It’s difficult to diet any time of year, but more so during the holiday season, with all the temptations surrounding you. A better idea is to try to maintain your weight and not gain more pounds that you’ll have to work off later.

Jodi K. Wendl, recreation coordinator at Masonic Village at Lafayette Hill, gave retirement living residents tips for healthy eating during a presentation Friday, “Maintain Don’t Gain: Tips for Healthy Eating During the Holidays.”

“The holidays are supposed to be a happy time filled with food and fun, but it can also be very stressful,” Jodi said. “There are healthy eating pitfalls that can trip us up and put on the pounds, but if you put in the forethought and have a plan, you can prevent holiday weight gain.”

Pitfall #1: Food is everywhere
During the holidays, food is here, there and everywhere. There are countless dinners, parties and gatherings. In addition to being tempted by all the treats, you’re not as likely to exercise.

The solution: Be choosy and only pick the festivities you really want to attend. It’s OK to say no. You’ll fare better because of it. It’s also a good idea to use that extra time to exercise, whether it’s visiting the wellness center or just walking around the building.

Pitfall #2: Overindulgence
It’s easy to overindulge on mashed potatoes, stuffing and pie. Back-to-back festivities can tempt you with a bunch of foods that are high in carbohydrates, fat and sugar. Sensory overload is a real thing. There are smells and tastes that trigger emotions and can make you eat more.

The solution: Have a plan. Don’t arrive starving. Fruits, nuts (unsalted) and granola bars are good treats to have beforehand. Mind your portions by using the “two tablespoon rule.” This way you don’t feel deprived, but you’re still in control of portion sizes. And don’t forget to EAT SLOWLY. It takes your body approximately 20 minutes to register you’re full.

Pitfall #3: I’ll drink to that
During the holidays, one drink can quickly turn into two or three. Drinking your calories is not good.

The solution: Everything in moderation. Be mindful, aware and, again, choose your occasion. Avoid cocktails since juices and mix-ins will up the calories. Opt for lower carb, lower calorie wine or beer. If you choose to indulge in more than one drink, throwback one large glass of cold water in between to help slow down the pace. Don’t drink on an empty stomach. Alcohol is known to increase appetite and diminish the control over what you eat.

Pitfall #4: Over-noshing
There’s always candy or cookies around during the holidays at Masonic Village, whether in the dining room or given out by staff.

The solution: Don’t be a grazer – consume treats with a purpose. Make conscious decisions. For instance, if you’re prone to snacking, remove temptation from your reach, i.e. no candy dish on the coffee table, etc.

Pitfall #5: Stress
Stress is one of the biggest triggers for overeating. Stress produces cortisol, a hormone that can actually increase your appetite.

The solution: Stress less. Now that you’re older, let someone else “carry the torch.” Plan ahead and stem the tide of stress. Try to get a jump on holiday preparations. Make a to-do list to keep organized. Put events in a calendar. Start shopping early. Take a break, so that you have “me time.” Get enough sleep. Sleep loss makes it hard to manage blood sugar. Aim for seven to eight hours a night to guard against mindless eating.

There’s much more to celebrate this holiday season than just good food and drink. Spend time with family and friends. Listen to holiday music. Watch your favorite holiday movie. Take in the sights and sounds. Come Jan. 1, your body will thank you!

Reference: Toby Amidor, “5 Holiday Pitfalls and How to Avoid them” (2017)