The holiday season has once again come and gone. Full of family and friends, parties and celebrations, and way too much eating and drinking for most of us. Is it any wonder that so many New Year's resolutions have to do with pledges to lose weight and get in shape?
But you have to take a realistic view of the whole picture: we're not talking about just a few decadent evenings in the past six to eight weeks or so. If you only overindulged on a night or two, we wouldn't be talking about having to lose "holiday weight." It takes an extra 3,500 calories to gain a single pound of body fat. If you picked up an extra five or ten pounds over the holidays, we're talking about an extra 17,500-35,000 calories. Chances are, you didn't do that in one sitting. In fact, if you're like most people, you gained that weight by allowing a number of bad eating habits to creep in…and become firmly established.
And that's why it's so hard to get rid of that weight. We're now talking about fully ingrained eating habits. A simple New Year's resolution isn't going to cut the cake now (all puns intended)!
So what do you do if you're faced with saying, "Enough is enough?"
Well, let's start with where you want to end up. Then we'll talk about how to actually get there.
Start by looking at what you've been eating and see if you can make small changes to lower the calorie count. Don't add mayo to that sandwich and keep the cheese, bacon bits, and full-fat dressing off of your salad. By the way, you'll end up using less dressing if you fully toss your salad, rather than just pouring dressing on the top. And be sure and cut way back on high glycemic carbs such as potatoes and white rice.
Portion control is another area ripe with possibilities for most people. When eating out in a restaurant, split your dish in half as soon as it arrives. The portions in most restaurants are enormous, and this way you won't be tempted to eat beyond what you should. At home, use smaller plates. Letting your eyes see a full plate goes a long way to convincing your brain that you're eating a lot. As we've discussed previously, plate sizes have grown substantially over the years…as have the portions served on them. And weigh your portions on a food scale if you aren't sure what the correct size is -- plenty of websites such as WebMD.com list exactly how much you should be consuming in one sitting.
Another good tactic is to eat several small meals throughout the day instead of three large ones. This will keep you from getting too hungry and overindulging at a meal. Up your intake of fruit, vegetables, and low-fat protein to keep you steadily satisfied throughout the day. But don't skip meals to try to cut back on calories faster. You end up too hungry and, more often than not, will either make poor choices for your next snack or meal or overeat. And don't forget to eat whole grains, rather than high-glycemic, processed grains.
Being so busy during the holiday season also doesn't give most of us time to keep up with our normal exercise regimen -- assuming you didn't stop that during the previous holiday season, or the one before that. Get back on that pommel horse and reestablish a fully rounded exercise routine. But build slowly. Again, the temptation is there to burn off those extra pounds as fast as possible, but by overdoing the physical activity -- especially if you haven't been a regular at the gym lately -- you only risk soreness and injury. That will prevent you from exercising for days or maybe months.
Even though the holidays are now over, the opportunities to overeat still arise. Keep some tricks up your sleeve to prevent another indulgence. If you're going to dinner at a friend's house and expect the food to be plentiful and fattening, bring a "healthy" appetizer to share with your host. This way, you can fill up on the carrot, pepper, and celery sticks with hummus dip that you so politely shared.
Avoid the food well-meaning coworkers who leave snacks out around the office. Numerous studies have shown that when food is in view, people eat more. One such study at Cornell University found that people in a cafeteria indulged in more ice cream when the lid to the cooler it was in was open than when it was closed. (Are we really that susceptible to outside influences? So it would seem.)
Unfortunately, if all of this were so easy, we wouldn't have so many broken New Year's resolutions; nor would obesity be a national epidemic. The problem is that an ingrained habit is, in fact, a habit and not easily broken. My recommendation is to start the new year with a detox -- preferably a good liver detox, accompanied by a five-day juice fast. Not only can it help you lose any weight that you have gained, but it will quickly break the momentum of the bad habits you have acquired in the past few months, getting you back on that healthy track (hopefully) for good. That's why everybody at the Baseline of Health Foundation has been starting every New Year with just such a detox for over a decade now. Hey, after ten years, I think it may be a habit!!