by Barbara Berkeley, MD
With Thanksgiving receding in the rear view mirror we now enter the most challenging time of the weight loss year: December. The obstacles for maintainers are obvious: temptation, memory, comfort, emotion, celebration and anxiety. Put them all together and you have the perfect recipe for 5 to 20 pounds.
While no one knows exactly how much Americans gain over the holidays, I do subscribe to the belief that whatever is put on is rarely lost. This appears to be true for most adult weight gain. Whether the weight comes on during pregnancy, at the menopause, or little by little each holiday season, it often creates a new body benchmark. Despite efforts to get rid of it, that weight will want to come back. Readers of this blog can testify to the fact that maintenance is a skill that needs to be practiced religiously and consistently. The one thing we DON'T want to do is add to the burden of weight that needs tending.
To this end, I'm going to try to post more frequently until the New Year. Let's all pull together and support each other through December.
I would welcome hearing from those of you who have figured out clever tricks (or just ways to grind it out!) for avoiding holiday weight gain. Here are some of the things I suggest to my patients and that I practice in my own life:
1. Become even more religious about daily weighing during December. If you are gaining weight, do not hesitate to institute your reversal regimen until weight gets down below Scream Weight. The holiday period (or any stressful or exciting time) encourages us to avoid the scale (as in: "I won't look today!"). Don't give in to this temptation.
2. Conceptualize the goal of maintaining your weight as a gift you are giving yourself this season. Whether you want to lose weight or avoid putting it back on, your goal is long-lasting health. This present to yourself is worth far more than any piece of pie or sugar cookie. Don't pull the gift away before you get it!
3. Declare your intention rather than camouflage it. If you tell people at that cookie exchange that you are determined not to gain this season, it will be harder to gorge on cookies that afternoon. It's ok to be proud that you've lost weight and to make it plain that you are working on making things permanent. Trying to blend in by pretending that you are doing what everyone else is will probably lead to disaster.
4. Stick with your normal, everyday plan. Don't make holiday exceptions unless they are extremely limited and really, really worth it. If you do eat off-plan, return to your everyday eating regimen the very next day and be very tough about sticking with it.
5. Enter holiday events with a "scan and plan". That means that you should anticipate situations and challenges before you go to the event and should plan a specific response to each one. See how many you get right and take stock of how many hurdles you successfully jumped after the event is over.
6. Take careful note of whether you enjoy holiday events just as much if you don't include the usual sweet eating and overconsumption. Coming to realize that there's still alot of fun and meaning without the usual junk foods is a key step in staying a permanently lower weight.
7. Wear your "revenge clothes". Dress for success takes on a whole new meaning over the holidays. Dress in form fitting clothes that make the most of the smaller you. This will make you proud, but will also make it more possible for you to achieve successful control over eating. Tighter clothes make you more aware of even small food deviations.
8. Dilute alcohol. Remember that alcohol has 7 calories per gram, almost as many calories per unit as fat. It also disinhibits you and makes you more likely to eat too much. Mix wine with seltzer or liquor with water so that you can consume less alcohol in a larger volume.
9. This tip, which I've mentioned before, is one of my favorites and comes from a successful maintainer. Set a goal of finding out at least one fascinating new thing about each person you talk to. This puts you in interview mode, involves the person with whom you are speaking, and presents a fascinating challenge. Nurse a diet soda or wine spritzer while you roam the room.
Please send me your tips. Keep weighing and watching. And enjoy the season AND your continued success!!!