of the first questions is, “What do you want to drink?” I am not against having a few drinks and being social, but you need to understand the consequences. We like to think that alcohol doesn’t count toward our daily calories, or that it isn’t too bad. This couldn’t be further from the truth. And drinks can add weight faster than anything else because they don’t fill you up. As soon as your glass is empty you can just fill it back up again.

Contrary to popular opinion, it doesn’t matter what kind of alcohol you are having: You can gain weight from all kinds of alcohol, whether it is beer, wine, scotch or any other drink that you can come up with. And be careful of your mixers, which can really add in sugar and calories.

Now in the spirit of the holidays, I would like to give you, my readers, a gift. As part of a group of personal trainers from around North America, we are preparing a very exciting fitness gift for our clients and friends — the 12 Days of Fitness. Every day you will receive an e-mail full of high-value fitness information. Every day will be something different. One day may be healthy recipes and the next may be a kickboxing workout. There is no sales pitch involved, you simply get a ton of valuable info. If you would like sign up, simply send me an e-mail or sign up on my Web site.

Jared Carter, CSCS, is the owner of Move Forward Fitness, 1616 Walnut St. Visit to sign up for his newsletter, or reach him at (215) 399-3541 or [email protected].