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Doctor offers tips for avoiding weight gain at Christmas

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- They call it the most wonderful time of the year, but whoever said that about the holidays surely wasn't speaking for people watching their waistlines.

Between holiday parties and family dinners, there are plenty of opportunities to overindulge in food during Christmastime. Add to that the fact that the winter season often means fewer opportunities to burn off those extra calories and it's easy to pack on the extra pounds.

There are some good ways to combat that, though, said Dr. Travis Love of Imagine Medispa in Charleston. Among other things, Love's business offers patients customized weight-loss plans.

You may be tempted to skimp on breakfast or lunch on a day when you have a big holiday dinner planned. Don't do that, Love said. This would only make you eat more during the dinner meal.

The first two-thirds of the day are when people typically burn the most calories, he said. By limiting yourself during those two meals, you're pushing the calorie consumption to the time of day when they're more likely to be stored rather than burned. Plus you'll be eating more at dinner because you're still hungry from eating less at lunch, he said.

By the same token, you shouldn't skimp out on breakfast or lunch the day after having too much during a holiday dinner, Love said.

Instead, just cut back at dinner over the next few days, while having a normal breakfast and lunch, he said.

"Again if you're skipping out on breakfast, you're going to be hungrier later in the day and you have now tricked your body into thinking there's a food shortage," Love said. That makes you're body more likely to store calories, he said. "If you want to make up for [overindulging at dinner] then cut back moderately for the next couple days on your evening meals."

If you do want seconds on dinner, go for lean meats and vegetables and skip the carbohydrates and starches, he said. That will help you stay full longer and help you reduce the amount of calories you take in during the day.

At the end of a holiday meal, don't pack a take-home of leftovers, Love advises. Typically those to-go plates are filled with high calorie sweets and things you typically don't indulge in during the others parts of the year, he said.

"It's never the green beans you take home, it's the chocolate cake," Love said.

And while you're counting the calories you have taken in during the day, don't forget that those high-calorie drinks can add up. Between alcohols, mulled ciders, eggnog and other sweetened drinks, it's possible to drink too many calories before you even sit down for dinner, he said.

"If you're having beverages that are high in calories, that's less food you can eat in the day and maintain weight," Love said. "I would prefer to eat more and be full rather than have a sweetened beverage."

The biggest piece of advice he could offer, Love said, was that if you do overindulge, don't feel too guilty about it. We all do it and it's not the end of the world, he said.

"If you're guilty, you're not going to feel good about the changes you're trying to make or the changes you're trying to maintain," Love said. "And you're setting yourself up for failure."

Love said these tips are what he's used personally over the years.

"Those are things that I've used to maintain my weight the last 10 years," he said. "Not dieting is the only way I've been able to maintain weight." Reach Lori Kersey at lori.kersey@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1240.


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