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Maintaining a healthy weight through the holidays

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It happens every year. The holiday season rolls around and suddenly you can’t eat enough. Some people argue that holiday food is the best food of the year, but what can we do to make sure we don’t end up ruining a year’s worth of diet and exercise?

This week on “Take Care,” registered dietician Ashley Koff suggests strategies to eat healthy and not gain too much weight during the holiday time. Koff is a contributing editor to Prevention magazine, the author of two books and on the faculty of the Continuum Center for Health and Healing at the Beth Israel Medical Center in New York City.

“I usually tell people to think about your weight in the realm of five pounds. So whatever weight you are today… pick your five pound area where you want to be in,” Koff said.

Koff says a lot of people during the holidays forget to weigh themselves every day because they are just too busy. Koff encourages people to weigh themselves at least once a week and wear a particular pair of pants periodically throughout the holidays to make sure they continue to fit.

Holiday weight won’t stick with most people for the rest of the year, but some people may have to work a bit harder to get those pounds off, says Koff.

Extra weight gained during the holidays is more difficult to lose as you get older, says Koff. The dietician encourages people to take better care of your body as it ages because it will become more difficult to do certain things and your enthusiasm decreases as well.

“Some of my clients that have done the most aggressive dieting, and many in unhealthy ways, in their 20s and 30s actually end up paying for it with much bigger challenges in their 40s, 50s, 60s,” Koff said.

What you do and how you treat your body in your 20s and 30s will set you up for how healthy you are when you get older, she says.

The body gets used to certain behaviors and certain weights over time, so the more you try to change your weight, the less it will work each time, Koff explains. Especially if you use unhealthy ways, like diet pills, it becomes harder for the body to respond.

“You have to be really careful about how you do it in your 20s and 30s, so that you’re not on the flip side in a negative space in your later decade,” Koff said.

One of the problems with eating during the holidays, is that parties and other functions often are held at times that are not when you normally eat. If you’ve eaten properly throughout the day and in regular intervals, you need to continue to eat at those same intervals, says Koff. She recommends if you are going to a party in the evening and the last time you ate was at 1 p.m. you should eat before that 7 p.m. party.

If you do end up having to eat at the party, you should know the healthier option to eat. For example, Koff says a slice of pizza is better than a piece of cake.

Koff’s first rule during the holidays is to know that you have to draw a line in the sand. You cannot put things into your body that are harmful to the body or that the body finds so irritating that you’re going to be making it work much harder to figure out what it is.

“Today there are organic candy canes. Not that a candy cane is great for you but if you want to have a candy cane at least just have one that is sugar, that isn’t chock full of chemicals,” Koff said.

Koff suggests you think about what you had earlier as your actual meal and then think of your party eating as more of a dessert, then pick things carefully with that in mind.

You have to make sure your digestive health is optimized, Koff says. Make sure that you’re not functioning throughout the whole of the holidays with a sub-optimal digestive function.

Koff says, everything you do during the holidays like stress, alcohol, sugar and food all impact your digestive system and your immune health.

“Then everything that you’re putting into your body, the toxins and the other pieces, aren’t getting eliminated and then you end up in a much less healthy place in January and that’s when everyone feels they have to detox and cleanse,” Koff said.