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Beat the Holiday Blues

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Seasonal Strain #3: An Expanding Waistline

The average American gains a pound each December. Over the years, those measly pounds add up. People who are already overweight or obese are especially at risk and may tack on as many as five pounds during the festive months. Those who've recently lost weight are also vulnerable.

The National Weight Loss Registry, which contains data on 4,000 people who've lost at least 77 pounds, reveals that successful long-term losers practice rigorous weight-control behaviors over the holidays. Their techniques can be useful to anyone wanting to avoid extra padding: Always eat breakfast. Stick to a regular exercise routine. Weigh yourself frequently to help catch any pounds creeping on. At holiday parties (and even at home) cut out or cut back on the cocktails—every drink not only gives you an extra 100 to 200 calories, it also lowers your inhibitions, making it far too easy to eat more than you planned.

Experts have additional suggestions: Eat a pre-party snack with a high water and fiber content such as fruits, vegetables, and beans. "This will ensure that you're not ravenous for the higher-calorie foods you'll encounter at the buffet table," says Judith S. Beck, Ph.D., clinical associate professor of psychology in psychiatry at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.

At parties, try not to linger by the food. Use a small plate (research shows that the bigger the dish, the more you eat). If second helpings are luring you or the dessert table is calling your name, retreat to the restroom and pull out a "stop-me-now" message that you've hidden in your purse. Write something you know will motivate you such as, "The momentary pleasure I'll get from a treat won't make up for the disappointment I'll feel when I can't button my favorite pants."

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