Sailing Through the Holly Daze without Sinking Your Weight Loss Ship by:Rita Losee, ScD, RN
Thanksgiving -- day one of the "Great All-American Eating Season." Too many of us "spoon off" on Thanksgiving and don't stop until New Years Day. A frenzy of cheese, chocolate and whipped cream immersion will leave too many of us greeting the New Year groaning, "I'm so fat! Tomorrow I'm going on a diet."
Can you avoid the annual New Years diet? Of course! With forethought and a workable plan you can partake of holiday treats and avoid the annual weight gain. To paraphrase Ben Franklin, "An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of dieting."
The biggest eating season mistake is to justify any and all food indulgences by saying, "I shouldn't, but it's the holidays!" That comment is a dead give-away to being in a Holly Daze. Whether consumed in July or December, approximately 3500 unused calories will add one pound of fat to your body.
The holiday season falls in the darkest part of the year when many of us are affected by some degree of seasonal affective disorder. The lack of sunlight triggers us to want to sleep more, eat more and move less. Physiologically, we are primed to want "sweets" at this time of year. From the earliest human history, we've held winter solstice celebrations featuring light and special foods. Those special foods meet both physiological and psychological needs to help us cope with the darkest, coldest part of the year.
Eating season 2006 is complicated by the sheer abundance of those special foods. Our grandmothers made treats "from scratch," perhaps including a trip to the woodpile to chop wood in order to heat the oven. All we have to do is stop by the supermarket, make a phone call, or go to the freezer to gain access to unlimited, rich, delicious food.
From Holly Daze to Healthy Weights
Save the indulgence calories for really special foods. If you're having dinner with a friend who makes the best cheesecake in the Universe, don't waste calories munching on potato chips and packaged dips.
Writing down everything you eat takes you out of the daze. If you don't want it bad enough to write it down, you don't really want it -- and will be sorry that you ate it. Increase your commitment by contracting to e-mail your daily logs to a trusted friend.
In the throes of Holly Daze we often frantically race against the clock, skip meals, and have no time for exercise. Skipping meals leads to extreme hunger and subsequent overeating, usually of foods that provide lots of calories and little nutrition, like that plate of cookies that someone brought in to work. Maintaining your exercise program burns off fat, increases metabolism and helps you feel in control. It is the very best antidote for stress. Exercisers seem to find it easier to say, "No," when someone asks if we want seconds on the pie.
Change the focus of the holiday gatherings from being food-centered to being activity-centered. Spend an afternoon hiking or cross-country skiing, organize an ice- skating party, check with your local Y to see if the pool can be rented for private parties, patronize restaurants that offer dinner and dancing, or take a walk through your town's historic district and delight in the decorations.
The Pillsbury Doughboy speaks an elemental truth when he says, "Nothin' says lovin' like something from the oven." Much of our holiday cooking and eating is a way of saying "I love you." The food we put in our mouths is a substitute for the words in our hearts. The more intimacy and connection that we create with loved ones, the less we need to fill up "love space" with cookies. The holidays are a time of indulgence, indulgence that is good for our souls and spirits. If you give up the sense of being indulged, you will feel deprived. One way to maintain your waistline throughout the season is to get creative about your indulgences. Try indulging in shrimp or lobster. Have a massage or facial. What about taking an afternoon just for yourself and getting your hair and nails done? Slip into your favorite place of worship and allow the peace and quiet to seep in to your soul. Build a fire in the fireplace and sip sparkling water while you listen to your favorite music. Ask a friend to swap backrubs with you. Get some great smelling lotion and massage your weary feet. Calorie free indulgences abound.
Getting through the holiday maze of cookies, appetizers, dinners, and desserts is not easy. It requires forethought, planning, strategizing, and determination. It requires staying focused on the goal of having a happy, fun-filled season while enjoying and relishing the holiday foods that we do choose to eat. If you do overeat, do not follow it with a large serving of guilt. Guilt is often the first step to a binge, starting with the thought, "Oh well, I've blown it now"
Each morning perhaps while you are in the shower, envision how wonderful it will feel to wake up New Years morning, look in the mirror and say, "Hey, friend, you look great." Overcoming the holly daze will create a new challenge. You will have to come up with a new New Year's resolution. The old one about getting back into shape and losing ten pounds will be totally unnecessary.
Ten Tips for No-Gain Holidays
1. Get in some exercise every day, even if it's only walking the stairs instead of taking the elevator or parking at the far end of the mall parking lot.
2. Eat small, frequent, healthy meals. Never go to a party in a state of semi-starvation.
3. Focus on what's beautiful about family and friends rather that what's beautiful about the food.
4. Indulge only in the foods that are really special; skip the ordinary ones.
5. Really savor and enjoy the treats you choose -- truly special food should be eaten slowly and deliberately. Decide to gain maximum enjoyment from the treats you choose.
6. Stay focused on your goal -- avoiding weight gain. Don't be "dazed" by the overloaded food environment.
7. Weigh or measure yourself regularly (or try on your tightest jeans). Don't delude yourself that you really haven't "eaten that much."
8. Don't berate yourself if you get caught by some errant chocolate. Forgive your slip and refocus on staying fit and healthy.
9. Sing a lot. It lifts the spirit. It's also hard to sing with your mouth full.
10. Extend the love and joy of the season to yourself; engage only in those activities that make you happy. Don't waste the joys of the season treating yourself poorly.
About the author
Rita H. Losee, ScD, RN is the world's first, foremost and only InspirACTional Speaker. A fat kid, she has maintained a slim, trim waistline for dozens of holiday seasons. She is the creator of http://www.winthefitnessgame.com a soon-to-be-released fat-breaking multimedia program. Her current website is http://www.byebyestruggle.com.