Ready or not, the holidays are here! Many of us are currently under an endless barrage of Christmas parties, holiday lunches and plates of cookies and candy. Most Americans gain about a pound of fat over the holidays. While a pound doesn’t sound like a lot, it can quickly add up to 10 pounds of holiday weight in the next 10 years.
While we are always giving nutritional advice at Exercise Inc, I wanted to take a couple of minutes to offer a few last-minute tips to help you survive the holidays while sticking to your weight loss or weight management plan.
Most of us allow external visual cues to determine how much we eat. The larger the portion, the more we eat; the bigger the container, the more we pour; the closer the bowl of M&Ms, the more we indulge. Much of our eating is determined by external cues instead of internal cues. When you eat, take time to cultivate other senses, which often provide more accurate information about when and how much to eat. Does this cookie smell as good as it looks (probably not, if it’s only attraction is colorful icing)? Does the third bite of this dessert taste nearly as good as the first? I know I could eat the rest of this, but am I still hungry?
Food researcher Brian Wansink recently asked a group of French people how they knew when to stop eating. “When I feel full,” they replied. When Americans were asked the same question, the response was, “When my plate is clean” or “When I run out.” The French take longer to eat, and they enjoy mealtime with friends and family—the way meals used to be in America.
Supposedly it takes about twenty minutes before the brain gets the signal the belly is full; unfortunately most of us take less than twenty minutes to finish a meal. Because of this, the feeling of being full exerts little if any influence on how much we eat. When you sit down for Christmas dinner, enjoy the event of the meal. Talk to people around the table, and take time to enjoy the food. Learn to let the fullness of your belly guide you more than the emptiness of your plate.
Brian Wansink offers dozens of helpful tips for paying attention to external food cues in his recent book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. Here are a few of the simple tips he offers:
1. Serve smaller portions on smaller plates.
2. Serve food and beverages from small containers.
3. Use glasses that are more vertical than horizontal (we tend to pour more into squat glasses).
4. Leave healthy foods like a bowl of fruit in view.
5. Keep unhealthy foods out of view.
6. Leave serving bowls in the kitchen rather than on the table to discourage second helpings.
7. Limit TV time during the holidays. People who watch 60 minutes of TV a day eat 28% more than those watching 30 minutes.
Hopefully these few simple tips outside of the norm will help you survive the holiday season without gaining that extra pound. Remember one of the best things you can do after a meal is go for a walk. What a great way to enjoy time with friends and family.
I hope all of you have a great holiday season!