Holiday ideas to ‘maintain, not gain’

181431584I’ve lost 30 pounds this year. During the holidays, I want to make sure I “maintain, not gain.” Any hints? 

First, congratulations on your weight loss. You should be proud.

You probably already know this, but it’s not easy to keep weight off once you do lose it. Experts continue to examine why that is. Some cite a lack of emphasis on maintenance in weight-loss programs; others believe biology plays a stronger role, blaming significant changes in metabolism during and after weight loss. Those changes often make battling weight regain a Herculean task.

Despite the challenges, there’s hope. Here are some ideas that could help you attain your no-weight-gain goal during the holidays:

  • Be aware that you’re going to encounter a lot of cues that will tempt you to indulge in special treats. Try to counter the temptation by keeping reminders of the positive results when you resist the urge. For example, post photos of your new, svelte self on your refrigerator, inside your pantry and even on your office desk, especially if your workplace tends to be generous with holiday goodies. Another idea: Buy some healthy-living magazines and place them in spots where you know they’ll catch your eye.
  • Know your trigger foods and the times of day when you run into trouble, and ask for help. If you know you have trouble resisting nacho chips at holiday parties, ask a friend to help you keep yourself under control. If you tend to have difficulty when you’re home alone in the evenings, ask someone to call or text you each night for the next few weeks with a gentle reminder to stay the course. Such support can go a long way.
  • Think about tactics you’ve used in the past and renew those efforts: Keep a stash of celery sticks in the refrigerator to fill up on before going to a party. Brush your teeth after every meal. Park at the farthest parking space to help you add steps to your day. Think about what works for you, and make the decision to do it.
  • Be vigilant about sticking with your regular healthy routine: eating a healthy breakfast, drinking plenty of water, getting a good night’s rest and engaging in some type of physical activity every day. Keep yourself accountable by keeping a daily record.
  • Give yourself permission to enjoy the foods of the holiday season, but in moderation. Go ahead and savor a few bites of your favorite treat, but realize you don’t need to eat the whole portion. And, look for ways to be kind to yourself that don’t involve food, such as going to a mind-body class like yoga or Pilates. The rewards are great — and you’ll begin the new year on the right track.

Keep watch on pregnancy pounds

160498927My daughter-in-law is pregnant but doesn’t seem to be gaining much weight. She is pleased, but I’m concerned. Should I be?

You don’t say how far along in her pregnancy your daughter-in-law is, but you should know that doctors generally recommend women gain only 1 to 4 pounds total during the first three months, and then 2 to 4 pounds per month until birth.

However, guidance varies depending on the circumstances. For example, teens who are pregnant are encouraged to gain more weight, as their own bodies are still developing. And a woman’s pre-pregnancy weight plays a major role: According to the Insitute of Medicine, women at a normal weight for their height should gain 25 to 35 pounds during pregnancy. Underweight women should gain more, 28 to 40 pounds. Overweight women should gain less, 15 to 25 pounds, and obese women should limit weight gain to 11 to 20 pounds.

Gaining a proper amount of weight during pregnancy — not too much and not too little — is good for both mother and baby. It will decrease the chance of premature birth and Caesarean section, and increases the chance of a healthy newborn. In addition, gaining too much weight during pregnancy often causes long-term weight problems, not only for mom but for the child as well.

That’s why “eating for two” is a horrible misnomer. Most women need only about 300 additional calories per day during pregnancy. For the most part, those calories should be nutrient-rich choices, from whole grains, lean protein and dairy, fruits, vegetables, and healthful fats. It’s especially important for pregnant women to get enough folic acid (400 micrograms a day), iron (27 milligrams a day) and calcium (1,000 milligrams a day) for a healthy pregnancy.

There are plenty of resources to help guide your daughter-in-law to eat right for both herself and her baby. A good place to start is the National Institutes of Health “MedlinePlus” website, Just type “Pregnancy and Nutrition” in the search engine and you’ll find reliable information from a myriad of resources, including the National Academy of Dietetics, the Mayo Clinic, the Nemours Foundation and the March of Dimes.

