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Editor's Special Interest Articles

Holiday Eating

Pat Barone

Pressure from social events and holiday gatherings can wreak havoc on your weight. Add the increasing stress most people feel in November and December and eating can become a key outlet for the sometimes overwhelming emotions that rollercoaster through your life as the year draws to a close. No wonder the average American gains five pounds every Christmas season!

Most how-to articles and diet books tell you to eat before you go to a social event or party. The most popular advice is to eat raw veggies or a salad before going out. As someone who has lost 70 pounds can say, this NEVER worked for me!

Stuffing myself with raw carrots didn't do a think to diminish the scent of hors d'oeuvres when I encountered food an hour later. And, confronting a room full of people who I didn't know or didn't know well, the safest place seemed to be the food table.

As we all know, the primary problem in overeating situations is that eating is not tied to hunger. If we all ate only when our bodies needed fuel, we'd be a svelte society.

Find what works
Do what is easy!

I learned to eat in a reasonable fashion at social events slowly - as all permanent change must happen.

Have a Plan

This holiday, have a plan. It doesn't matter what it is as long as it's easy and do-able. Don't try to change 15 things about your eating. That's a diet and a diet never works. Pick one simple thing to do and then, go do it. That is all you have to do to be successful. We build long-term success on the foundation of tiny steps forward.

Here are a few ideas. Make sure your "plan" doesn't make you feel deprived the minute you say it out loud! Be honest with yourself and pick something you know you can do.

1. No second helpings. This is simple and straightforward. Take one pass at the buffet line and that's it - you are done for the night.

2. Do not restrict your food but allow no negative self-talk. Pay strict attention to each bite and think positive, happy thoughts with every bite you take. (My clients report amazing changes when they try this and, when you can master it, you are well on your way to eating consciously.)

3. Have 1/2 the dessert you normally do or only one type. Or none! Dessert is where gargantuan amounts of calories can pile up quickly.

4. Stop eating several times and take a break to simply breathe deeply. A deep breath should fill your belly and exhaling should bring all your stomach muscles inward. Try this and see if it makes you more aware of how much food is actually in your stomach.

5. Don't drink alcohol. Notice any changes in your behavior or eating patterns if you sip club soda instead of alcohol.

ID Problem Areas

Do you have trouble saying "no" to certain foods? Do you eat more after drinking alcohol? Are appetizers or buffet lines agonizing for you but making choices at a sitdown meal easier? If parties are uncomfortable for you because you will be meeting and socializing with new people, try to shift your focus to the people rather than hiding behind or focusing on the available food.

I remember talking to a friend about this. He said whenever he sees a group of strangers at a party, he rubs his hands together and says "Oh, boy this is going to be fun!" And he runs headlong into the crowd to see who he can meet! It NEVER occurred to me to have this attitude. I grew up incredibly shy. After talking with him, I realized I always concentrated on what food was available. My entire focus for any social gathering was "I wonder what food they will serve?" It took me several years and lots of work to adopt his attitude but I did it because I decided it was a healthier, happier approach to social events.

Practice Saying "No"

If your family or friends are bad influences on your eating choices or simply well-meaning saboteurs, practice nice (and, if necessary, not-so-nice) ways of saying no. Get a few "nos" lined up in your brain for instant use when you need them. Visualize yourself using them to key saboteurs or boundary bashers who may mean well but who nevertheless push food at you.

1. "Maybe I'll have some later."
2. "Thank you but I'm much too full to eat another bite!"
3. "It was delicious but I have had enough. Thanks."
4. Or simply: "No, thank you."

The holidays can be a joyous reunion of family and friends or it can be a nightmare for the overeater. Above all, no matter what happens on the feast day, do not carry negative feelings from it into the next day or week or year. Negative thinking does more damage than any other factor when it comes to weight loss.

Promise yourself that, no matter how much you eat at a party or holiday event, you will not punish yourself with negative thinking afterwards. That will only lead to more overeating. Enjoy your day, but then leave it behind in the past, where it belongs.

Happy Holidays!

Pat Barone
Catalyst Coaching and Weight Management

- Updated: December 25, 2003
Beno Clinic Chiropractic Center, P.C., along with all information provided, is for educational purposes only and is not an attempt to replace the need to seek healthcare services or to provide specific healthcare advice. We strongly encourage users to consult with their chiropractor or other qualified healthcare professionals for personal healthcare attention and answers to personal questions.
Beno Clinic Chiropractic Center, P.C.
8983 M-119 (P.O. Box 479)
Petoskey, MI 49770
Dr. James J. Beno
Phone: 231-347-4445
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