This time of year it’s almost impossible to avoid parties with buffets of tasty food and drink. But all of that indulging can have a downside: holiday weight gain.

One experiment, published in 2016 in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that the 1,781 Americans asked to weigh themselves daily gained about 1.3 pounds during the Christmas-New Year holiday season—and that's on top of additional weight gained during Thanksgiving. (A 2016 study found that holiday weight gain can start as early as October.)

Considering the average adult adds on 2.2 pounds annually, that means more than 75 percent of that yearly weight gain occurs during the holidays.

What’s more, other research shows that extra weight put on now isn’t lost during the following year. 

But there are ways to avoid this trap. Try these simple strategies and you can still eat, drink, and be merry without piling on the pounds.


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1. Hydrate
While rushing around shopping and preparing for guests, it’s easy to forget to drink plenty of water. Your body easily confuses being hungry and being thirsty, so drinking water regularly will keep you from eating when what you really need is to drink.

2. Limit Alcohol Intake
Alcohol calories add up fast. A 12-ounce beer has 140 calories, and a 5-ounce glass of wine has 100. Plus, having too many drinks lowers your inhibitions, so when you imbibe you’re likely to eat more. So stick to just a drink or two, or be the designated driver and avoid alcohol altogether.

3. Eat Slowly
Some research shows that slow eaters tend to eat less food. Try this: Swallow each mouthful before taking the next bite, and chat with a table mate between forkfuls.

4. Beware the Buffet
A bountiful buffet can be a challenge for many. “Think of a buffet as a menu in physical form,” says Karen Collins, R.D., a nutrition adviser to the American Institute for Cancer Research in Washington, D.C. “You wouldn’t order one of everything.” Scan the choices before you pick up a plate. Or take smaller portions of a variety of dishes.

5. Be Selective, Not Rigid
Don’t declare all party food off-limits. It’s a strategy that’s bound to backfire. If you decide to deprive yourself of all treats, you may end up overindulging out of frustration and rebellion. Instead, be honest with yourself about which foods you’re really looking forward to, and enjoy those in moderate amounts. At the same time, cut back on unhealthy snacks and fillers you really can live without.

6. Don’t Starve Yourself Before Holiday Events
Fasting beforehand may seem like a smart way to “save up” for the calories you’ll consume, but showing up to a party ravenous is only likely to cause you to eat too much as soon as you walk in the door. Instead, take the edge off your hunger before you leave home by eating small, low-calorie meals. A snack on the way to the party, such as a slice of cheese or some yogurt, can help as well.

7. Stay Active
Exercise is probably the first thing to fall off your to-do list during the holidays. But it’s your best ally in the battle against holiday weight gain as well as holiday stress and depression. Don’t worry if you can’t maintain your regular workout routine because of travel or other commitments. Simply challenge yourself to add some physical activity to your day. After a big meal, keep the conversation going while taking a stroll. Or excuse yourself for a solo walk. Think of it as a perfect excuse to take a break from any annoying guests.