FORT LEE, Va. (Dec. 12, 2012) --As we head into the holiday celebration season, many of us fear unwanted weight gain and a lapse in our otherwise healthy habits.

In reality, the average American gains only about a pound over the Holidays, but the downside is that this minor weight gain is often not lost and accumulates incrementally over the years. Also, December is the hardest time of year for people to maintain their regular exercise routine given the hectic pace of: holiday shopping, school, workplace and social events and religious activities.

For those actively working at weight management, whether losing to achieve -- or maintaining -- their goal weight, here are some tips to help navigate these potentially challenging situations.

• Don't think that "saving calories" by not eating breakfast and/or lunch is going to help you when you're at the buffet table later in the day. Chances are you will be so hungry that it will be harder for you to make wise choices and maintain portion control. In fact, it is important not only to maintain your regular meal pattern, but also to have a small healthy snack before going out so that you are better able to be moderate at the buffet.

• Make a conscious decision ahead of time that you are not going to overindulge, either with food or alcoholic beverages. Having too much of either can mean caloric excess. Anticipate what might be served and think about what you will choose if you see those things. Strategizing ahead of time can help us to make "mindful" rather than impulsive decisions.

• Do not linger near the bar or buffet table. It's easy to consume more than you would otherwise intend to -- but without realizing it -- if you're standing right there.
Rather, once you have gotten a drink or made your selections from the array of tempting treats, move to the other side of the room and enjoy the good company of friends or loved ones. Focus on visiting, enjoying holiday music and on other parts of the celebration rather than on the food being served.

• Before you get your plate, consider all of the choices available and decide which are special to you, then select only those items. Do not select the things that are not on your "favorites" list because they will only add to your intake (you are probably not going to pass up the choices that say "holiday" to you.)

• If you decide that you are going to enjoy more than one drink, be sure to pace yourself by having a non- alcoholic beverage after the first drink. Too much alcohol can make you more hungry than usual as well as lessen your ability to choose wisely. Diet beverages, club soda with a squeeze of citrus, or a glass of vegetable juice cocktail are good choices.

• Ask your host if you can bring something to the party, whether food or beverage. That way, you will be sure that there is at least one healthy option to enjoy. Other similarly minded guests will probably appreciate you as well.

• Be sure to plan for your exercise, even if how you do it has to change from your routine, during these busy days. You might not be able to do as much as you usually do, and you might have to break the time up into multiple periods rather than meeting your exercise goals in a single session. Remember that you will achieve the benefit of exercise if you spend at least 10 minutes at your target heart rate.

You will be sure to have a healthier, yet still very enjoyable, holiday season if you incorporate some of these tips into your festivities. Be safe, be happy, be healthy … here's to having a wonderful time!

Page last updated Wed December 12th, 2012 at 00:00