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Top Ten Tips For Not Gaining Weight Over The Holidays

November 26th, 2009 by Alison · 3 Comments · entertainment, food & drink, health & well being, simplicity, spirituality & religion

Have I ever mentioned that I once worked as a weight-reduction counselor? Or that the summer I was 18 the Army rejected me because I weighed, embarrassingly, 158-1/2? I cringe at the memory, not because the military and I could ever have been a match made in heaven, but because my overeating was out of control. It made me feel ashamed, akin to my unhappy run-in with Haagen Dazs earlier this year. (I ‘m pleased to report no dust-ups with Dazs since then.)

The holidays are notorious for sending us into that crazy, out of control zone with our bodies. I say don’t be a victim of them, but rather, take responsibility for what you want. These tips on weight control and self-care are from both my personal and professional experience.

  1. Set specific, realistic goals. “I’ll get skinny between now and New Years” isn’t specific or realistic. “I’ll gain no weight this holiday season” would be more realistic. Some specific ways to achieve that could be, “I’ll limit desserts to one per day, and I’ll exercise for thirty minutes three times a week.”
  2. Ask a friend or coworker to support you on your eating and exercise goals. Choose the right friend or coworker, one with some practice at self-discipline, and who really wants your success. My friend Lonnie is very loving, but lenient in equal measure. “Oh, I would have eaten that whole tin of cookies, too,” I heard her say happily last Christmas to her friend in Overeaters Anonymous. Not the right friend for the job. You want the friend who will say, “Ah, next time why don’t you call me before you open the cookie tin, and we can go for a walk together.”
  3. Focus on physical activity rather than food for holiday entertainment. Go ice skating, take walking trips to sing Christmas carols or view Christmas light displays (hopefully LED lights), go folk dancing (famously kind to people of all coordination levels). Dancing to 80′s songs was a surprise hit at my recent birthday party.
  4. Consider doing no baking this holiday season. You can love and honor your mother, grandmother and all feminine forebears before them without continuing to make the  pecan and potato chip cookie recipe they handed down to you. (You know, the one that leads to eating the whole tin.) Make ‘real food’ like sweet potatoes, hearty soups, veggie frittatas. If your ancestral holiday recipes are short on the wholesome factor, fall back on my curried tuna salad, healthy and easy to make, if not especially traditional. If your challenge is not your baking but everyone else’s, ask their help in not giving you baked treats this year.
  5. Put your TV watching on a diet. Quite possibly your TV is the guiltiest party in your home, and is the one needing the discipline.  Every minute it holds us sedentary under its grip is a minute we’re not moving around, using our bodies, using our minds, relating to other people, checking things off our merry lists. Again, be specific and realistic with your plan (a 25% reduction is more realistic than cold turkey). Perhaps your sneaky television needs an attractive hood over its head to remind it of its new place in your life.
  6. Use ritual to slow your eating down and increase your satisfaction. Chew carefully, tasting everything, appreciating the details of texture, freshness, aroma. Cultivate a sense of  ritual around meals, using good table manners, for example, even when you are alone. Pleasing choices like good background music, plates, glasses and napkins in your favorite color, or a flower in a vase can all give us satisfaction beyond that of calories.
  7. At holiday gatherings, focus on ‘real food’  instead of sweets. While overeating can happen with many kinds of food, it’s usually sweets that set off the worst binges. If the gathering is all about sweets, eat real food before you head over, and then position yourself at the other end of the room. Thor and I are making wild salmon sandwiches for our open house on December 13th, and folks who want to bring something to share have been asked to bring food other than sweets.
  8. Consider putting your car on a diet. Using public transit leads us to walk more, for example, and cars often take us to the wrong places, like fast food drive-throughs and purveyors of Hagen Dazs. I tell you, the culpability of technology in our weight problems is underestimated. Take the real culprits to task.
  9. Hide treats and snack foods, if they’re to have a place in your home at all. I do this with verve and creativity, and my husband, prone to late-night snacking, appreciates it. I find that some hidey-holes are better than others. The other day he emptied my laundry basket into the washing machine. “Honey, have the Pepperidge Farm crackers gotten dirty again so quickly?” he asked me.

10.  Say grace before each meal. My husband and I hold hands and settle into a silent, extended moment of thanks whenever we sit down to a meal together, including in restaurants and when we have guests over for meals. This slows us down and interrupts the chattering monkey-mind that tells us more (of anything) is better. Often, less is better, and saying grace can help set us straight on that. The food landing in our mouths is an enormous blessing. In my view, it’s the gift of a Creator who loves us beyond measure. Consider asking that Creator to help you practice good stewardship of your body and the life-giving stuff we call food.

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3 Comments so far ↓

  • Crafty Green poet

    Excellent tips! I like your comment about the car taking us to the wrong place….. I don’t have a car but i have noticed that a lot of people who are new to having cars find that they take over like that….

    I found spending two years in Malawi really sorted out my attititude to food, I lost two and a half stone while I was over there and only put the half stone back on.

  • Colleen

    These are awesome tips — especially just keeping in mind to be grateful for all this food we have, and that we don’t need excess to have abundance in our lives. I like the previous commenter’s reference to Africa. I too lost weight while in Africa both times I was there, and ate fantastic food. It was neither too much or too little, and it was healthy (with no dessert!).

  • Alison

    Well said, Colleen: we don’t need excess in order to have abundance in our lives.

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