When you want to lose or maintain your weight, December can feel like one food-focused festive event after another. In "Thin for Life" Anne Fletcher revealed a study that demonstrated why attentiveness during the holidays is so important for those seeking to maintain or lose weight, especially as we age. The study reported that the typical American gains a pound in the fall and winter.
"While a far cry from the five- to 10-pound gain commonly believed to accrue over the holidays, this small gain was not reversed during the spring or summer...Such insidious increments in weight explain why so many adults find their weight climbing as they grow older."
Diet books provide strategies to keep our waistlines smaller than Santa's. I pulled five books from the shelves to discover the tactics I'll be using throughout the holiday season. If you, like me, are determined not to gain that pound this year, let's take to heart the advice from "Thin for Life" and four other books about how to enjoy the twinkle and cheer of holiday parties without excess consumption of stuffing, champagne cocktails, and pie.
What Would My Thin Friend Eat? In "Thin for Life," Anne Fletcher interviewed 160 people who lost weight and kept it off. One maintainer, Joanna, displayed the power of positive self-talk during a party:
"I think of women I have known who control their weight and imagine what they would eat in this setting."
Getting to know you. Barbara Berkeley, author of "Refuse to Regain," learned a surprising trick for handling holiday parties from another successful maintainer:
"She diverts herself from food at parties by vowing to learn five things about each guest she meets. This has not only kept her weight off, but has provided the opportunity to have some fascinating conversations she would have otherwise missed."
Savor the Good Stuff. "The Biggest Loser Success Secrets" devoted a whole page to holiday tips from the cast of previous seasons of The Biggest Loser including this advice for special events from Pam Smith of Season 3:
"Don't go to the party or holiday meal famished. Being too hungry will set you up for gorging. Focus on those foods that you love, eat slowly, and give yourself permission to savor them. Another strategy is to bring some of your own healthy food to share."
No Idle Hands. "The SuperFoods Rx Diet" by Wendy Bazilian, Steven Pratt, and Kathy Matthews also included a long list of tips for parties. One bit of advice concerned alcohol. Decide beforehand how much alcohol, if any, that you will drink and then switch to water or tea. Another good party strategy is to carry sparkling water in one hand and something from the vegetable platter in the other. I imagine that following this strategy would make it awkward to shake hands, but it would also make it hard to grab something extra from the walking appetizer tray or the buffet table.
How Special Is It? My favorite strategy came from "The Beck Diet Solution: Train Your Brain to Think Like a Thin Person." Judith Beck advocated changing our whole mindset around parties and celebrations. She warned that a sense of entitlement to eat more during special occasions can sabotage an otherwise successful program for weight loss and maintenance. Special occasions, especially in December, are not particularly rare and going overboard at all of them could easily provide enough excess calories to account for that extra pound we're trying to avoid. When the party is over, it can be difficult to return to normal eating. I'm going to try repeating this mantra from Judith Beck to myself before parties this month:
"Being thinner is more important to me than the momentary pleasure of overeating on special occasions."
If you see me at a party this year, let's agree to not shake hands while keeping them full of low-calorie treats and to take time with our visit, learning five new things about each other. With those techniques, we might all weigh the same or less on January 1 as we did on December 1.