© 2011 Nancy Appleton Ph.D & G.N. Jacobs
It’s the holiday season! The food on the holiday table looms almost like a movie monster photographed with all the cheesy tricks, including an appropriately ominous music score and vertigo-inducing camera moves. But, how do we enjoy the holidays without getting waylaid in the dark forest by the dreaded Dark Meat Turkey or that plate of mashed potatoes?
Everybody has heard all kinds of the platitudes and suggestions about eating less and some have merit. Perhaps you’ve been told to drink water before eating? The thinking is simple; water fills the stomach tricking the I’m Full switch into activating. Less food eaten of all kinds consumed means less calories during the holidays. But does it work?
As of February 2010, the consensus appears to be yes. The journal Obesity published an article on the subject based on a study presumably conducted during the 2009 holiday season finding results that in a three-month period older (over 55) people on a low calorie diet who drank two cups of water before each meal lost an average of 15.5 pounds compared to the control group that lost 11 pounds.
Other studies show similar results. A 2008 study shows a 13-percent reduction in calories consumed in overweight people that drank water before breakfast. A 2007 study suggested that drinking water 30 minutes before eating worked well for eating less and feeling full among the older people in the study, but not so much for the younger (under 35) respondents in the study. Personally, I think younger people have more pressure to eat up and keep up with their peers that the stress eating completely overwhelms the benefits of drinking water.
But what else can you do during the holidays to limit the damage to your waistline? One trick that works some of the time at holiday meals is to fill your plate with tiny portions of everything so the host won’t feel insulted that you skipped anything on the buffet, but not enough to overeat. Sometimes taking the salad plate through the buffet line is required to eat less. For those parties that actually set out those tiny two-pronged forks for oysters or corn, using this fork instead of the regular forks for salad and dinner may help you take smaller bites.
Another suggestion is to talk the host (or your guests) into going for a walk. I’ve never done this myself, but it seems that the holidays would be an excellent time to explore a video game with a motion capture unit like the Nintendo Wii or an Xbox 360 with a Kinect. Getting the family together for a dancing or boxing game will burn just enough calories for you to keep your nose above water, while creating those cherished family memories that are supposedly the point of holidays.
Lastly, the only other way to get through the holidays is to simply do your best and use the New Year to get back in shape.