Holiday weight gain. You watch on your scales at home as the extra pounds start creeping up every year at this time. And every year I see it among the heart patients in my clinic, too. The holiday season brings with it myriad food choices and, all too commonly, prodigious amounts of eating.
What Doesn’t Work
I’ve seen many a failed strategy for avoiding holiday weight gain. “I’m giving up chocolate this season.” “I’m not going to bake Christmas cookies this year.” “I’m going to bake Christmas cookies, but give them all away.” “We’re not going to have anyone over for dinner this year, so we don’t overcook.”
In my opinion, each of these strategies is destined to fail. Why? Because it’s incredibly hard, even cruel, to give up your favorite treats. Because you can’t bake cookies and not eat them—that tactic has never, ever worked! And, let’s face it, you really should get together with friends each year and prepare an amazing feast—because that’s what the holidays are all about!
It’s All About Portion Control
The key to controlling holiday weight gain is to reduce the amounts that you eat. It is much easier to control your portion sizes than to completely give up your favorite foods! Think about it. How often do you eat 5 Christmas cookies and not 2? Three helpings of holiday stuffing instead of 1? A huge slice of apple pie (with ice cream) instead of a thin slice with a little whipped cream?
I see the same failures again and again. My patients tell me they are going to give up their favorite food—“I promise, Doc!”—and then become frustrated when they find themselves breaking their own rules.
A Helpful Mind Game
This holiday season, don’t give up your favorite foods. Simply try to eat half of everything you would like to gobble down. Play the following mind game: Ask yourself, Wouldn’t I be equally happy eating half of what’s on my plate?
Then try these strategies:
Cut the slice of pie smaller.
Try 2 or 3 different kinds of cookies, but only eat half of each.
Use smaller serving plates.
Give away extra food and leftovers to visiting friends, your neighbors and your office mates.
And, if all else fails, here’s a toughie: Don’t be afraid to throw away food.
If you’ve already had a “taste” of those chocolate truffles, your do not need any more. And, you will be no more satisfied if you eat a larger quantity. Someone said that sweets never fill you up; instead, they create a vacuum.
So this season, set yourself up for success. Eat what you love—but just half the portions you’d ordinarily serve up! Cutting portion sizes by even 25 percent reduces calorie intake by—you guessed it—25 percent! That’s plenty, both for feeling fulfilled and for losing weight.