COPY-Holiday diet tips to stay slim

BILOXI (WLOX) -- Thanksgiving is just around the corner....a time to share with family and friends. It also marks the beginning of the "holiday eating season" that continues all the way through New Year's,  and even Mardi Gras in South Mississippi. Most people gain between two and ten pounds during the holiday season. That can be a problem for anyone, but it's a bigger problem in Mississippi, named the fattest state in the country year after year.

It's tough to lose or even maintain your weight during the holidays, with tempting treats at every turn. But Rosie Finley says she's not worried about it. Rosie gave up sweet and fatty foods a few months ago. "I miss the cake and the icing, the cookies and stuff. I don't eat that anymore".

At 73, this retired school teacher proves it's never too late to change your lifestyle. She decided to make some changes after she noticed some weight gain and higher cholesterol after retirement. "Right now I feel like I've changed a lot". Her approach to dieting is what you would expect from a school teacher. "Dieting is just math, if you're going to eat you have to exercise enough so you don't gain weight".

But she also knew she needed support. She turned to this class in Pass Christian, put on by Coastal Health Educators.  It's ten classes over twelve weeks, that's only five dollars.  Executive director of Gulf Coast Health Educators, and registered dietitian, Debbie Colby says "A large part of our population can't afford the education and that's what we do and that's our goal".

A big part of that goal in this class is to help people through the holidays. And while Colby usually encourages healthy weight loss goals, she doesn't want her class members to set themselves up for failure during the holidays.  "So if you can just hold you weight, maintain it over the holidays, that's making a goal in itself, and get back on track after the holidays".

Rosie is the star pupil in the class. She's lost 2 pounds a week since the class started 7 weeks ago. Colby says it's all "about creating awareness and teaching people the skills they need".

It's taught Rosie to always read the labels. She also wears a pedometer every day so she knows how many calories she burns by walking. Not only do people learn skills in the class, they share their tips with each other. Linda Carter from Gulfport eats all of her meals on a small bread and butter plate. "It helps me not to overeat, because I use that little plate and I don't go back for seconds". Barbara Anderson from Waveland makes sure she has healthful snacks readily available. "It's my baby carrots, pre-washed,  and if I just want to much on something it really helps out". Rosie's tip for holiday parties is to eat something healthful before you go. "So you don't go in there starving to death and you're not so likely to eat a lot rich food with extra sugar and all that".

Here are some more holiday tips.

Eat something light before you go to a party.

Maintain or increase Physical Activity throughout the holidays.

Reduce fat and sugar in holiday recipes.

Bring a healthful dish to parties.

Limit alcohol and drink plenty of water.

Wear snug clothes at parties and you'll be less likely to overeat.

Chew gum when you think you've had enough to eat.

And perhaps one of the best tips...remember to focus on the company of family and friends.

Colby says "Events are designed to be with people and celebrate the holidays season, it's about being together as a family, and sometimes we lose site of the meaning for the get together and all the focus is on the food".

Rosie says the class and her weight loss have inspired her to stay on track, through the holidays and beyond. "I have more energy now, it's not just the weight loss, it's the exercise and getting my muscles moving, I feel a lot bette".

While this class is about to end, Gulf Coast Health Educators has another one scheduled to begin January 13th, to help you get ready for the new year.  This class will also include exercise instruction, and will be 10 dollars for the entire course. Call 228-234-2046 to find out more about it.