To all of my patients who are taking a couple of weeks off from their dietary intentions: it’s okay, you are normal, and yes, there are a few things that you can do to make that January weigh-in less disappointing. When you are doing holiday feasting, guilt is a non-productive emotion, so please, please, let it go.
To be perfectly honest, I must admit that I relax some of my usual healthy eating habits during times of celebration, and extended celebrations like the Christmas to New Year’s week are no exception. And I do enjoy it – with no guilt whatsoever. For me, the winter pounds almost never exceed 5 additional from my usual weight. I do believe my well-nourished body and relatively active lifestyle helps keep weight gain to a minimum, but I want to share with you some tips that both experience and science show do work.
First of all, mindful eating is super important. In a pecan pie nutshell, this means really enjoying the food you eat, savoring each bite and letting go of any regrets that you actually ate a second piece of pie. The important thing is to EAT SLOWLY so the pleasure you get from each bite is maximized, and your body has time to recognize the calories you are eating. Many of my patients admit that eating fast is something they struggle with, often because they feel they need to move on to the other tasks on their proverbial plates (me too!). Taking an additional 10 minutes to finish a meal is probably not going to adversely impact your overall schedule, and an added bonus is that any tendency to bloating could be reduced by thoughtful chewing. Many patients have told me this simple change makes a huge digestive difference and helps them eat less because they become too full to take seconds.
Second, at gatherings outside of your home, survey the options before taking a helping from all. Start with mix of foods that will fill you up – especially PROTEIN foods like turkey, roast beef,or ham, along with green vegetables: esp. salads that are not doused in dressing or my personal favorite, Brussels sprouts; then take small helpings of your chosen favorites – such as sweet potatoes, stuffing, and creamy offerings – limiting these to 1/3 of your plate. If there are after-meal desserts you have your eye on, keep in mind that choosing one less of the carb-rich side dishes may be good strategy. Careful though if you have blood sugar issues – your portions may need to be 1/3 or less of what other might consider “normal.”
Third, soup is something that we all should eat more of, not only if you are trying to keep your weight under control If you have been following nutrition trends, it would have been hard to miss the hoopla about “bone broth” and its myriad of almost miraculous benefits. It has been shown to enhance skin, joint, and blood vessel integrity, and some studies show that the collagen protein it contains can help with weight loss! I too am a big fan, and never miss an opportunity to use a turkey carcass to make a post-holiday soup. But getting good bones to make broth can be a challenge at other times. To get the weight loss benefits of soup, it is best to start with a slow-simmered bone broth, add a lot of vegetables, and at least 1/4 cup of cubed meat or poultry per serving, and eat before the rest of a meal. I recently tried a boxed form of bone broth that I actually found pretty tasty – Swanson Organic Bone Broth (chicken flavor) that I purchased at the Fresh Market. It has a decent amount of collagen and the list of ingredients is pretty clean. Use it to make a “homemade” soup, tossing in leftover chicken/turkey and vegetables, or frozen veggies and cubed raw chicken if your fridge has been cleaned out. I like to keep boxed broth on hand in case anyone comes down with a case of sniffles. (My next post will be on what to do when you feel the beginning of a cold coming on.)
Finally, get yourself outside for a good brisk walk! Successful weight losers exercise daily for at least 30 minutes. The science behind exercise for weight loss is complex, but most of the benefits are realized in the first 30-45 minutes. Last night my hubby and I took a power walk at 6:00 p.m. and the crisp air, along with the beautiful holiday lights really lifted our spirits. By the end of the 2.5 mile walk, we were feeling quite warm despite the 40 degree temperatures. When we lived in New Jersey, we used to walk in snowy weather, often below 20 degrees, and I fondly recall the way it made us feel more alive. Just be sure to put on a warm hat, socks, shoes, and gloves before you go.
What to do if you do gain a few pounds, especially after working so hard to take them off? First, don’t panic. Second, get right back on track because the longer you keep on weight, the more the body recognizes it as your “normal” weight – making it a little harder to lose in the future. Developing a consistent habit of getting back on track and staying there will make those holiday excursions less anxiety-provoking because you have experience resuming your healthy eating plan.
See you in January!