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Published on November 19, 2012

Six Ways to Manage Holiday Weight Gain

Dr. Susan Isensee shares ways to indulge without packing on extra pounds

The CDC defined obesity as a disease in 2004. In Wisconsin, 24.5-percent of adults are obese and 62-percent are overweight. Our children have rates of 13-percent and 25-percent, respectively. This disease is very complex, causing multiple health problems due to hormonal (some from the stomach, intestine and even fat cells) effects on brain physiology. So, if this disease is so complex, what can be done to fight it and prevent weight gain as we approach the holiday season?

Go into the holidays with a plan.  Balance is the key. Take control and consider “mindful eating.”  Plan to exchange calories earlier in the week for your celebration calories.  Don’t feel like you must sample everything from a buffet or overdo hors d’oeurves.   Watch portion sizes during the main meal, eat slower and enjoy the tastes - you won’t eat as much.  Allow yourself small portions of those must-have sweets, but don’t hover at the dessert table.  And don’t leave the food out all day – avoid snacking continuously!

Start a new tradition this season and bring a healthy food dish.  Substitute sweet potatoes for regular mashed potatoes. Choose fish over dark meat or at least choose white meat, which contains fewer calories. Bring fruit or dessert made with sugar substitutes. Set an example with something lower in calories than your old traditions.

Minimize caloric beverages.  Alcohol is high in empty calories that can add up and cause other issues. Usually clearer liquids are lower in calories than creamy or dark colored fluids. Add tonic water or low calorie mixers to mixed drinks. Drink water between each alcoholic drink.  Remember fruit juices and fancy coffee drinks are often higher in calories.

Exercise is a must, especially through the holiday season. Take a walk with family and friends after your Thanksgiving feast.  Play a game of tag football or, in the winter, go sledding or skating – you are never too old to have fun!  Stay active!

Keep a food journal.  It gives you a chance to track how many calories are consumed and identifies areas to improve.  Also, record water intake (64 ounces per day is recommended) and emotions while you eat.  Emotions at the holidays can cause stress eating. Try to let the stress “roll off you” and not lead to weight gain. Take control of yourself and your thoughts to help regulate emotional eating. Let your positive thinking influence you positively. 

Finally, take it a day at a time. Practice discretion and plan for indulgence. Put these ideas into place and you can enjoy your holidays without weight gain. 

If you need help, please contact us at Dean’s Comprehensive Weight Management Program at 608-824-4457 or online. If you have insurance through Dean Health Plan, you can check your insurance plan coverage by clicking here.

For More Information

For more information or to arrange an interview with one of our Dean providers or staff, contact please contact Media Relations Specialist Lisa Adams at (608) 294-6052 or email


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