The most important concern is to make sure your daughter-in-law is getting proper prenatal care. As long as she’s seeing her doctor regularly, and they both are keeping an eye on her weight gain and other health issues, you can rest easy.

Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center. Send questions to Chow Line, c/o Martha Filipic, 2021 Coffey Road, Columbus, OH, 43210-1044, or


Tips to prevent holiday weight gain

I need some inspiration to help keep me from gaining weight during the holidays. Any ideas?

The temptations of the season often come not with glitter and sparkle, but with sugar, fat and calories.

Fortunately, weight gain isn’t inevitable. In fact, most studies suggest an average weight gain over the holidays of about 1 pound. This is good news, because most people assume it is five or 10 times that number.

Still, researchers warn that people tend to keep that extra pound instead of shedding it after the season is over. Those pounds can pile up over time, leading to significant weight gain.

Studies also indicate that people who are already overweight are more likely to gain five pounds or more during the holidays.

Perhaps the first thing to acknowledge is that this won’t be easy. Accepting that in advance will help you make a more serious effort. With that in mind, here are a few tips from the experts:

  • Unless you can already easily estimate and track calories of the special treats and meals you’re likely to face over the holidays, try a “mindful eating” approach instead. A recent Ohio State University study showed that this technique can help people with diabetes to significantly reduce their weight and blood sugar. To use this method, take a few minutes before eating to assess how hungry you are, and then make a conscious choice about how much you eat. When you’re full, you stop eating — no matter how tempting the food is.
  • Learn to say “no” politely: “It’s delicious, but if I eat one more bite, I’ll feel stuffed.” Don’t let yourself feel pressured into eating more than you want to.
  • Help yourself with portion control by using smaller plates, especially at a buffet. Fill it up with vegetables or lean protein, if possible, before you add other dishes. When eating out, ask for a take-home box to be delivered with your food, and put half of your meal in it before you take a bite.
  • Watch the alcohol. A recent study showed that American adults get an average of 5 percent of their calories from alcohol alone, amounting to about 100 calories a day. That could easily increase during the holidays. Set yourself a limit in advance, and follow any alcoholic beverage with a nice big glass of water.
  • Find ways to increase physical activity to account for extra calories. Stretch your 30-minute workout to 45 minutes. And, make it a point to always park far from the entry to work or the store, just to work those extra steps in.

For more ideas from around the web, see

Research evolving on nighttime snacks

Please help settle a disagreement: Are you more likely to gain weight from eating a snack at night than if you ate the same snack earlier in the day?

You may not realize it, but that is a loaded question.

For years, the standard nutrition response has been “no” — it’s the overall balance between calorie intake and energy outgo that matters, not what time of day you eat.

And that’s still the take of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association). If you go to its website,, and search for “night snack,” you’ll find lots of great guidance, including the notion that eating “late-evening calories are no more likely to promote weight gain than calories eaten at other times of the day.”

But recent studies are beginning to prompt some researchers to reconsider.

Most recently, in a study published in June in the journal Cell, researchers reported findings about two groups of mice fed a high-fat diet. The mice that were fed frequently throughout the day, disrupting their normal nighttime feeding cycle, were more likely to become obese and suffer from related conditions even though their calorie intake was the same as mice fed during normal feeding times. The mice given food only at the “right” feeding time (for mice, it’s natural to eat at night) had better usage of nutrients and expenditure of energy.

A study in the journal Obesity in late 2009 had similar findings: In that study, mice fed only during their natural feeding time weighed significantly less than mice fed at the wrong times. The mice fed at the wrong times also tended to be less active and to eat slightly more than the other group — a bad combination.

The researchers involved in these studies suggest that our eating patterns should adjust to circadian rhythms — that is, you should eat during the day and avoid snacks at night, especially if you want to maintain or lose weight.

Whether or not you accept the researchers’ conclusions, you still might want to consider whether nighttime snacks are the best choice for you. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics itself recommends pausing to think if you’re tempted to eat a nighttime snack: Are you eating because you’re hungry, or because you’re bored or anxious, or have just gotten into the habit of having that snack?

Besides, if you’re trying to lose weight, giving yourself a time-related cutoff for eating could help you trim the number of overall calories you consume on a day-to-day basis. It could be a good place to start.