For many of us, Thanksgiving marks the beginning of the holiday binge. Just on Thanksgiving Day alone, the average person consumes around 4500 calories. This is often times followed up by almost a week of left-over cakes, pies and pounds of stuffing which easily takes us into December with its various Christmas parties and the never-ending supply of baked goods.

By Spring we easily have 5 – 10 pounds to lose. If you maintain that pattern for another 10 years, you’re looking at an easy 60 pounds of weight gain! This is how it unknowingly creeps up to us — pound by pound and year by year. But by making a few changes in your lifestyle during the holiday season this doesn’t have to happen to you.

With that in mind, here are 7 simple lifestyle changes that will keep the weight off this holiday season:

1. Find everyday opportunities to burn more calories.

When you go about your typical day, look for opportunities to walk more. Since it’s such a hassle to find parking anyway this season, park your car at the farthest end of the parking lot and briskly walk to the stores. If work is close enough, walk. If not, park your car a half mile away and hike it in. Take the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator. Walk to a co-worker’s cubicle rather than e-mail her. You’ll be surprised at how the ‘little things’ add up.

2. Don’t forget to drink.

Because people forget to drink water throughout the day, they often confuse hunger with the need to hydrate. The average person should be drinking about 1/2 to 1 gallon a day (this is a glass of water every hour or two). Drinking a large glass of water a half-hour before a large meal will not only curb your hunger but will help you burn fat more efficiently. Remember, don’t just wait until you’re thirsty. Thirst, after all, is the first stage of dehydration.

3. Brush your teeth after meals

Have you ever tried to eat or drink something right after brushing your teeth? Yuck! As soon as your done with your meal, get in the habit of heading to the bathroom to brush, floss, and mouthwash so that your pearly whites feel nice and clean. This is especially important after dinner. Having a clean mouth will make eating after a meal so much less appealing.

4. Forgo the appetizers if you know you want dessert.

If you deny yourself your favorite foods during the holidays you’ll feel deprived and be more tempted to binge. It’s all about learning the art of the trade off. Whether it’s at the buffet or your best friends party, getting in the habit of deciding which trade-offs you’re willing to make will keep the calories down.

5. Keep your distance

Are you a snack-table socialite? Break the habit of hanging around the buffet tables and snack bowls to reduce the mindless snatch and grab. It’s so easy not to even notice you’ve downed a thousand calories when there’s a never-ending supply of food within arms reach. Instead, look for other places to socialize.

6. Eat slowly – eat very S-L-O-W-L-Y

In the hustle and bustle of the modern lifestyle, too few of us ever take the opportunity to really taste and enjoy the flavors of the food we’re wolfing down. Try chewing your food at least 30-40 times per mouthful and try uttering at least one sentence in-between bites. Not only will this ‘unlock’ the true flavors of the food but it will allow the hungry-full response of your brain to kick in since it takes the brain about 20 minutes to let you know you are full.

7. Eat regular meals.

Planning to skip meals earlier in the day so that you can save up for the ‘big feast’ in the evening is a big mistake. Skipping meals will only slow down your metabolism and kick your body into deprivation mode leading to a loss of control and overeating. Instead, try eating six smaller meals spread evenly throughout the day and include a bit of protein at each meal to keep you feeling satisfied.

Remember, it only takes 3,500 extra calories to pack on a pound of body fat, so it’s no wonder that weight gain is the norm during this time of year. Enjoying the holidays and staying healthy need not be an either-or condition. Make some minor changes, be smart, and you can still enjoy the festivities.

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