Special family meals, holiday buffets and free drinks can be open invitations for disaster for the more than 50 percent of Americans who are struggling with their weight and dieting. Navigating the holidays can be stressful, said Jeffrey Gersten, PsyD, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. "Close family situations, the ready availability of trigger foods, such as cookies, kugels and candies, unhappy memories of past holidays - all add stress to make keeping your waistline in check a challenge." Dr. Gersten counsels weight-concious patients at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, where dozens have successfully lost, and are keeping off, as much as 100 pounds or more.
Frosted cookies are an important part of enjoying the holidays for Suzy Krueckeberg, 49, who lives in a Chicago suburb. "I eat my favorite foods but change the portion size," said the graduate of a weight loss program at Gottlieb. "At a party, I will scope out the offerings and make my choices. I'll eat one-half of a frosted cookie and one-third of a dessert slice - enough so that I have a true taste of the foods I like."
Krueckeberg dropped more than 24 pounds in 12 weeks with Gottlieb's help and has lost more than 30 pounds total, despite the challenges of the holiday season. "I still go to out to dinners and to restaurants and I'll modify the meal so that I eat an open-face sandwich, or if I really want potato chips I'll eat half and throw the other half away. I am aware of the calories and also of what I really want to eat," she said. "I do eat more salads and vegetables, but if I want to eat something, I pay attention to those feelings and I eat it, but in a smaller quantity."
Here are Dr. Gersten's top five tips to keep you from going overboard:
The Roadmap - You need more than just directions to the party, you need a plan for the entire occasion. "You don't plan to fail, you just fail to plan" is an old chestnut worth picking up this season. "Identify your trigger foods - those that you know you will be unable to eat in a moderate portion" and avoid them. Completely. "I know that one of my trigger foods is pizza," said Dr. Gersten, who as a young man struggled with his weight. "I know that I cannot stop after just one slice, so I stay away from it altogether and remove myself from the challenge." Provide yourself healthy options, such as bringing your own low-fat snacks to get-togethers. "Don't starve yourself either," Dr. Gersten said. "Your blood sugar level will drop, creating a hunger that is unstoppable, which will lead to overeating usually high-calorie foods." Stick to eating three balanced meals.