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Can I attend five Christmas dinners and not gain weight? Add to ...

THE QUESTION: I've got five Christmas dinners over the next three days - how can I possibly avoid the unwanted gift of five extra pounds?

THE ANSWER: First and foremost, don't arrive hungry. Have a mid-afternoon snack to take the edge off (e.g. fruit and yogurt, a non-fat latte, or fruit and 10 almonds). Next, watch your starch portions - choose one only of potato, stuffing or rice. Be choosy about desserts. Decide which you can skip without feeling like you missed out, and save those extra calories for a dessert you really love. Even if the bathroom scale does report a few extra pounds the morning after one of your dinners, they will be mostly from water. All that extra salt consumed in a larger than normal meal causes your body to retain fluid - a condition that returns to normal in a few days. Keep in mind it takes days of overindulging to gain body fat. And don't drive yourself crazy. It's the rest of the year that will make the real difference to your weight.

Leslie Beck is a Toronto-based dietician.

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