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Holiday Strategies for Weight Loss

Thanksgiving is upon us! It's a time that should bring joy as we gather with family and friends, but it can be a challenge to navigate in a healthy way.  I'm going to be hosting a 1 hour webinar on Tue. Nov. 23 at 7pm CST (5pm PST, 6pm MTN, 8pm EST-see for anyone who is interested in learning how to lose weight and get in shape this holiday season. I'll also be kicking off a 28-Day Healthy Holidays Challenge on Mon. 11/29 and this webinar will get everyone ready to roll.  You can register at the link below and forward the link to anyone you think would be interested in participating.

Below are some strategies to help you have a Healthy and Happy Thanksgiving...

• Make a decision about which foods you can live WITHOUT and what you just really want to have at the Thanksgiving meal. Choose to forego things like bread and butter, i.e., foods not special to that meal.

• Make a decision about WHEN and WHAT you will eat before the meal begins.

• Assuming that you will go through a buffet line, be the last person in line to limit the comments from the spectators who are piling it on and noticing your smaller portion sizes.

• Take a small portion of only those "not-so-healthy' dishes that you have pre-decided that you will have. Tell every other tempting dish that it is not on your plan.

• Don't go back for seconds.

• Have a healthy snack before you go to bed (unless your Thanksgiving meal has been late in the evening) and tell yourself that you are back "on your plan."

As a reminder you might want to read/re-read some of my latest posts at to keep things in perspective and to collect some Healthy Holiday Strategies for Weight Loss and Tips for Surviving the Holiday Season. 

Healthy Tips to Survive the Holiday Season

You want to be able to survive these next 2 months’ social engagements (no matter what your celebrate) to help you keep moving towards your health goals. Remember, you have worked hard, whether it has been all year long, just a few months or maybe you just made the commitment to achieve optimal health, but the key is you've made the fundamental choice to live a healthier life.

This is a great time of the year, it is important to focus on the reason for gathering, and that is to spend time with loved ones, family and friends. Many social gatherings are centered around food. This can be frustrating, scary and extremely tempting when attending a party or celebration.

Here are a few tips you can use when you are attending parties and giving gifts:

  • Don’t go hungry-try eating a healthy snack prior to arriving at the party. This will help curb your appetite.
  • If you are invited to a party, which happens to be a potluck, this is a great opportunity to bring a healthy meal
  • When you arrive at the party-and you want to partake or try food, use the smallest plate with healthy choices.
  • Be mindful of your healthy choices, fresh vegetables, lean proteins and salad.
  • Limit or skip foods that are high in calories and low in nutritional value.

What happens when you are the host/hostess?  There are many tempting opportunities to “graze” when packing up leftovers.   Divide left overs into quick healthy meals. Allow someone else to pack up the left overs and you offer to wash the dishes.

Here's a couple other quick tips to help you thrive this holiday season:

  • Develop a Plan of Action for Surviving an Event: Identify your personal barriers and strategy, write it down.
  • Take time for yourself!!  This is a very busy time to the year for people, take time to exercise and keep your body moving. Just taking a walk can give you that alone time you need to get your body moving and regroup.
  • In advance ask your family and friends to forgo food gifts. Examples: wine, cheese, candies. Other suggestions would be donations in your name to charities, gift cards or opting out of gifts. You may say this year, let’s get together and start.

When going to the Mall:

  • Dress Comfortably 
  • Don’t go hungry
  • Stay Hydrated! Bring some bottled water
  • Bring along sugar-free chewing gum, cut up celery sticks or another healthy snack option.
  • Keep your mouth busy and chew away frustration without hindering your weight loss efforts.
  • Wear a pedometer and keep track of your steps
  • Exercise while waiting in line. Ex: Calf raises
  • Mall food courts can have healthy options, but the question is… WHAT food should you choose?Focus on grilled, broiled, baked or steamed protein and non-starchy vegetables. Avoid those that are piled high with high fat meats and cheeses or that have a lot of extras such as croutons, crispy noodles, and/or high calorie dressings.
  • Drink plenty of water as well as other zero-calorie beverages (such as diet soda, or unsweetened iced tea).
  • Just say “no thank you”.   Avoid the food court.

Remember, optimal health is a journey. If you slip up with an occasional treat, this will not ruin your chances of long term success. Keep a positive attitude, this goes a long way.  Develop a plan, write down your feelings, goals and your barriers. Read it from time to time. This may be just what you need to get you through the season.

Choosing Right When You’re Dining Out

Going out to eat has become a way of life. I certainly look forward to dining out with family and friends. After all, everyone needs an occasional pampered evening that’s hassle free, with nothing to prepare or wash. You can make this indulgence a healthy one as long as you control your nutritional intake by following a few important guidelines.

A Habit of Health – Avoid fast foods

When I talk about dining out, I’m not talking about fast food restaurants. Fast foods make it nearly impossible to maintain a healthy weight. In fact, they’re the masters of calorie creep, as anyone who’s seen the movie SuperSize Me knows.

