Enjoy Holiday Eating Without Regret

Cookies, chocolates, egg nog, creamy mashed potatoes – calorie-laden foods are a hallmark of the holidays for many.

But with some simple tips and tricks, the leader of the local TOPS Club Inc. chapter says it is possible to make it to Jan. 2 without gaining unwanted pounds.

Rose Kelly of West Liberty has been involved with TOPS, which stands for Take Off Pounds Sensibly, since 1983. She is the leader of the TOPS Chapter 241 in Wheeling and also serves as the state coordinator.

“The holidays are stressful because everybody wants to eat what’s good to them, not necessarily what they should be eating,” Kelly said. For someone who is striving to lose weight, it can be especially difficult.

The most important thing to remember, Kelly said, is to “indulge in what you want, but just a small quantity.”

She said setting limits ahead of time will help cut down on overindulging. But she added what is “small” to one person might be too much for another.

“Sometimes one bite satisfies a craving, and then you don’t want it anymore. … A bite might satisfy you, while a whole cookie might satisfy me,” she said.

In addition, she said, “if you’re going to lots of parties, don’t go … on an empty stomach.” Eat an apple or a light snack beforehand, and offer to bring a low-calorie dish to the party.

Alcohol should be consumed in moderation, she added, because drinking often leads to eating … usually too much or more than you planned.

“Knowing how to celebrate is the best gift you can give yourself,” said Judy Fetty of Wheeling, a TOPS member who spoke at the weekly chapter meeting Wednesday at Edgwood Lutheran Church.

Fetty, who received an award Wednesday for losing 100 pounds, also stressed planning ahead for parties, going so far as to map out what parties you will attend and what you plan to eat. Some hostesses are known to serve richer foods, she said, or perhaps a relative makes a dish you definitely want to have. On the days you know you will be indulging, eat lighter at breakfast and lunch.

While at the party, focus on the people more than the food, Fetty said. Don’t sit near the buffet table – which can lead to constant nibbling – and concentrate on socializing.

Another trick Fetty related to the 16 or so women gathered in the church hall is to use a small plate and leave a small portion of food on it so the hostess will not “push” you to eat more. Fetty then showed the women an appetizer plate on which she had glued cut-out pictures of food from magazines. The visual aid illustrated how the high-fat, high-sugar foods should take up only one-third of the plate, while the remaining two-thirds should be filled with vegetables and other lighter fare.

“If you participate in a cookie swap,” Fetty continued, “eat one or two and then give the rest away to your neighbors … or your dog.”

And when the family meal is over, suggest going for a walk or playing a game rather than sitting at the table where you might be tempted to continue eating.

Fetty said following her presentation that it took her three years to lose 100 pounds.

“And the reason I got my act together is I didn’t have a lap for my (grand)babies to sit on.”

In addition to holiday parties, shopping excursions can be a time where eating easily goes out of control, according to Dena McDowell, a registered dietitian and nutritional expert for TOPS’ headquarters, based in Milwaukee, Wisc.

After shopping all afternoon, you realize that you missed lunch and are now ravenously hungry. You figure that eating at the food court won’t hurt since you’ve been on your feet all day.

“What you didn’t realize,” McDowell said, “is that certain food choices can sabotage your exercise efforts. Don’t let hunger win. Instead, plan ahead and pack some healthy snacks in your purse such as almonds, a piece of fruit, or a high-fiber granola bar.” And, remember to bring along a bottle of water.

TOPS Club Inc. was established more than 62 years ago, as a nonprofit, weight-loss support and wellness education organization. Through chapter meetings and a monthly member magazine, TOPS promotes successful, affordable weight management with a philosophy that combines healthy eating, regular exercise, wellness information and support from others. TOPS has about 170,000 members in nearly 10,000 chapters throughout the United States and Canada.

Two chapters meet in Wheeling. In addition to the Chapter 241 meeting, which begins with weigh-in at 9 a.m. followed by a 10 a.m. and meeting, there is an Elm Grove chapter, No. 278, that meets Wednesdays at St. Mark Evangelical Lutheran Church, starting with a 4:30 p.m. weigh-in and a 5:30 meeting and program.

Kelly said the meetings are open to men and women, as well as children age 7 or over. Anyone can attend the first meeting for free. To join, there are modest annual membership dues, which includes a monthly magazine, and weekly dues, as low as 50 cents or a dollar, Kelly said.

For more information or to find the closest TOPS chapter to you, visit www.tops.org or call 800-932-8677. Kelly can be reached by calling 304-336-7391 or e-mailing rkelly560@aol.com.