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Your Healthy Family: Avoid holiday weight gain with mindful eating

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Many people have probably heard that most of the weight that we gain as we age tends to accumulate right around the holiday season.

According to Susan Albers, PsyD, of Cleveland Clinic, the months surrounding the holidays are the easiest time for us to fall out of our normal eating habits.

"Research shows that three months around the holidays, we gain the most weight, starting with Thanksgiving, and then peaking at Christmas time, with the ten days following Christmas as the time for having the most weight gained," said Dr. Albers.  "Research shows that not only do folks tend to gain more weight during holiday months, but also that it can take up to five months to shed those unwanted pounds. And pounds that are not shed just accumulate from year-to-year, causing what experts refer to as weight creep."

Dr. Albers said there are several contributing factors. She said we tend to be more stressed during this time of year, which can cause a spike in the stress hormone, cortisol, making us more likely to overeat.

Also, being surrounded by treats at every turn doesn’t help. Dr. Albers said we tend to be routine in our eating habits and the holidays get us out of that routine. While snacking at parties or at the office might seem like small changes, they add up over time.

She recommends avoiding falling into the holiday weight gain trap by being more mindful of daily eating habits and sticking to them.  "If you’re someone who is trying to be more mindful during the holidays stick to your routine," said Dr. Albers.  "It’s really going to help you to maintain your weight during the holidays."

To keep holiday weight in check Dr. Albers recommends practicing what she calls the four M’s.

The first M being movement - taking some time to move for at least five minutes a day, whether it’s walking, sled riding; something that gets your body moving, said Dr. Albers. The second M is mindful eating - pausing when you eat, eating slowly, enjoying all those holiday foods, but in a mindful way. Also, minimizing keeping the stress down; keep it simple -less is more during the holidays. And then finally, mellow out. Take a few deep breaths, five minutes a day, to check in with yourself and do some stress management.

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