Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Holiday Eating Strategy

Many of my newer patients are worried about Christmas.

They're worried about the family gatherings, the meals out, the eggnog, the celebrations etc.

They worry because every time they've tried to "be careful" or "be good" during the holidays they've either eaten foods they feel they "shouldn't" or they've succeeded at being "good" at the expense of feeling bitter.

Well I've got news for you - life includes Christmas (and the myriad of other religious holidays and life events that involve celebrating with food).

If your eating plan or weight management strategy is such that you can't celebrate with food or one that makes you feel guilty if you do, it's probably time for you to do some thinking and ask yourself the question I often tell folks to ask themselves, "Could you live like this forever?".

The fact is who in their right mind would forever deny themselves the ability to comfort and celebrate with food - a function of food that is integral to our human existence.

What would I recommend?


Eat because it's Christmas, but not because you're hungry.

One of the most common mis-strategies employed by folks trying to watch their weight over a celebratory season is the, "I'll eat less all day long because I know I'll be eating more at night" approach. I think that's an awful strategy because inevitably what happens is they then arrive at their evening affair hungry.

Do we behave differently when we're hungry? Of course, and anyone who's ever gone to the Supermarket hungry can attest to the influence hunger has on their food buying decisions.

Do you think that sitting down to a meal hungry is any different? Nope, it's just that now instead of shopping from the aisles you're shopping from the menu, the table, your plate, the cupboards, the fridge or the freezer and rest assured you'll shop differently.

While you may well still eat more calories than a regular old day even if your hunger was prevented, without a doubt if you're hungry and faced with celebratory high calorie options the number of calories your hunger will lead you to over consume at dinner will greatly out weigh the number of calories you would have had if you had eaten regularly all day long and then sat down to a celebratory meal not hungry.

So this long winded post boils down to this. If you're not hungry at a celebratory meal or a restaurant meal you'll be able to pick foods thoughtfully and certainly having more indulgent foods for celebration is a very appropriate and human thing to do. On the other hand if you're hungry when you sit, well now you've got a great reason to eat (celebration) and you're combining it with a preventable reason to eat (hunger) and the synergy between those two eating motivations is going to have you eating far more than if you simply stuck with celebratory food.

Willpower is the absence of hunger.