Managing Holiday Eating

by Ellen Michal, RD, LDN, CDE—Lifestyle and Disease Management Center, Duke Raleigh Hospital

Holidays are a source of great joy. They can also be a stressful time for people trying to prevent weight gain.

Food is part of our culture and opportunities to celebrate begin with Halloween, peak in December and decline by April. This represents half a year of maintaining a vigil against over consumption. Setting up a strategy for each event can overwhelm even the most organized individual. Strategies are great but they can’t compare to a strong daily routine.

Building a daily routine has a number of benefits to keep the extra pounds away. If we practice anything, whether it’s a sport or musical instrument, we become more proficient. As we improve, that practice becomes more embedded in our behavior. When something disrupts the practice cycle we notice it and can respond with minimal effort. The same is true for food. Having a routine increases our awareness. When celebrations happen we are more likely to notice drifting away from a habit and can adjust quickly. How often have we delayed a change by saying, “I’ll start tomorrow,” knowing that we probably won’t. That does not feel good and does not help our self-efficacy. The reverse is also true. When something has been working well we are more likely to say, “I give myself permission to have a tiny piece of cake, but that’s all I need. The way I feel today is much more important than chocolate flavored flour, butter and sugar.” Success begets success.

Let’s start with our mindset. Our thoughts precede our actions. Start thinking about your routine. Being attentive to these concerns drives the thought that drives the action.

Happy holidays!

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