Nancy Kalish

The holidays should be a joyous time. But for many of us they herald several weeks of too many obligations, too much stress and too much tempting food. So it's all too easy to overeat -- leading to that ubiquitous holiday weight gain. Even health coaches like me are not immune. Bring me to a party with platters of delicious, once-a-year holiday cookies and I can easily scarf down a half-dozen.

But everyone can prevent out-of-control eating while still enjoying a cookie or two. The key: Stop before you start. Just try these strategies that I share with my clients.

Stop-before-you-start Strategy No. 1: Buy instead of baking

I know … everyone loves your famous cheese straws or double-fudge brownies. But it's hard to resist nibbling on them before and after they're served. If possible, I suggest bringing store-bought treats to parties. Or if you must bring something homemade, why not make a beautiful fruit salad or a healthy, yummy side dish with lots of veggies? Don't laugh: You'd be surprised by how many people appreciate such contributions even more.

Stop-before-you-start Strategy No. 2: Fill up before you go

Many people think it's wise to save their calories for a holiday dinner or party, but this almost always backfires. The worst thing you can do is arrive ravenous. Instead, I advise eating a large, healthy snack 30 to 60 minutes before you arrive. (Go for half a peanut butter or turkey sandwich on whole-grain bread, a container of yogurt with a handful of nuts, or a bowl of bean soup.) If you're not starving, you'll be less tempted by treats and better able to enjoy them in moderation -- so you'll end up eating less overall.

Stop-before-you-start Strategy No. 3: Don't drink your calories

It's fine to enjoy a glass of wine or a cocktail. But calories from alcohol add up quickly. Plus as you feel less inhibited, you'll likely eat more as well. To prevent this, follow each drink with a glass or two of club soda or water. In fact, a study published in the journal Obesity found that drinking two glasses of water before each meal for three months helped dieters curtail hunger so well that they lost more than 40 percent more weight than those who didn't follow that regimen. If you want to have another alcoholic drink, make it a wine spritzer. And whatever you do, skip the eggnog -- just 1 cup will cost you 343 calories.


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