I received a great article the other day from the Wellness Council of West Virginia that talked about how we watch our weight go up and up over the holidays. Many people simply say: "I'm not going to worry about it over the holidays. I"ll start that diet on January 1 along with the rest of the country!"
The only problem with that attitude is how difficult it is to get those holiday pounds off.
So what are some of the pitfalls that seem to cause this yearly weight gain? Many women say they have to bake holiday cookies and end up eating more than they give away. Experts say- "Do you really have to bake all those goodies?"
A good suggestion is to switch your homemade gifts to something that you would not be so tempted to scarf down with a big glass of milk. I actually saw some great recipes recently in a magazine for gift baskets with jams, salsas or flavored olive oil. You could put together a lovely basket with several jams, crackers, etc., that anyone would love. And salsas-that would be fun to receive with a big bag of Tostitos. And olive oils-how much fun to get that with some great bread to dip. Personally, I would have no problem staying away from these items if they were in my house. I've never sat in my living room at 10 p.m. and said to myself "Boy, I am really craving that olive oil!"
You know-we may have something here!
That really makes me think about the things that we crave. We all know that eating high-fat, sugary foods like cakes, cookies and candy trigger more cravings for this kind of food. I know there is some scientific knowledge that explains why this happens. I remember reading about it in the nutrition books we used in grad school. I won't go into the science, but maybe you could make a list of the foods that are most likely to trigger your own food cravings and try to keep these out of the house this year. Even Dr. Phil talked about this tactic in his diet book that came out several years ago. He talked about the importance of keeping these temptations out of sight whenever possible.
So, I guess if you absolutely have to bake cookies instead of making some flavored olive oil, you could at least ask your family members to hide them from you!
Another pitfall is that with all the running around buying Christmas gifts, people end up grabbing fast food or eating out at restaurants instead of cooking at home. My suggestion to these folks is to do your shopping on the Internet. I understand that there were some great bargains on black Friday for those online shoppers, and the stores really don't care how they get their money as long as we keep shopping. Several companies will even ship for free.
A big problem I seem to have with this eating frenzy is the endless Christmas parties and luncheons. I had my first one today-it was great. Of course, I could not pass up the dessert-and my choices were caramel and chocolate cheese cake, decadent chocolate cake and fruit cobbler. Being the well-educated wellness person I am, of course I chose the fruit cobbler. But I am not fooling myself-there was not enough fruit between the two layers of yummy buttery crust and topping to even make one serving of fruit. But it tasted really, really good and I enjoyed every little morsel.
Looks to me like there are lots of pitfalls that lie ahead for us this Christmas season.
Whether your problem is the baked goods that you really must make, or the hectic shopping that leads to high fat high calorie meals on the run, or the Christmas parties, it's going to be really tough to lead a healthy lifestyle.
I guess my best suggestion would be to try to limit the damage or pounds as much as you can. Try to increase your physical activity whenever possible and when you do indulge in some Christmas goodies try to do so in moderation. But more importantly, may each of you have a very healthy and a very Merry Christmas season!
Mary Velez is the director of Employee Wellness and Volunteer Services at Ohio Valley Medical Center and East Ohio Regional Hospital. She obtained a master's degree from West Virginia University in community health education. She has a bachelor's degree from West Liberty State College in physical education and special education and taught school in West Virginia for nine years.