It is that time of year again when we look forward to gathering with family and friends to rejoice in the spirit of the holidays. The joys of the season are also filled with lots of wonderful food, seasonal goodies, and merriment that can result in a few extra pounds that wrap around your middle.

Dangerous pounds! Research shows that most adults gain a few pounds over the holidays, lose one or two of those added pounds, but usually hold onto at least one pound each year. This slow and steady weight creep finds most adults overweight by middle age!

Fear not, you can take pleasure in the holidays and indulge in the delicious foods. The holidays are not a time of deprivation; no one wants to face Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas, or any holiday party without being able to enjoy his or her favorite foods. With a little anticipation and plan in hand, this year, you can avoid being a victim of the annual holiday trap.

My Plan

My holiday strategy includes tightening up on my eating plan now, along with increasing my daily exercise a few weeks before the holidays arrive. This way, I can splurge a little during the festivities while keeping my weight within normal range by year’s end.

I’m not afraid to enjoy the bounty of wonderful foods at these social gatherings. I start off by filling my (small) plate with simply prepared, plain foods such as fruits, vegetables, green salads, grilled meat, turkey or chicken, boiled shrimp, or any seafood. If I choose any high calorie high fat-sauces, gravies, casseroles, or desserts, only in small “tastes”.

One plate of healthy food usually fills me up. Before getting up for a second helping, I wait 10 minutes. If you’re like most people, chances are your desire for more food is not about hunger, but about how good it tastes. Here’s the really good news—you’ve already tasted it!

Make Your Plan

Make your own plan by studying the habits of successful dieters. Try some of these slimming tips and ideas:

• Keep up your regular physical activity and make sure to get in a good workout on the day of the party or event. NO excuses!
• Be super-diligent on non-party days by sticking closely to your eating plan.
• Eat a small, nutritious snack before leaving
for the party. This helps to take the edge off of your appetite and gives you willpower to resist hors d’oeuvres, saving your calories for the meal.
• Watch your alcohol calories—they add up fast. Alternate alcoholic beverages with non-calorie beverages such as sparkling water.
• Look over all the food offerings before you decide what you are going to eat. If there are foods that you love but know are decadently rich, just sample a tasting portion.
• Use a smaller plate (the dessert plate is good). This tip can help you reduce the total amount you eat as long as you don’t go back for seconds.
• Eat slowly and savor every bite.
• Don’t linger around the food table! Move to another location that is less tempting.
• Always sit down while you eat.
• Portion control and moderation are the keys to success.

This year, start a tradition on the morning of each holiday. Get the whole clan up early for a bike ride or walk in the woods before you sit down to that scrumptious meal and day of football games. And remember, gatherings during the holidays are a time to embrace and give thanks for our family and friends. Speed less time focused on food and more time enjoying the camaraderie of your loved ones.
Less time focused on food and more time enjoying the camaraderie of your loved ones.


Sheila Birnbaum’s professional career has been devoted to enhancing patient care. As the Director of the Patient Advocacy Program at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH), Hamilton, NJ, she instituted numerous programs, many which received statewide recognition, including several prestigious rewards.