Plan Ahead to Avoid Holiday Weight Gain

Common lore is that the average American gains between five and ten pounds during the winter holidays. The good news is that this statistic is inaccurate – Americans usually gain only one pound in the latter months of the year*. The bad news is, they don’t shed it, and over time the extra pounds can add up.

Whether you have had weight loss surgery or are trying to lose weight in preparation for your bariatric procedure, a little advanced planning can go a long way to helping you avoid an expanding waistline during the holidays. Here are some tips to keep the number on the scale from creeping upward as you make the social rounds:

Portion Control – Popular Thanksgiving foods, like turkey, green beans and yams, are actually very nutritious. As long as you eat a normal amount, rather than heaping a double-portion on your plate, and avoid adding excess butter or fat, you’re unlikely to gain weight.

“I tell them, all good things in moderation,” Dr. David Provost says of the advice he gives patients at his Central Texas weight loss surgery practice. Dr. Provost also recommends choosing lower-fat white meat poultry over dark meat, avoiding the gravy, and taking only a tiny taste of stuffing.

Healthy Alternatives – You can save 200 calories by choosing pumpkin pie over pecan pie, and trim down even more by having only half a slice. If you make the pie yourself, substitute a no-calorie sweetener, like Splenda®, for sugar. (This is a must for gastric bypass patients who want to avoid dumping syndrome.) Skipping whipped cream or ice cream on top goes without saying. Even better, bypass the pie in favor of healthier alternatives, like a small fruit salad or chocolate-flavored protein smoothie.

If you’re a post-op patient just a few months out from surgery, holiday meals may seem awkward, notes Dr. Provost.

Mindful Eating – Turkeys aren’t the only ones saying “gobble gobble” at holiday meals. Often, people get so excited with the anticipation of a family feast that they practically wolf down the food once it hits the table. Setting down your fork between bites and chewing each bite 20 times can help you maintain a moderate pace. This gives your body time to process the meal and tell you when it’s full.

If you’re a post-op patient just a few months out from surgery, holiday meals may seem awkward, notes Dr. Provost. You can only eat a few bites, which helps you keep your weight in check but can also leave you feeling like you’re missing the action. Sharing stories around the dinner table or playing board games with loved ones after the meal can shift the primary focus from food to fellowship.

Increased Activity – Many Americans conk out on the couch right after a big holiday meal. Try talking a 15-minute walk around the neighborhood instead. Not only will you help improve your digestion and reinvigorate you after a long sitting at the table, but you’ll burn 100 calories in the process.

Finally, plugging into a weight loss surgery support group can help you prepare for holiday festivities and keep you on track throughout the winter party season. Patients of Dr. Provost’s Temple weight loss surgery practice are encouraged to attend the support group meetings at his office. If you do not have a support group in your area, online forums, like Obesity Help and, are also great tools.

*Source: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases

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