Telegram Staff Writer
Let's not kid ourselves. Thanksgiving is a weighty affair where the calories not only wait but beg to expand your waist line.
Think about it. The dinner won't be served until 3 p.m., but you're expected to arrive at noon.
That's three hours to graze on appetizers and sample your aunt's new brownie recipe. And then when you all gather at the table, it's time to eat some more. There's the turkey, the potatoes, the salads, casseroles and desserts.
And just when you've eaten that last bite of pie, it's time to do the dishes. Mom doesn't want to stand on the stool to get another piece of tupperware.
'There's just one bite of this left,' she says. 'Can somebody just go ahead and eat it, so I can wash the bowl?'
The calories keep coming, and before you know it, you're at home in a pair of sweatpants feeling groggy and bloated. But then morning comes, and it's time for breakfast - and in a month, it's Christmas, and you get to do the whole thing over again.
'Oh,' you say to the woe of all that food. But you don't have to dread it or fear it. The food is not in control, you are. Just because it's there doesn't mean you have to eat it.
There are ways to get beyond the holiday temptation to overeat. Calming the calorie craze The first step in controlling holiday food intake is to identify the triggers of overeating.
And according to experts, there is no bigger trigger than stress.
At the holidays, there are the added pressures of finding money to buy gifts, finding time to attend parties and finding the patience to face family members.
'You feel unsettled, so you eat for the comfort,' said Abby Aronowitz, a traveling weight management coach and motivational speaker.
There are also those parties where your will to say no to seconds is tested, repeatedly.
'Even if you can get through Thanksgiving, there's still the party after party that leads up to Christmas,' Ms. Aronowitz said. 'And people will act like it will hurt their feelings if you don't have a second piece of pie. So you cave and eat it. And that's the biggest mistake you can make.'
Her solution to that problem is to say, 'Oh I know. I'd love to have some more, but I absolutely can't right now. Can you send some home with me?'
Then you have the option of eating it the next day or feeding it to the dog.
'In all of the situations that make you want to eat, you need to remember to listen to your body,' Ms. Aronowitz said. 'Feeling awkward in a crowd is no reason to eat. There are other ways to remedy it. You can excuse yourself to the restroom, go for a quick walk or just listen to whatever music is playing. The key is to not let yourself feel vulnerable to pressure.'
Ms. Aronowitz offers these tips on eating wisely at holiday gatherings:
-- Politely insist on serving yourself. Take very small portions; eat slowly, and pay close attention to when your stomach starts feeling full. Enjoy seconds or thirds of what you love, but keep the portions small and don't feel guilty for not eating what's less than delicious.
-- For the hosts who constantly try to refill your plate, you should treat them with appreciation but kindly refuse the food. If they are insulted, it is their emotional issue, not yours.
-- Know your limits. Fats are fattening, so eat nuts one at a time, eliminate the pie crust and limit the egg nog to one glass per party.
-- Be active. Continue to exercise by adapting to the season. If its colder, dress in layers and wear a hat. You can't beat a nice 10-minute walk outside.
-- Compensate your diet on the days before the gathering. Minimize calories by having low calorie nutrition bars or a glass of a low calorie nutritional drink. Doing this before going to events can help you avoid being ravenous and give you control of your hunger.
Thoughts to avoid Most reasons for overeating during the holidays are purely psychological. Here are five thoughts patterns that can lead to too many calories.
-- 'I've got to eat this, because it makes me feel so good.'
People overeat during the holidays because it makes them feel good. Chocolate and sugary foods load the body with serotonin - the feel good hormone. Instead of eating sweets to feel good, try talking or joking with a friend, or try doing something physical like going to the zoo or park. Plus, give out lots of hugs; making other people smile will boost your body's level of 'feel good' hormones.
-- 'It's the only time this year I'll get to eat this food.'
There is never a shortage of holiday food, and there's no law that says you can't have dressing and rum balls on the Fourth of July. That's why asking for recipes is such a good weapon to combat overeating. If you eat just a bite of something and find that you like it, you don't have to feel pressured to eat as much as possible. Why? Because you have the recipe, the power to make it again.
-- 'Oh, this dish reminds me so much of home.'
Thoughts like these can lead to sentimental overeating. It's not the food that reminds you of home but the people with whom you enjoy the food. Instead of remembering your family by eating, try to recall some of the other activities that your family enjoys doing together such as taking hikes, ice skating or making Christmas ornaments.
-- 'I'll make it up at the gym.'
This does not work. Exchanging pecan pie for 30 minutes at the gym transforms the gym into something bad like a punishment. Instead, make exercise a regular part of your routine, but do so only with activities you enjoy.
-- 'It's no big deal; it's just once a year.'
You may only gain 1 pound this holiday season. But if you've been gaining an extra pound for last 10 or 20 years, it adds up.
-- Go easy on the alcohol. Drinking alcohol can impair your ability to feel your stomach's hunger number. Alcoholic beverages also increase your body's production of the stress hormone, cortisol, which causes abdominal weight gain.
-- Because of the nature of potlucks, the distribution of proteins and carbohydrates isn't balanced. To make sure that you get enough protein, make a protein dish your responsibility. Try bringing a sliced roast or ham, deviled eggs or a plate of cheese and fruit.
-- Focus on enjoying the people, the conversation and the ambience. Make the party and the people more important than the food.
-- Maintain your exercise program throughout the holidays.
-- If you can't be with family or friends, don't give in to despair. There are lots of ways to be active. You can volunteer at a soup kitchen, go worship or visit other people who lack companions.
-- Since the holidays occur during the dark time of the year in the northern hemisphere, when the sun rises late and sets early, some people get the blues from sunlight deprivation. Make sure that you get out in the sunshine if you can or use a light box as a source of mood-lifting, full-spectrum light.
This information was compiled from 'The Complete Idiot's Guide to Healthy Weight Loss' by Lucy Beale and Sandy G. Couvillon; articles at www.FamilyEducation.com; and health columns by Janice Baker, a diet consultant at the Mandometer Clinic for Eating Disorders in Rancho Bernardo, and Geneen Roth, author 'When Food Is Love.'
---If you think your eating is out of control, contact Overeaters Anonymous for help. It's not a diet club. The group focuses on healing and creating a better way of life, similar to AA and NA. The OA Heart of Texas chapter caters to the Temple-Belton area. The number is 512-327-2802, and the Web site is www.main.org/hotig/