Maintaining Your Weight Over the Holidays

Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Maintaining weight over the holidays can be a challenge with all the festive holiday get-togethers laden with special treats filled with sugar, fat and extra calories. It starts with Halloween and carries on until the New Year. If you don't want to gain weight you'll need to make a plan.

Average Weight Gain Over the Holidays

Numbers regarding the average weight gain over the holidays fluctuate anywhere from 1-7 pounds. It doesn't matter how much it is when you've worked hard throughout the year to get to the right weight. Gaining weight is easy to do and once you open the door to weight gain it's easy to pack on the pounds again.

Maintaining Weight Over the Holidays

Maintaining your weight over the holidays isn't as hard as it sounds. Where losing weight requires you to eat less calories than you burn, maintaining weight over the holidays requires you to burn as many calories as you eat. The key is to learn how to enjoy those holiday treats without overdoing it. Here are a few tips to help:

Portion Control

One of the keys to maintaining your weight at anytime of year is portion control. The problem for many people is that they don't really know what the right size portion for them. You can't just go by serving sizes listed on packages, because the serving size is always the same whereas the individual eating the food is not. Someone who is six foot tall requires more calories to maintain their weight than a person who is 5' 6". An easy way to determine the right portion size for you is to use your hand as a measuring guide.

  • Meat, fish or poultry portion size - with your hand extended about the size of your palm for thicker cuts or your entire hand for thinner cuts. For adults this usually falls between 5-7 ounces and should be eaten once a day.
  • Fist portion - for softer starchy foods like pasta, rice, potatoes, etc. the fist provides the portion size. For most women, this is somewhere around a cup. It is not uncommon for restaurants to serve three and even four times this amount.
  • Tip of the thumb portion - The tip of the thumb is usually equal to about an ounce.

Filling Your Holiday Dinner Plate

Once you understand the size of a portion, it's easier to actually initiate portion control even during the holidays. You can still have your ham, turkey or other holiday roast along with side dishes. The rule of thumb to follow is:

  • 2/3 of the food on your plate should be vegetables, whole grains and fruits. These foods will help keep you satiated longer because blood sugar levels stay steady.
  • 1/3 of your plate should be your meat portion

Eat just one plate. That means don't plan to go back for seconds no matter how good it tastes. If you're eating out, ask for a doggy bag container when you order your food. This allows you to whittle your entrée down to sensible portions and gives you another meal to enjoy another day.

Holiday Desserts

While many people overeat on Thanksgiving or Christmas day, it's the holiday sweets that show up at the office and multitude of parties leading up to the holiday that can easily pack on a pound or two. There is nothing wrong with having an occasional holiday treat, but for many people, eating these desserts is like opening a floodgate and self control goes out the window. One way to combat this problem is to create healthier versions of some of your holiday favorites. For example, substitute fat free sour cream for real sour cream and cut out 474 calories for 16 ounces! However, even healthy versions of holiday treats add extra calories to your diet. Be careful not to overdo it. Set a limit before you take the first bite.


The holidays can be a pretty busy time. Even with all the festive business it's important to take time to exercise if you want to maintain you weight. Regular exercise is also a great way to relieve stress and actually give you more energy. The U.S. Surgeon General recommends a minimum of 30 minutes of exercise almost everyday.

One last word to help you maintain your weight during the holidays: get enough sleep. People who don't get adequate rest tend to crave sugary snacks.

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Maintaining Your Weight Over the Holidays