The bland, grey-looking stuff served in fast food restaurants—made palatable with the help of some fragrance company off the New Jersey Turnpike, no doubt—gives immediate gratification, loaded as it is with salt, high-fructose corn syrup, and animal fats, but it lacks much nutritional value. On top of which, that red and yellow color scheme is designed to attract you like a hummingbird to a feeder by stimulating your hunger and creating a stress response that can have a negative effect on your immune system.

So if you never enter another red and yellow establishment again, you’ll have added another Habit of Health!  If you find yourself having no other choice, then get a salad with grilled chicken on it and low calorie dressing.

Watch for Pitfalls

Look at dining out from the restaurant’s point of view. Restaurants are in the business of making money and keeping their customers happy (so they can make more money). They want you to come back and bring all your friends. The truth of the matter is this... fat, salt, and sugar sell better than the healthy stuff so be prepared to be sold unhealthy food.

More important, they have a secret weapon. What’s the first thing that happens when you enter a restaurant? They ask you if you want a cocktail. And why not? After a busy day, a cocktail or glass of wine may be your perfect way to relax. But after just one drink, the inhibitory neurons in our brain start to shut off. We begin to lose our ability to remember those primary and secondary choices we made so carefully. And with that, we lose our reason to avoid that 2,400-calorie Bloomin’ Onion. Not to mention that alcohol itself, with seven calories per gram, has almost double the calories of sugar and absolutely no nutritive value.  Drink sparkling water with lime or a splash of cranberry instead of a cocktail while you wait for your meal. 

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t have anything at all to drink. In fact, a glass of red wine with your meal can actually help you live longer. But here’s the key: order your food first!

If you know where you will be eating out, call in advance and ask the restaurant to either fax or e-mail their menu to you.  You may also find their menu on the internet.  Decide in advance what you will choose and stick to it. Also, choose restaurants that have healthy dishes. In other words, stay away from the pizzerias and all you can eat buffets!

If your dinner reservation will take you past a three hour time period without eating, then have a 100 calorie snack (or meal replacement) before you go out.  This will keep your appétit down while you wait for your table and then for your food to arrive.

When seated, ask for the bread or chips to be removed from the table or placed out of reach.  Save your calories for more nutritious foods.

Try this tip!

Check out menu selections on the restaurant’s Web site before you go to avoid a potentially unhealthy environment or to preselect a healthy choice.

Choose Healthy Cooking Methods

Scampi style, au gratin, broiled—what does it all mean in terms of calories? Here are some quick tips to help you sort the good from the bad.

Bear in mind that this is just a rough guide. There’s no guarantee that items prepared in the preferred methods are really low in fat, since fats are often added in the cooking process (for example, grilled items may be brushed with oil, poached items may cooked in buttery liquid, baked items often contain oil or cheese, and marinara sauces often start with a base of oil). And if the cut of meat, fish, or poultry you choose is high in fat to begin with, it will likely still be high in fat after cooking, even using healthy cooking methods.

Stay away from cream sauces and soups, butter, oil, au gratin, breaded, Alfredo sauce, gravy and anything battered or fried.  Blackened entrees are usually dipped in butter or oil, covered with spices and then pan fried.

Don’t be afraid to take charge of your meal. Choose only lean cuts of meat such as loin and flank. If having chicken, white meat contains less fat. Ask for meat, fish or poultry to be prepared with minimal oil and butter or prepared “light”.  Have the chef trim all excess fat before cooking and remove skin off poultry before eating.  Request that vegetables be steamed with no added sugar or butter. The best preparation for your meal is baked, broiled, grilled, poached or steamed. And of course fresh is best!

Restaurant Portions

Restaurant servings have gotten out of control. An occasional treat is fine, but if you eat out often you need to develop an overall strategy for portion and calorie control. Here are a few tips.

  • Visualize the divisions on the nine-inch-plate.
  • Order two appetizers instead of an entrée, such as soup and a dinner salad, or shrimp cocktail.
  • Split a meal with your dining companion.
  • Don’t rely on the chef or waiter to serve you the correct amount of food. Surveys show that people generally eat everything that’s put in front of them—whether they wanted it or not.
  • Ask for a leftovers container right when you place your order. When your meal comes, eyeball your proper portion right away and put the rest into the box to take home.

So, In Review….

  • Watch your portions and visualize the 9 inch plate
  • Make sure that all sauces are “on the side”
  • Don’t trust Salad dressings. Even vinaigrettes can be full of sugar! Ask for vinegar and oil on the side, and make your own.
  • Adding a squeeze of lemon can lower the glycemic index
  • Make sure that vegetables have not been soaked in sugar and do not have excess butter on them
  • Check out the menu ahead of time and have a plan
  • Drink a glass of water or have a portion controlled meal replacement before you go so that you are not starving while waiting on your meal
  • Ask for no bread to be on table
  • Be in charge of your dining out experience, have fun,  and don’t let the establishments ruin your success!