Special family meals, holiday buffets and free drinks can be open invitations for disaster for the more than 50 percent of Americans who are struggling with their weight and are dieting. Navigating the holidays can be stressful for everyone but may cause particular challenges to those who are trying to lose weight or maintain a weight loss, said Jeffrey Gersten, PsyD, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. “Close family situations, the ready availability of trigger foods, such as cookies, kugels and candies, unhappy memories of past holidays – all add stress to make keeping your waistline in check a challenge.”
Here are Dr. Gersten’s top five tips to keep you from going overboard this holiday season:
• The Holiday Roadmap – You need more than just directions to the party, you need a plan for the entire holiday. “You don’t plan to fail, you just fail to plan” is an old chestnut worth picking up this yuletide season. “Identify your trigger foods – those that you know you will be unable to eat in a moderate portion” and avoid them. Completely. “I know that one of my trigger foods is pizza,” said Dr. Gersten, who as a young man struggled with his weight. “I know that I cannot stop after just one slice, so I stay away from it altogether and remove myself from the challenge.” Provide yourself healthy options, such as bringing your own low-fat snacks to get-togethers. “Don’t starve yourself either,” Dr. Gersten said. “Your blood sugar level will drop, creating a hunger that is unstoppable, which will lead to overeating usually high-calorie foods.” Stick to eating three balanced meals.
• The Telltale Crumbs – So you polished off the entire carton of French onion dip and the bag of chips, or gobbled the plate of cookies you received as a gift. Take control of the situation immediately. “Don’t tell yourself that because you’ve overindulged, all bets are off and everything is now fair game,” Dr. Gersten said. “Every moment is a chance to begin again. Don’t wait for New Year’s to make resolutions. Make them now – keep them.”
• Give Yourself a Timeout – A walk in the neighborhood to enjoy the decorations, playing a favorite seasonal CD, or even just taking a deep breath are all ways to relax and shake off stress. “When you are calm, you are in control,” Dr. Gersten said. “Don’t let the hectic pace of the holidays run you roughshod.”
• Friends, Through Thick and Thin – Talk to a friend, or fellow party-goer, about your desire to eat healthy. “You can do it; they can help,” Dr. Gersten said. Enlist their aid in not encouraging you to “just try this” or guilt you into eating “my famous cake I slaved over for days.”
• Maintain Utter Consciousness – “I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips the other day and ate them,” Dr. Gersten said. “I then grabbed another handful and chowed down, and realized I was just mindlessly eating.” Think about what you eat. “Give yourself the five-minute rule. Stop eating for five minutes to see if you are really hungry or just bored.”