Give up your diet this holiday season

Every year you are faced with the same dilemma. You have a chronic disease and a diet to follow. You head into the holidays planning to “be good”, but you find that the pumpkin pie, Christmas cookies and Hanukah latkes are too tempting. So, you break your diet regularly. Each break is followed by, “I already cheated”, leading to, “I might as well keep eating”. Finally, you may find that you have a “who cares” attitude, because it is only once a year… except it lasts for months. Eventually, you are faced with the difficult task of picking up the pieces and getting back on track. Every year that task seems harder to do.
Believe it or not, you can celebrate holidays and control yourself. It is possible if you use your mind as a guide, not your taste buds. First of all, stop thinking about dieting. A diet implies that an eating plan has a limited engagement; you follow it for a period of time and when that ends, you go back to “eating regular”. Instead, look at the way you eat as a lifestyle; meaning 85-95 percent of the time, you make your best choices. It also allows for “wiggle room” – allowing for treats, which are simply part of your eating plan.
In this vein, take a new approach to the special events in your life. View each event as having four parts with actions you can take to live a healthy lifestyle. Some actions can be done in advance, the day of and afterward. Take positive steps at any part of an event, then you cannot help but be successful.
Step 1.) Several days before
– Offer to bring a food item
– Change a holiday recipe to meet your health needs
– Get the menu in advance and decide what to have when you are at home (and less tempted)
– Consider hosting, then you’ll know exactly what healthy foods are available
– Practice portion control so that you know a healthy serving size
Step 2.) The Day of
-No skipping meals beforehand (in order to save all your calories to “pig out” later)
– Eat something small 15 minutes before the event (e.g. yogurt)
– Drink plenty of water throughout the day
– Exercise before you go
– Talk to others about helping you during the event
Step 3.) While you are there
– Follow the One Plate Rule. At appetizer time, ask for a plate. Fill your plate one time – do not start eating until you have everything on the plate that you plan on eating. Keep the load to no more than a couple inches high. There are no seconds except for vegetables (as long as they are not batter dipped and fried)
– Once you have your foods, leave the table
– Have either the appetizer or dessert, but not both
– At mealtime, follow the One Plate Rule. Put all your dinner items on a plate, and do not start eating until everything you plan on eating is on the plate. Keep the plate load to no more than a couple inches high. There are no seconds except for vegetables (as long as they are not batter dipped and fried)
– Turn your plate so that the veggies are in front of you, and eat those first
– With gravy and toppings, follow the One Spoonful Rule (get it on the side and serve yourself)
– Control your portions, this is especially vital when you have no choice about the menu
– Slow-down eating – it takes 20 minutes for your stomach to let your brain know it is full
– Do non-food activities too (e.g. dancing, play games)
Most people go into Step 3 with the best of intentions. Unfortunately, many people will overeat. “I already blew my diet” runs through your head, followed by “well, I already blew it, so give me more.” This is unfortunate, because you feel as though you failed. It becomes a months-long problem. The end result? Repeated dieting to “get back on track”. This is known as “Yo-yo Dieting”. The extremes of recurrent weight loss/gain negatively impact your metabolic rate. Instead of being faced with this vicious cycle every holiday, go into Step 4, making holidays a part of a healthy lifestyle.
Step 4.) The Party is over
– Have a conversation with yourself. Acknowledge that you enjoyed the food, but don’t dwell on it (we cannot turn back time)
– Determine what you can do while moving forward (e.g.- when I am fully digested, I will take a walk)
– Think of the actions you took this past holiday that were positive
– Most of all relax and enjoy the holidays
Jennifer Giffune, R.D., L.D.N. is a freelance author, professional speaker and nutrition counselor. On the last Wednesday of each month, Jennifer can be heard on 89.5 WSKB radio on the “Wake up Wednesday Morning” Show. Jennifer will soon be available for counseling at Mercy Medical Group.

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