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Whenever the holidays roll around, I get anxious as excessive calories lurk behind every corner. Baked goodies, holiday parties and candy bowls garnish the days between November 25th and January 2nd making this season a particularly difficult time to avoid packing on the pounds. Did you know the average weight gain (for North Americans) between Thanksgiving and New Years is anywhere between one and seven pounds? Yikes! Needless to say, I’ve managed to survive many seasons of culinary indulgence by following the tips listed below in addition to an extra serving of self-control. And I haven’t popped a button on my skinny jeans yet! Here’s what you need to know to survive the holiday consumption marathon:

Schedule your workouts.

I know it seems obvious, but many of us muddle our fitness schedules during the winter months. Cold air and an erratic social calendar filled with holiday festivities can really throw off your exercise regime. Nevertheless, this is probably the most important time of year to sweat it out! Make time to work out. Schedule it into your calendar. I cannot stress this enough: Make fitness a priority. Not only will working out help you de-stress, it will also keep your metabolism revved up and ready to handle all of your holiday feasting. To offset increased caloric intake, tack on an extra 10 minutes of cardio to your workout sessions. I also try to walk after big meals like Thanksgiving dinner–it’s amazing what a lap around the neighborhood can do for your digestion and legs!

Start counting.

While I’d like to think holiday treats are magically sprinkled with non-fattening fairy dust, the calories are unfortunately still there. Darn it! Since it’s easy to forget of what you’ve eaten, keep track by adding calories on the calculator of your phone or with one of the many calorie-tracking apps. I’ve never been a fan of counting calories, but it really helps keep holiday binging in perspective. When appetizers are in the mix, keep the leftover toothpicks in your hand or on your plate so you have a better idea of how many you have eaten. Just because they’re small doesn’t mean the calories are smaller too! The bottom line: Be aware of how much you are putting in your mouth.

Don’t go hungry.

Hunger leads us to do crazy things: Binge on chocolate-covered gummy bears, down a 700-calorie soft pretzel as a snack or absentmindedly eat three cookies instead of one. Don’t let yourself become ravenous, ladies! When you go gift shopping, pack a healthy snack such as trail mix or a granola bar to stave off mid-day hunger. We all know the food court isn’t going to do your waistline any favors. Additionally don’t show up hungry either. If you’re going to a holiday fete, have a healthy snack before heading out the door to avoid gorging on the cookie platter upon your arrival.

Drink wisely.

The holidays bring out all the good stuff that’s not-so-good for your figure such as hot cocoa, whipped cream, specialty cocktails, Baileys Irish Cream coffee (yum) and open bars (dangerous). While wining and dining is fun, flex your self-control by either limiting yourself or making tradeoffs. If you’re going to have that delicious cup of hot chocolate, skip the peppermint bark–and voila, you have traded off. As for alcoholic libations, treat yourself to one specialty drink. Instead of refilling with a second, stick to low calorie drinks such as vodka-water with lime for the remainder of the night. In between drinks, have a glass of water. Drinking too much can lead to eating too much. Keep you inhibitions in check by pacing yourself. Finally, whether you’re sipping on the sweet side or treating yourself to a cocktail, it’s especially important to stay hydrated with water. People who drink more water, consume less food, which means less calories. Before you eat anything, have one tall glass of water. I promise, this is one of my favorite tricks.

Mind your PC.

No, I don’t mean Paper Crown (although you should check out the holiday collection). I’m talking about portion control. When you pile your plate at the buffet, remember where all that food is going. It’s essential for energy, but what about the overflow? That goes straight to your hips and thighs. Be vigilant to only eat when you are actually hungry. If you’re unsure, have a glass of water and see how you feel after. Ideally, you should aim to fill 40% of your plate with complex carbs such as vegetables or fruits. The other 40% should be a lean protein (that’s turkey–without the skin). And the remaining 20% of your plate may be dedicated to fats like dessert, butter or oils. (Remember to eat slowly and chew.) Seconds are very tempting this time of year. Before heading back for round two, drink a glass of water and wait a few minutes. More often than not, you will realize you’re already full. Instead of another helping, save room for dessert! If you’re especially concerned about gaining weight, use a smaller plate to keep holiday gloat at bay.

I hope you find these suggestions helpful! At the end of the day it is all about willpower. According to Psychology Today, “willpower is like a muscle.” Working it regularly can strengthen it. By flexing your willpower you will increase your ability to control yourself. But, like a muscle, willpower can also get fatigued! This is the perfect excuse to indulge from time to time. After all, it is the holiday season so enjoy yourself!

Do you have a helpful tactic for avoiding excess holiday pounds?

Share you best tips in the comments below. I’ll feature my favorite five suggestions in a follow up post.

XO Lauren

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Photo: Henrique Gendre for Vogue Brazil
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