5 tips for holiday weight sanity.

Enjoy real food in good company

Losing weight is probably not what’s on your mind as the holidays roll around.  More like Don’t Gain Too Much Weight!  Who isn’t relieved when January 1st arrives, ending the constant pressure to eat too much?

Here are some random bits of advice, some decades old, but still relevant:

  • “Do not eat too much”.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in her book It’s Up To Women, 1933
  • Want to lose weight? Shut your mouth.  CNN reports on one doctor’s unremarkable advice that actually works if you follow it: Eat less, cut out sugar.  And don’t tell anyone what you’re doing.  Just do it.  Dr. Jon Walz hits on a concept I’ve told clients all along.  Treating your efforts as a “diet” defines it as temporary and not part of normal life, rather than as a permanent healthy lifestyle change.  You end up giving yourself permission to stop following the weird diet and go back to your previous fat-promoting life, which is the wrong approach.
  • “The evils of overeating may not be felt at once, but sooner or later they are sure to appear perhaps in an excessive amount of fatty tissue, perhaps in general debility, perhaps in actual disease.”  W.O. Atwater, in the first USDA publication of dietary guidance, 1894.
  • Want to lose weight? Get a coach.  A study in the New England Journal of Medicine shows that when people have a support system – a weight loss coach – they lost more weight and kept it off.
  • Pick a healthy diet from US News’ recent list, ranked by health professionals and voted on by readers.  Weight Watchers got both a high ranking and mostly positive votes, possibly because Weight Watchers incorporates some of the coaching effect.  Note fad diets like Paleo and Atkins got poor rankings and a high proportion of negative votes.  Nevertheless, highest ranked diets for health got few positive votes, probably because dieters find them hard to maintain in the real world.  As with all diets, it’s great if they work in theory, on paper, but if they don’t work in real people’s lives, they’re useless.

Here’s something you don’t need to bother with: Sensa.  The maker of the supposed appetite-suppressing crystals you sprinkle on your food is being hit with a class action lawsuit, claiming false advertising.  Sensa ads claimed users averaged over 30 lbs weight loss in 6 months without changing diet or exercise.  Well that claim should have been a warning sign to any sensible person.  Anyway, the plaintiff did not lose 30 lbs in 6 months without changing diet or exercise.  Sorry, there is no magic appetite-suppressing weight loss miracle that makes you lose weight without changing your diet or exercise.

Here are some simple tips to help you get through the holidays with as little weight gain as possible:

  1. Use small plates.  The more food you dish out the more you’ll eat.  Also small plates for dessert and small glasses.
  2. Keep seltzer water, club soda or other non-calorie sparkling water around to substitute for higher calorie beverages.  The carbonation forces you to sip more slowly, plus they make you feel fuller.
  3. Eat real food in small portions – you’ll feel more satisfied and less inclined to keep picking at stuff, trying to find some real flavor.
  4. Be picky.  Do you really need to eat cheese and crackers before dinner?  The same tired old cheese and crackers?  White rolls?  Mashed potatoes?  Canned gravy?  Chips??  Unless something is really unusual and fabulous, don’t bother.  That leaves room for the traditional foods you love, or the new and unusual taste sensations.
  5. Share meals and social occasions with people you like.  Being stressed out by bad attitudes or uncomfortable situations can drive people to overeat out of sheer negative energy.  And by all means, avoid hanging out with people who turn conversations to their personal diet restrictions and food allergies.  And don’t be that person.
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