How to Avoid Permanent Weight Gain During and After the Holidays

by Shelley Cannioto

I have been lucky enough to travel and live overseas for a number of years. I loved almost everything about it and was fascinated to compare attitudes, lifestyles, and habits of other cultures to what I had always experienced in America. I met my husband while I was living in England. He is Italian so I moved to Italy shortly before we were married. Italians have a knack for always looking beautiful and slim despite having a passionate love of food!

My first holiday season was one of wonder, to say the least. In Italy, Christmas is not actually the largest ‘feast’. They have seven (SEVEN!) food-centered holidays in total which begin on December 8, then you have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Santo Stefano (Dec. 26). You rest a few days before celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The last feast is on January 7. I felt like I was suffering a delicious but uncomfortable death! All the mamas and nonnas spent days preparing their most delicious dishes and fully expected you to enjoy every morsel. We spent several hours around the table talking, eating and laughing. It was amazing. But I started to wonder if any of my clothes would fit after all of these multiple course meals. Each meal typically consisted of a charcuterie plate, pasta, risotto, meat, vegetables, bread, fruit, nuts, desserts, and alcohol!

Sadly, I was not blessed with a fast metabolism and have to watch everything I eat. I was curious as to how these slim people could eat like this and not really gain weight. Italians not only pay very close attention to how much they eat but also to the quality of their food. They opt for fresh food almost 100% of the time, which is important to note.

However, I would say the trick to ward off weight gain is how they eat after the holidays. Six days a week you will find live cooking shows on TV, which usually last a few hours. This was not a surprise since Italians love to cook and love to eat! After the holidays on January 8th, I turned on the TV not really looking forward to watching two hours of cooking. I was tired of eating, I was tired of food, and I was well overfed. But there was nothing else to watch so on the TV went. That day a dietician was introduced to the audience. I would learn over the next few years that she is a regular on the program every January. She gave advice daily for one week. What she taught changed how I approached the holidays. She said that it is important to give your body and digestive system a break. The break is temporary, lasting only a few days and you can decide how long you need. During those days, focus on eating basic foods. For instance, eat simple things like toast or plain yogurt for breakfast, minestrone or other broth soup for lunch, fruit for dessert, herbal teas, and a lot of green vegetables. The meals should be light and easy to digest. Also, you are less likely to be tempted to overeat.

I love the simplicity of the approach and typically use this in my life. This attitude helped me to change my habits during and after the holidays. Rather than eating food I may not want, I focus on what I do want and try to choose things that were fresh. I do not beat myself up over what I did eat or how much I ate; instead, I chose to start afresh with lighter foods that I enjoy just for a little while. Celebrations are important! But so is balance. We may not be able to avoid gaining a little weight in the holidays, but I see no reason to let that weight stay with me and think there is a pain-free, healthy way to avoid it.

Shelley Cannioto Contact

Shelley Cannioto is originally from Memphis but suffers from a bad case of wanderlust. Soon after graduating from college, she had the job offer of a lifetime that took her to the United Kingdom for six years. While there she met her husband Stefano who convinced her to move to Italy. They have a four-year-old son, Matteo, who keeps her active and alert. Shelley has worked in Pharmaceutical Sciences at UTHSC in Memphis for three years.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

How to Avoid the “Holiday 5”

By Keith Carver

It’s the annual holiday gauntlet. You know…the calorie trap that begins with Thanksgiving and culminates New Year’s Day.

Countless office casseroles and baked goods appear in break rooms all across Tennessee. Evening functions and holiday dinner parties fill our calendars. And if we aren’t careful, we can easily pack on unwanted pounds.

Listed below are a few suggestions to keep us on track during this dangerous eating season:

Holiday BakingTreat yourself. Tasty goodies are aplenty this wonderful time of year. Look at your calendar and create a battle plan for your days. Will you be attending the office holiday party? If so, eat a reasonable breakfast and lunch to prepare for your co-worker’s famed cheesecake. Knowing there’s a reward at the end of the day can help you from grazing in the hours leading up to the party.

Water with LemonDrink your water. Water keeps you hydrated and healthy during the winter months and also helps you feel full. Having trouble keeping up with how much water to drink? Try the 3/3 method: drink three glasses of water before lunch and three glasses after. Another tip is to drink a glass of water before attending a function. The sensation of being full will help you from overindulging.

LatteWatch for hidden calories in your favorite holiday drinks. Love eggnog and boiled custard? Remember that even a small glass of these holiday favorites can contain up to 350 calories. And those wonderful holiday beverages from retail drive-thrus? Some can pack a whopping 500 calories in even the smallest containers!

Tennis ShoesGet out and walk. It’s cold outside, but even a brisk 20-minute walk can make a big difference with your calorie count and metabolism. Take time to exercise every day during the holidays. Walk the dog. Park at the back of the parking lot. Take the stairs. Do whatever you can to increase your activity. Exercise not only helps with the battle of the bulge, it also helps you to…

Moon in SkyGet some sleep. Our schedules are packed with functions and shopping, but make time to rest. In addition to impacting your productivity and leading to mental fatigue, studies show a lack of sleep also can lead to mindless overeating during the holidays. You plan your days carefully during the holidays, but be sure to include your rest schedule, too.

I hope you find these tips helpful and encourage you to share your own below.

May you be surrounded by family and friends during this holiday season!

The Carver FamilyKeith Carver  Blog  Contact
UT System Administration

Keith is husband to an amazing woman and dad to three active children. He enjoys getting outdoors with his wife, Hollianne, fishing, watching his children play sports all over East Tennessee and reading biographies of historical figures. He currently serves as the executive assistant to UT President Joe DiPietro.

Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.