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Holiday Eating

By Susan Kitchen

holiday cookiesThe holiday season is festive and fun, but it can also be a challenging time with numerous food temptations, which can lead to weight gain. As the new year rolls around, your resolution may be to lose the weight gained during the holiday season, eat healthy and get physically fit.

As we all know, it is not healthy to ride the roller coaster of gaining weight only to try to lose it. This puts our bodies in a bit of a yo-yo rhythm and makes it harder to keep weight off in the long run. Here are five tips to help avoid the weight gain this holiday season so you can start 2014 ahead of the game, with the resolution to continue eating healthy, getting more fit and having a great new year of training and racing.

Tip No. 1: Pay attention to what your body is telling you.
Studies show that emotional eating is the number one reason we overeat followed by external cues, then taste and finally hunger. Infants are very attuned to their hunger and fullness; once they are full they will not eat anymore. By the age of 5 years old, we have learned either by consumption norms, genetic predispositions or emotional eating to ignore our body’s cues of hunger and fullness. My suggestion this holiday season is to pay attention to what your body is telling you. If you are no longer hungry stop eating, and if you find yourself aimlessly snacking, ask yourself why you are eating. At holiday parties focus on the company and conversation and choose not to focus on the food.  To help with the temptations, don’t stand near the food.

*An interesting fact: Our hunger and portions tend to be more out of control when we are “dieting” or restricting calories. Why? Because this is the body's way of self-preservation. Just another reason why diets do not work in the long term.

Tip No. 2: Keep food out of sight to help keep it out of mind.
When food is visible, we tend to eat more than double what we would eat if the food were either not visible or more than 6 feet away (we have to get up to get more). One way to make chocolates or candies less tempting is by not putting them in dishes around your house or at work. In fact, move them to where you can’t see them or to your coworker’s desk. Out of sight, out of mind. If you are at a party and there is a food buffet, choose a smaller plate and fill up on fruits and veggies first.

Tip No. 3: If you choose to drink, eat healthy foods first.
Alcohol reduces inhibitions and therefore we tend to eat more when drinking. Plus, alcohol provides nutrient-void calories. If you choose to drink, eat healthy foods first so you are less likely to overeat and overdrink. Prioritize what is important and make good decisions. 

Tip No. 4: Treat yourself to your favorite holiday food.
We all have our special holiday foods that we look forward to all year long. There is nothing wrong with that.  If you can’t live without pumpkin pie, then by all means, have your piece of pumpkin pie but give up the chocolates, chips and dip and all the other indulgences in place of your special holiday treat. It will make your treat even more special and you won’t have the additional unneeded calories.

Tip No. 5: Sustain healthy practices throughout the holiday season.
Thanksgiving, Hanukkah and Christmas are just one day; however, the holiday season goes on for a good six weeks. Allow yourself indulgences on those special occasions and choose wisely the rest of the time. Remember, it is what we do 80 percent of the time that makes the difference, so we can allow some flexibility 20 percent of the time.

Susan Kitchen, MPH, RD, CSSD, is a USA Triathlon Certified Coach and owner of Race Smart, LLC, a nutrition and coaching practice. Personally, she competes in endurance sports from the marathon to full Ironman. To contact Susan, email or visit and on Facebook at Race Smart.     

To get a customized metabolic efficient nutrition plan, contact Susan Kitchen, MPH, RD, CSSD at