For the last year and a half, I've spent more time than I'd like to admit on forums for people trying to lose weight. This time of year, I can tell you what the main topics are:
Why? It's holiday time!
Let's start with a few facts:
Let's start with a few facts:
Two things I've learned from the forums:
Weight loss forums have a lot of really good advice and very supportive people, and more mis-information and opinions than you can shake a stick at. (They also have their share of trolls and meanies.) Two cliches I've really come to appreciate on holiday weight loss:
Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. Except cookies.
A lot of people love the phrase 'nothing tastes as good as skinny feels'. But it is just so not true. I love having lost weight. I wish I had done it ten years ago. I celebrate it every time I look in the mirror or take off my coat. But LOTS of things taste just as good: melted butter on toast, hot chocolate chip cookies, a really great steak, warm brie on a croissant . . .
Our brains respond to just thinking about food by sending pleasure signals. People who say they are not going to eat (fill in the blank - cookies, mashed potatoes, candies . . . ) tend to be hungrier, have a harder time sticking to their weight loss goals, and more likely to OVEReat once they break their rule. "In for a penny, in for a pound."
The eating triggers: Beautiful food and lots of emotions
Many people eat - and overeat - in response to emotions. They can evoke positive emotions that reduce anxiety and negative emotions. The holidays can produce both positive and negative emotions. Eating too much - especially eating fat and sugar - are common response.
Even worse, food can EVOKE emotional memories. Just as music or smells can bring back powerful emotions, so can the smell and taste of food. Some of the emotions are warm and wonderful - that's our image of the holidays. But for many people, holiday memories are far from ideal. Food can evoke negative emotions that we respond to by eating more food.
We also eat too much out of habit. See a cookie. Eat a cookie. Becoming more conscious of picking up that second (or third or fifth) cookie, can make all the difference between a treat and a binge.
Develop a plan
I love to eat. I love to cook. I love to plan. Coming up with a plan - or strategy - to enjoy holiday eating helps to keep holiday weight gain managable.
A study of college students showed that most of them gained weight over the Thanksgiving holiday - quite an achievement for a five day break. The problem, however, is not that people over-eat during that short period of time. Rather, people over-eat during the entire holiday period - an especially stressful time for college students, but a time of stress for many other adults as well.
Minimizing weight gain during this period, makes cumulative weight gain over the years much less of a problem. And a little planning can help.
Past posts on weight loss: