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If I starve myself all day, can I pig out during Christmas dinner? Add to ...

The question

Can I starve myself all day and eat a big, gluttonous holiday meal? I am really trying to lose (or at least maintain) weight during the holidays, but I know I’m no match for Christmas dinner.

The answer

What sounds like a good idea – to skip meals during the day to save your calories for a big holiday meal – actually isn’t. I don’t recommend you do that. This tactic usually backfires, ensuring you arrive at your meal overly hungry. And that, of course, increases the likelihood you’ll eat more than you intended to.

Stick to your usual routine. You’ll stand a better chance of indulging moderately if you eat a healthy breakfast and lunch as you normally would.

Before the party, eat a protein-rich snack to dampen your appetite like a handful of nuts, yogurt and fruit, a skim milk latte, an energy bar, a bowl of vegetable soup, even half a sandwich.

If you really do want to keep tabs on your food intake, make a plan. Decide in advance how many hors d’oeuvres you’ll eat, how many drinks you’ll have, and how many shortbread cookies you’ll enjoy. Doing so will lower the odds you’ll overeat. Set your limit and then stick to it.

If you do happen to overeat and the scale reports a few extra pounds the next morning, don’t fret. One large meal won’t make you fat. Those extra pounds will be mostly from water.

The extra salt consumed in an oversized meal causes your body to retain fluid – a situation that returns to normal in a couple of days. It takes days of overindulging to gain body fat – something to keep in mind if you’re going to be relaxing at home with all those treats between Christmas and New Year’s.

Send dietitian Leslie Beck your questions at dietitian@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on the Globe website. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Leslie Beck.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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