Weight Q&A: Holiday Stress

News and Advice, Weight Loss
on November 16, 2010
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Spry editor Lisa Delaney is one of the rare souls who know what it’s like to be an “after.” This journalist and author of Secrets of a Former Fat Girl shed 70 pounds—and six dress sizes–and has kept it off for 20 years. She answers your questions here each week.

QUESTION: Bah, humbug. I hate this time of year. I am trying so hard to lose weight and get healthy, and the holidays make it tough to stay on my plan. If Halloween wasn’t bad enough, now we’ve got Thanksgiving, and all the parties and family get-togethers until New Year’s. I’m determined not to blow it this year. Help! –Donna

DEAR DONNA: Boy, do I know what you mean! My birthday always falls around Thanksgiving, so I have cake and ice cream to contend with, too. OK, so how do we deal with the temptation to overindulge and the time-squeeze that makes any sort of exercise (except, maybe, wrapping gifts?) nearly impossible? Here’s my take.

Make it your goal to just maintain. Be realistic: Readjust your goals so that you’re not actively aiming to lose weight this season. The holidays are a time for family celebrations, and you want to be able to enjoy yourself (within reason). Plus, if you try to completely deny yourself all the homemade treats you love, chances are you’ll crack and end up eating more than you would if you had a more reasonable goal.

Hold on to your fitness habit. It is important to stay active for all kinds of reasons—keeping a handle on holiday stress, for instance. So you can’t make it to your usual fitness class, or you don’t have time to do your whole 30-minute walking route. Remember: Something is better than nothing. Even if it’s a 10-minute stroll. Look for any opportunity to move.

Stick to your favorites. Every year since I was a kid, I’ve made the same six or seven holiday cookies. Of them, I have a couple favorites: my chocolate fudge and the cut-out butter cookies with icing and sprinkles. So each year, I allow myself to eat only those. Why waste my calories on something that’s less than what I want?

Limit yourself to just one. I allow myself just one treat per day during the holidays. I’m big on sweets, so I usually “spend” my quota on a cookie, slice of pie, etc. But this could also apply to savory dishes.

Survey the party scene. If you’re faced with a buffet table of appetizers and dishes, walk the line once without taking anything to see what’s available. Pick out a few things that look best to you (maybe even a specific number you determine ahead of time), and then go back through the line, helping yourself to a reasonable quantity.

Eat sensible meals. If I know I’m going out to dinner or to an evening function that involves food and drink, I make sure I have an uber-healthy and filling breakfast (oatmeal made with skim milk, for instance) and lunch (half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat with an apple and small yogurt). You could even have a small snack in the afternoon, another serving of fruit, perhaps, or a small quantity of nuts. That will give you a bit of nutritional insurance heading into a party situation, as well as ensure you’re not completely starving.

Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy holiday season!