It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, when it's oh so easy to begin to look a lot like Santa Claus. Sweet temptations are everywhere.
Say no to holiday goodies? Not gonna happen, at least not for most of us. So how, exactly, can we expect to not balloon up as all this sweet stuff crosses our every path? By treating December like January when good intentions flow, and starting a weight control plan sooner rather than later.
Yes, even with co-workers bringing sugar bombs to the office, with carb-loaded holiday repasts and with seasonal stress that makes us want to reach for the Haagen-Dazs.
IN THE OFFICE
Take a hike: Or just take the stairs instead of the elevator. Get up from your desk more often, even if it's just to make inquiries with co-workers personally rather than electronically. And consider buying yourself an early present: a pedometer.
Be gracious - in person: When the office assistant swings by with a platter of confections, take the treats and smile. Then bring them home and dispose of them. No one will know if the cookies find their way into the kitchen trash rather than into your stomach.
Out of sight, out of mind: We're much more likely to gobble down tree-shaped sugar cookies if they're "eyeing" us from across the room. Bring opaque holiday cookie tins to work to store the calorie-dense treats you anticipate others will be bringing in. You'll spread some holiday cheer and also save yourself (and others) some unwanted calories.
ON THE PARTY CIRCUIT
Party smartly: Eat something beforehand so you don't arrive at a party hungry. And once you arrive, don't stand next to that crockpot filled with cocktail wienies. Move along, there's nothing to eat here. Do not deprive yourself of the seasonal foods you really like, but try to stick with the true treat and avoid the "bet you can't eat just one" stuff that's on party platters year-round.
Careful with the quaffing: Alcoholic beverages are uniformly calorie-laden, so be careful with consumption. Cutting back on soda is not the worst idea. The alternative: Water, water everywhere. Which also helps with:
Fill up, not out: Feeling bloated is as much a part of the holidays as "Jingle Bell Rock" (and just as annoying). Eat slowly and savor every bite. It takes 20 minutes for the stomach to signal to your brain that you are full.
"Trick out" that table setting: Smaller plates and bowls do make a difference. People will drink more out of short, fat glasses than out of tall, skinny glasses - even if the two differently shaped glasses hold the same amount of liquid.
Recycle (make the calories someone else's problem): If you have leftover cookies or other sweets, send them to your kids' school or take them to a homeless or senior center. Or throw them out rather than eat them just because they're there. And if you receive food gifts, well, that's what regifting is for.
A not-so-blue Christmas: It's natural to have periods of feeling down or out, and a common coping mechanism is eating. Getting out of the place where the blues set in and taking a long walk is doubly beneficial.
OUT AND ABOUT
More fruit, less fruitcake: Scaling back a little on the usual suspects is a lot more realistic than eliminating them altogether. If you really like holiday sweets and don't want to give them up, sacrifice elsewhere. Skip the butter with your movie popcorn, and don't finish the enormous portions many restaurants serve.
Go the extra mile: Stop circling the mall parking lot and just find a spot that entails a long walk. It's better for you and the ozone layer. And it's not a mortal sin to skip a gym session because you need to decorate or clean the house for entertaining (both of which involve exercise) or to shop (just take an extra lap around the mall).
Cravin' behavior: When cravings inevitably arrive, drinking water can be a temporary solution. But remember the brain and body rebel against deprivation. Occasionally give in to the craving. Have a gingerbread cookie or that slice of apple pie. But eat small portions.
SOURCE: Dan Graham, visiting assistant professor of psychology at Macalester College in Minneapolis
KEEP HOLIDAY EATING IN CHECK
The holidays are filled with yumminess: chocolate torte, luscious mashed potatoes, ladles of gravy, roast beef and Grandma's bourbon balls.
Here are some tips for keeping your eating on track during all the festivities:
- Plan ahead. Remember the "calorie bank" concept. Save calories the week before to give yourself more calories to eat during the holidays.
- Never go to a party hungry. Snack on fruit, nonfat yogurt or vegetables before you leave for the party. You will be less tempted to overindulge.
- Take control of your environment whenever possible. Grab a bottle or glass of water as soon as you arrive at a gathering and take a few minutes to survey your food choices.
- Bring a low-fat dish to the party. Share with other guests.
- Fill your plate with vegetables and lean protein foods - then add small tastes of high-fat dishes.
- Decide in advance how you will handle gifts of cookies and candy. Don't leave them out in the open so that you will be tempted to binge.
- Don't allow holiday activity to slow down your exercise program.
SOURCE: McClatchy-Tribune, dietitians at New York-Presbyterian Hospital