by Barbara Berkeley, MD
What's the most common (and least kept) New Year's resolution? You guessed it.
If you are hanging around this site, chances are you already know that weight loss is very, very difficult. Nevertheless, we persist in deceiving ourselves on this point. We think that we can always "knock off a few pounds" and that the damage we do over the holidays can be reversed another time. The body has other plans. Once we have gained weight it is very often permanent, and even if lost, continues to haunt us as an almost palpable presence that is just waiting to re-establish itself.
Here is the most important advice I can give you for the next five weeks: don't gain weight.
And here are the behaviors that make gaining less likely. Make a list. Check it twice. And start the New Year feeling nice.
1. Weigh yourself every day from now until January 2. (This is a good idea all through the year, but most important now). Weigh in the morning and without clothes, before you have eaten. Keep a chart with all weights recorded.
2. Formulate a plan for reversal of gains. Start reversing as soon as weight creeps up more than 1 pound. Whatever works for you is fine, but my suggestion would be to use a meal replacement like Glucose Control Boost or Calorie Smart Boost for two meals the following day. Add a salad at lunch with low fat dressing (just a drizzle) and maybe have some fruit at around 3 pm. Have a dinner of chicken or turkey without the skin, or fish. Eat a large serving of green vegetables and another salad. Finish off with a low-cal treat like a Weight Watcher's ice cream bar or a Sugar Free Jello Pudding Cup.
3. Take holiday weight gain seriously, which means: have a strategy for prevention. Before going to any event or to any place where holiday treats will be available, imagine the potential pitfalls. What will you say when you are offered food? What will you do when it is nearby? Visualize the situation and create a response. Keeping at a distance from highly addictive and emotionally strong foods is important. The further away you are, the less they will bother you.
4. Make sure you know exactly what to avoid: Foods made from sugar and flour. Potent alcoholic drinks that make you forget your resolve (have a half glass wine/half club soda instead). Starchy foods like bread, pasta, crackers, chips and potatoes.
5. Declare your intentions. Don't be afraid to tell people that you are on a mission to be one of the few people in America who doesn't gain weight over the holidays. Or, talk about your diet...if you are on one. Declaring your intent to stay in control makes it harder to do things you don't want to do.
6. Wear form fitting clothes that look good. Clothing that hugs you invites compliments about your size and reminds you of the size you want to be.
7. Plan something else to do with your time (while everyone else is continuing the eating extravaganza). Maybe this is the year to compose a family tree or interview Aunt Cecile about her journey from Poland to America or take photos for an updated family album.
8. Bring your own food. If you're not sure there will be anything to eat where you're going...contribute your own.
Don't fall prey to strategies that seem too simple. Most articles about holiday weight gain revolve around moderation themes, for example...don't eat the pie if the the tenth bite doesn't taste as good as the first, or just eat the filling and not the crust. Yeah, right. Another big one is "walk it off". Remember, as we've discussed here before, that exercise generally is not a very good way to get weight loss. That has to come from the foods you choose to avoid. Drinking alot of water and staying hydrated will do nothing to prevent you from gaining weight over the holidays. I don't know why this one keeps showing up!
Be prepared with a plan. Work hard. Enjoy the challenge. Have a delicious time with the foods that are ok for you to eat. Enjoy how you look and feel and observe how everyone else feels when they are making those groaning noises!!
The holidays remind us of what we have, but more poignantly of what we've lost. Remember that your health, mobility and strength are not given to you without condition. Take care of each of them to celebrate many more truly joyous holidays as the years go by.