THURSDAY, Dec. 22 (HealthDay News) -- Lots of folks don't think about what they eat over the holiday season until January, when they stare sadly at the number on the scale and then trudge off to hit the gym, join Weight Watchers or pick up the latest fad diet book.
It doesn't have to be that way.
Health experts say you can still enjoy the holidays -- and the special food offerings that come with them -- without overeating and gaining weight.
"It's OK to indulge, but it doesn't mean you have to gain weight," said Karen Ansel, a New York-based registered dietitian and a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA). "It's not the time to try and lose weight. You are trying to keep the status quo. But there are different degrees of indulgence."
Jessica Crandall, a registered dietitian from Denver who's also an ADA spokeswoman, added that gaining weight during the holidays and then working hard to lose it again is not good for a person's body. So-called "yo-yo" dieting can wreck a person's metabolism and cause them to lose muscle mass.
"You're going to essentially slow down your metabolism, which will make it harder for you to lose weight in the long run," Crandall explained. "And keep in mind, it's a lot harder to burn 3,500 calories, which is the amount of calories in a pound, than it is to eat 3,500 calories."
For starters, people interested in maintaining their weight during the holidays should keep eating on a regular schedule, the two dietitians said. Research has shown that people who skip meals -- particularly breakfast -- end up eating more throughout the day.
"Try and stick to consistent meal times so you can avoid being overly hungry," Crandall said. "When you're overly hungry, you can make some bad decisions regarding what you eat. Don't starve yourself during the day waiting for that party at night -- because you'll binge eat or o
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