Holiday survival guide: Stay healthy this season

Losing weight is much harder than keeping it off in the first place. Here are five tips to staying healthy this holiday season. (Thinkstock)

Josef Brandenburg, special to

WASHINGTON – Americans tend to gain between 1 to 10 pounds between Thanksgiving and New Year’s — and we’re not talking muscle. Unfortunately, most never lose this extra gift of holiday cheer, since losing weight is much harder than keeping it off in the first place. Here are my top five survival tips for maintaining your health during the holidays:

Home, safe home: If it’s in your house, it’s in your mouth. Don’t kid yourself by keeping leftover pie in the fridge. After all, you’re only human. Have a slice when it is first served, then give it away or throw it away. There’s no need for temptation.

Pick your battles: Chances are, the holiday calendar is filled with parties, gatherings and food-focused family time. But most people’s metabolisms will not allow for indulging at all of the season’s events. Pick the ones you really like and make a commitment to those. Skip the others, or attend just for the company — not the calories.

Don’t get sick: While this isn’t 100 percent in your control, you can do a lot to influence how often you get sick. Getting sick derails your fitness program and leaves you playing catch up at home and at work.

The basics for warding off illness work very well if they’re done consistently: Take vitamin D, get a minimum of six hours of sleep, eat fewer refined carbs (sugar and flour suppress your immune system for hours), and finally, laugh.

Pre-party pre-game: This is not your college idea of pre-gaming. It’s a healthier kind. Whether you plan to indulge at the holiday party or not, have a high-protein snack before you leave for a feast or party. The protein will curb your appetite and make it so much easier to make good choices.

Track the numbers: Once a week, check in with your “skinny jeans” to see if you are keeping things in check. Even if you get bad news (they’re getting tight), there’s power in that knowledge. The worst is waiting until New Year’s to discover that you can’t even button those jeans anymore.

Editor’s Note: Josef Brandenburg is a D.C.area fitness expert with 14 years of experience and co-author of the international best-selling book “Results Fitness.” In 2004, he started The Body You Want personal training program, which specializes in helping you get the body you want in the available time you have. You can also check out his blog, follow him on Twitter, or check out his fitness videos on YouTube. Follow @WTOP and @WTOPliving on Twitter.

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