How to avoid gaining weight during holidays

November 23, 2013

Q: The holiday season is right around the corner, and I’m fearful that I will again slide backward and gain the weight back I worked so hard to lose. Do you have any suggestions on how I can prevent this from happening and get safely through this difficult time of year?

A: There are few certainties in life, but weight gain over the holidays is something you can count on unless less you take the necessary precautions. So plan wisely, and you’ll survive this great time of year without packing on the pounds.

Enter a holiday fitness event

I have found that setting goals and participating in fitness events during the holiday season is a great way to stay on track and keep from losing perspective. Three great local examples of such events that you can be part of are the Turkey Trot, Running with the Reindeer and the New Year’s Day Hangover Classic. All three of these local races are evenly spread out during the most challenging parts of the holiday season and will provide opportunities to train and compete at a time when the only running you would normally be doing would be to the refrigerator to get another piece of pumpkin pie.

Turkey Trot 5/10K

This race is a great way to burn off the calories after Turkey Day and will be held Saturday, Nov. 23, at Handloff Park in Newark and will offer a course of rolling hills through residential neighborhoods. The 10K starts at 9 a.m. and the 5K at 10:15. For more information, go to

Running with the Reindeer 5K/1-mile fun walk

Stay in shape and spread some holiday cheer by participating in Running with the Reindeer, a race that will benefit local children with cancer. This event will be held Saturday, Dec. 7, at Tydings Memorial Park, Havre de Grace, Md. Holiday costumes are encouraged, and more information can be found at

New Year's Day Hangover Classic

The New Year’s Day Hangover Classic will be held Jan. 1, 2014, in Wilmington. More information will be announced soon, so stay posted by going to

Turn up the intensity

Just like a boxer training for a fight, you’ll need to work a little harder this month so the late nights and extra calories won’t knock you out of your routine. Try doing something a little more difficult to shake things up and stimulate your metabolism. If you normally run two to three miles per session, kick it up to four or five. If your average level on the elliptical machine is four, try moving it up to level six or seven and incorporate interval training. If you always run on the treadmill, try running outside for a change of pace. The added calorie burn will keep you on point and help stop weight gain.

Substitute healthy holiday recipes

Thanksgiving holiday fare is loaded with healthy food choices as long as you skip the goodies, so make your choices wisely and skip the foods that are known to wreak havoc on your metabolism.

Foods to include

Foods like turkey, sweet potatoes, chicken, venison, salads and assorted vegetables are staples of a healthy diet and are almost always found on the Thanksgiving table; you just have to put them on your plate.

Foods to avoid

Foods like stuffing, gravy, creamy casseroles, pies, dinner rolls, macaroni and cheese, cookies and assorted desserts should be avoided or at least limited to smaller portions.

Treat yourself with planned cheat days

Nobody’s perfect, and if you plan for a few cheat meals over the holiday season, you’ll stay fresh and hungry for more progress. We all need to recharge our batteries now and then, and if you deprive yourself for too long, you're likely to snap and binge. Why not strategically set aside one day a week to get it out of your system, and you’ll be ready to jump right back on the wagon. Remember, it’s important to understand that eating healthy is a lifestyle, not a crash diet, so allow yourself to have fun every once in a while and you’ll appreciate your favorite foods much more.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t deprive yourself from having fun. Work hard, use common sense and practice moderation, and chances are you’ll emerge from the holiday season in the same shape you entered it.

  • Chris Antonio is a personal trainer and former world-class weightlifter. He has been lifting for more than 20 years and has trained a wide variety of clients ranging from All-American athletes to the average person trying to get into shape. To send a question to the Ask the Trainer column, email Chris at or check out

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