It seems like just as soon as those holiday carols
start playing in elevators, our weight starts climbing
up and up.
You know it's coming. Everywhere you turn, there
are sweets and treats and indulgences: next to the
checkout register, in the breakroom and on desks at
work, and on every end table and countertop at
every home you visit.
When you're not having something waved under your
nose, you're rushing around with the shopping and
errands and preparations, probably not taking the
time you need to get a proper meal.
But then during the holiday season, big, abundant,
sit-down dinners are likely to make their way into the
schedule of even the most harried and hurried among
With all that to contend with, many people find the
temptations too much to bear, and simply give up on
healthy eating altogether during the holidays. But
don't surrender! If you recognize going in that these
challenges will be there, and arm yourself
accordingly, it needn't be the fight of your life just
getting through to January.
A defensive attitude
Perhaps the most important attitude adjustment is to
be sure that you're thinking of yourself not as a
person who is trying to lose weight or even someone
trying to avoid junk.
If you're trying to eat better and get healthy, then
think of yourself as a person who eats well and
makes healthy choices. Successful people do what
successful people do. When you walk in to work first
think in the morning and you're faced with a plate of
frosted candy-cane cookies, just recognize that
healthy-eating people such as yourself just don't eat
that sort of thing for breakfast. Smile, nod and keep
It also helps to be forearmed with a few defensive
thoughts to call up in case someone brings that plate
of cookies right over to you. Think of what
motivates you to be eating better and getting
healthy to begin with. We have our patients write
these out on index cards and keep their top
motivations with them for quick reference in moments
And if someone is particularly insistent about trying
to ply you with sweets or goodies, be ready with a
polite way to decline. You might want to try a few
out in advance, just so you're ready and skilled with
the 'no, thank you,' defense.
But don't say, 'I'm dieting.' That's only going to
invoke sympathy and good-natured encouragement
to live a little. Remember that you're trying to eat
better because you want to live a little longer.
When you're faced with that big sit-down meal at
Grandma's, plan in advance to NOT get so full that
you're uncomfortable. Sure, the food is delicious and
evokes all sorts of wonderful nostalgia, but you don't
need to overeat to enjoy the memories. Chew
slowly, savor each bite, really appreciate those
special dishes. It's a much better way to enjoy them
than doing the stuff-and-suffer.
And start by taking small servings to begin with.
Many of us were raised to 'clean our plates,' and we
feel obligated to finish whatever is served, whether
or not Mom is watching. But if you're full, stop.
That mountain of mashed potatoes isn't Mr. Everest,
and you don't have to eat it just 'because it's
And ask for small servings or serve yourself in small
portions to start with. If you're truly still hungry,
you can go back for more. That way, you won't be
jam packed with something that was just filler,
leaving room for seconds of the really delectable
Another trick to help slow the overeating at holiday
parties is to try for buffet serving rather than putting
all the food on the dining table.
We actually recommend this to patients year round,
so that when they're at home, they fill the plates
from the stove and bring them to the table. That's
because repeated studies have shown that if the
food is within arm's reach, we'll eat it. But if we've
got to go and get it, we are less likely to have more.
Even a more formal meal can include service from a
buffet away from the main table. And if you're a
guest, no matter how your host has arranged to
serve, after you've finished eating a plate, give it a
moment to settle in before going for more.
It takes about 30 minutes for the hormones that
signal satiety to get the message from the stomach
to the brain. Don't keep packing just because your
brain doesn't know your tummy is done.
That 'arm's-reach' defense is useful for snacks, as
well. Look for a seat further away from the bowl of
chips and don't stand next to the tray of hors
d'oeuvres when you're chatting at the office party.
And if you're somewhere that you might feel uneasy,
consider wearing something with pockets so you can
comfortably stand with your hands idle. Many people
munch at parties just to be doing something,
especially if they feel uneasy in conversation.
And finally, there are a few other simple defenses
you can employ that will serve you equally well at a
holiday party or if you hit the drive through in the
midst of your shopping:
Hold the sauce - You can knock 100 calories or
more off most sandwiches or salads - not to mention
that pile of potatoes- by skipping the special sauce,
dressing, or gravy.
Skip the soda - A wide array of sodas on the buffet
table may look hospitable, but regular soda will add
hundreds of calories to a meal. A nice glass of ice
water goes beautifully with any holiday meal;
unsweetened ice tea or diet sodas are a decent
Don't supersize - Stick to reasonable-sized portions.
Holidays are a great time for appreciating the
abundance in our lives, but we can do that without
upgrading to the supersize meal, either in the drive-
through or at Grandma's holiday buffet!
Through Thick & Thin
Remind yourself that you don't have to eat
everything you're served, that you can take small
servings and have more later, and that it's okay to
say no, even if more is offered. Holiday dining should
be a pleasure, not an annual experience in extreme