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Dr Susan Mendelsohn (Psychologist)


Thursday, November 20, 2008.


Once again, the holiday season has crept up on us and we all know what that means: a few extra nights out, an ever-present box of mince pies in the office, more goodies on the dinner plate and a good dose of added stress. And what does this all add up to? A few extra pounds. Food is rich and plentiful at this time of year, however, this does not mean that we have to eat it all.


Of course, reuniting with friends and family that you may not see on a regular basis can be quite emotionally challenging or draining for many, regardless of whether or not you struggle with your weight. However, for those of us who do struggle with our weight, holidays can place an extra burden on us while we attempt to enjoy the season without packing on a few extra pounds.


My first survival tip is to KNOW that it is normal to add a few pounds (temporarily) at this time of the year. You can either choose to allow yourself a few extra pounds, or you can choose to employ some survival tips to avoid the weight gain.


No matter what you choose, please read on.



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1. Plan ahead (of course, that's why you are reading this).


2. Learn about food substitutions. Eating healthily doesn't mean you have to miss out - just make smart replacements. Choose fruit as a starter instead of pate; use lower fat custard in the trifle; offer to bring a lower fat version of a dish that could be a diet disaster, such as stuffing or gravy.


3. No people pleasing. Eat only what you want, not as an obligation to others for cooking your favourite dish. You are the one who will have to live with your decision. Others may actually respect you more for standing up for yourself.


4. Practice assertiveness skills so you can refuse foods or activities without feeling guilty or hurting others' feelings.


5. Choose to eat healthily ahead of time.


6. No skipping meals prior to a dinner out or the holiday feast. Being overly hungry can result in loss of control and a binge at meal time.


7. Smaller portions. Allow yourself to taste what you want in smaller portions so you don't feel deprived. Healthy eating is not punishment so don't set yourself up for a binge by depriving yourself of your favourites. You'll only resent it.


8. Visualise yourself eating healthily prior to going to your Christmas party or dinner.


9. Be conscious of what you are doing and eating.


10. No picking before or after the meal. Eat only at the dinner table.


11. Chew slowly and enjoy your food. Put your fork down between each bite.


12. Exercise a little longer and a little harder during the holiday season. This will burn off the extra calories, keep your metaolism revved and help you beat stress.


13. No guilt. Make a conscious effort to choose what you are eating without the guilt attached.


14. Stop eating when you are physically full. Start learning now to recognise the difference between physical and emotional hunger.


15. Manage your emotions. Have a plan for what you will do in the event strong emotions arise when faced with certain situations or family members. Don't follow a row with a trip to the biscuit tin.


16. Reduce stress. Practice relaxation activities (deep breathing, meditation, yoga, neck rolling, etc) prior to going to the family dinner.


17. Take time out when you feel things are getting out of control for you emotionally.


18. Take control of your thoughts, feelings and actions before, during and after the holiday.


19. Know that putting on a couple of pounds will NOT cause you to go back to square one. It's okay!


20. Resume your lifestyle of balance and wellness just after the holiday has passed.


Working through these tips will help to reduce the stress, emotional turmoil and weight gain, helping you have a very merry Christmas!



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