Sharon Denise Allison-Ottey
Ask Dr. Sharon

The Holiday Weight Gain, What Can I Do?

Posted by Administrator (admin) on Dec 11 2007
Ask Dr. Sharon >> Ask Dr. Sharon

Dear Dr. Sharon,

 I am a 56 year old Black woman.  I read your column in Gospel Today every month and it has helped me refocus on my health. I have been doing well with following my doctor’s instructions for my high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol for the last 5 months. I have begun to walk at least three times a week and feel good about my progress. Although I have a long way to go, I have lost 14 pounds since making the healthy life changes. My children are 17 and 15, they needed to make some health changes as well as they are both overweight, they have lost a few pounds with me. 

My concerns are for the upcoming months, how do I keep my healthy changes through the holidays? My family comes in from out of town and everyone comes to my house, we do Thanksgiving and Christmas BIG and I am usually the one that does most of the cooking and therefore a lot of eating/tasting. I know that I have done well but I am afraid of “falling off the wagon” during the holidays. Do you have any suggestions or help; I don’t want to go backwards. Monique Raleigh, North Carolina

 Dear Monique,

 We ALL have issues with overeating which is often worse during the holidays. The very fact that you recognize that the holidays are going to be a potential problem means that you can begin to attack it head on. It’s time to make a fundamental shift in how those holidays are viewed and the main focus.


Email me your address and I will send you a copy of my new book; “Is That Fried Chicken Wing Worth It?” so that you can continue to have that mindset change. Bottom line for all of us; are  those extra calories and extra weight worth the few minutes of pleasure in the mouth? That is the question that we must all ask ourselves!

Try these healthier recipe substitutions!


Instead of...


Whole milk

Skim or 1% milk

Evaporated milk

Evaporated skim milk

Light cream

Equal amounts 1% milk & evaporated skim milk

1 cup butter

1 cup margarine or 2/3 cup vegetable oil *


Margarine *


Nonfat or light mayonnaise or salad dressing

1 whole egg

1/4 cup egg substitute or 2 egg whites


Low fat cheese

Sour cream

Nonfat or low fat sour cream or yogurt

Fat to "grease" pan

Nonstick cooking spray

*Note: The texture of baked goods may be different when you use these substitutions. Experiment to find out what works best for you.






  1. Realize that this is a difficult time and that you are not perfect but every day that you strive to stay on track is a positive step. The holidays are a time of family and friends but more importantly our focus should be on God’s grace, mercy and ultimate sacrifice of His Son. Spend time reflecting on the real reason for the season and sharing with your family, this will help alleviate the pressure of the “perfect meal” as we refocus on our perfect God. 
  2. Keep up with the exercise and add a few extra minutes to combat any extra calories that you may take in. Additionally, try to work in some other family activities that will burn calories like raking the leaves, going skating, shoveling snow or whatever will get you moving. Simple things like taking the stairs, parking further away from the grocery store or mall entrance will burn calories that add up.  The exercise will also help combat the extra stress that most of us experience during the holidays.
  3. Drink a full glass of water prior to each meal and keep a glass near you while cooking. The water has no calories and can be filling so that you avoid some of the heavy snacking which really is a “mini” meal.
  4. Save your calories—if you know that the family is coming over for a traditional Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner and that Auntie Cleo is going to make your favorite sweet potato pie, and Big Mama is going to fry the chicken which you can’t resist; plan for it. Make sure that you exercise, drink plenty of water and go light at breakfast and lunch. 
  5. Begin new family traditions and recipes. Do you really need to use butter or will low fat margarine taste just as good on those rolls or in that turkey?  What about roast chicken wings vs. fried wings? Instead of all of the starchy foods, add a few more vegetables and a fabulous salad with lite dressing. Avoid the salty foods and find low salt spice alternatives. There are a ton of websites and cookbooks that focus on “lightening up” holiday foods and I would suggest that you try some of the recipes prior to the actual holiday meal. This will help you and your children to reshape the family recipes and move you to another place in your healthy lifestyle. 
  6. For office parties or church events, make sure that you load up on the vegetables and avoid the higher calorie foods. If it is potluck, bring the foods that you need to eat so that you assure that you don’t totally lose it. Avoid alcohol which provides empty calories that your waistline cannot afford. Another tip would be to eat a small salad before the holiday party, the worst thing that you can do is go to a party hungry.
  7. Since you are diabetic, it is important for you to monitor your blood sugar during the holidays and often we recommend that you increase the number of times that you test it each day. For diabetics, it is really important for you to stick as close to your proper diet regimen as possible. Unfortunately, if your blood sugar gets really high or low, you will immediately feel the consequences which will severely hamper your holidays.
  8. Enjoy the holidays, the family, friends and yes even the food but in moderation. Recognize that this is a time of fellowship but that food is not the focus nor is it the enemy—you don’t want to feel deprived so make good choices and start over each day. If you fall off the wagon, don’t let this be the opening of the floodgates and abandon your new healthy lifestyle—pick yourself up and start again. Avoid the blame game and beating yourself up; just begin again.

Last changed: Dec 11 2007 at 1:43 PM


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