Avoid weight gain: watch out for those pitfalls
After dieting and exercising all year long and keeping excess pounds off, how can I survive the holiday season and maintain my losses?” This is a question that haunts many Americans as the heavy holiday eating season approaches.
Many conscientious dieters put their hard-lost pounds on hold during the holiday season. Some even lose the battle. These efforts need not go in valid if one recognizes common pitfalls. By adopting defensive strategies one can overcome those influences which lead to the post holidays weight gain blues.
There are two aspects to sound effective dieting. The first is to lose excess pounds in a healthy way. The second is to keep most pounds off. Nutritionists involved with the treatment of obesity agree that people susceptible to weight problems should maintain constant vigilance over what they put in their mouths, if their objective is to maintain lifelong ideal body weight. Therefore, people who have a tendency to be overweight should be “defensive dieters.”
A “defensive dieter” is one who is aware of his weight problem and confronts the problem by anticipating and acting on situations which will add unwanted calories to the diet. Calories taken in excess of bodily needs translate into pounds. One pound of body fat gained is equivalent to 3500 calories. Consequently, all calories ingested count.
Scientifically, weight gain is the result of an energy imbalance. Human energy intake is measured in terms of calories. Weight gain results when caloric consumption exceeds those expended. Therefore, if one’s objective is to lose weight, then more calories have to be expended than ingested.
Americans have many ways of their disposal to determine the caloric value of foods. In fact, many dieters because of their repeated efforts at dieting, may already know the caloric composition of foods better than professionally trained nutritionists. Notwithstanding, the caloric information of foods is available on food labels and numerous inexpensive publications listing the nutritive composition of foods.
Human energy expenditures results from three processes. These are the result of the sum of basal metabolic rate (BMR), the thermic effect of foods and voluntary activity.
A person expends energy by just staying alive, breathing, keeping warm and pumping blood around the system. The sum total of these body processes is called basal metabolic rate. This accounts for roughly two-thirds of an average sedentary person’s energy expenditure. Whereas ten percent of a person’s energy usage is attributed to the energy required to digest and assimilate foods eaten. This is referred to as the thermic effect of food.
The third factor that accounts for human energy expenditure is voluntary activity. All movement involves expenditure of energy. So walking, running, typing, and bathing expend energy. However, the amount of energy expended is dependent on the level of intensity and the length of time an activity is undertaken. People who work in less physically demanding jobs, such as office workers and teachers, do not expend as many calories as a ditch digger or pothole filler. Only twenty to twenty-five percent of the average American’s energy expenditure is attributed to voluntary activity. Those who regularly exercise vigorously expend greater amounts of energy than those who do not.
Weight gain, as weight loss, is a slow and gradual process. If, for example, an individual exceeds his daily caloric requirements by a mere average of 250 calories, which represents a small snack or an extra portion of dessert, he or she will put on a pound every two weeks. On the other hand, if a person succeeds in eliminating 250 calories from the daily diet, or expending an extra 250 calories per day, a pound loss may result on a biweekly basis. Nutritionists are finding that these figures may vary from individual to individual. In fact, some individuals may have to limit their caloric intake more strictly because of their body’s greater resistance to weight loss.
Normally, individualized professionally-prepared weight reduction diets are planned to provide a 500 to 1000 daily caloric deficit. These diet plans are designed not only to meet the nutritional needs of the dieter but also to allow for the gradual loss of one to two pounds per week. The daily Recommended Energy intakes for adult males range from 2000 to 3000 calories. Whereas the range for females is between 1200 to 2000 calories per day.
Armed with the knowledge that in order to achieve or maintain a target weight one must balance calories, dieters need additional ammunition to combat the factors that conspire to defeat dieting efforts. The holiday season is a time of the year when most weight reduction efforts are doomed. Yet it is possible to enjoy the season and still maintain desired weight or perhaps lose a few pounds in the process. Here are thirteen pitfalls to avoid during the holiday season.
- Avoid holiday cheers that can add a substantial number of calories.
Alcohol yields 7 calories per gram which is almost twice as much as equal amounts of carbohydrates (4 calories per gram). If drinks are sweetened, such as eggnogs or liqueurs, they may add substantial calories to the diet. Consider that alcohol is assimilated by the body as surplus energy. That is, it is primarily used as a fuel sparing the use of other body fuels such as sugars and fats. The effect of sparing other available dietary fuels is to facilitate their biochemical conversion to fat. This is not what a dieter wants. Simply stated, alcohol adds undesirable calories which the weight-conscious individual should avoid. Trendy bottled waters and diet soft drinks yield insignificant calories and do not impair the senses so they are ideal drink substitutes for the serious dieter.
- Limit consumption of seasonal calorie-rich foods.
The holidays bring along rich delightful foods that evoke happy times. The dieter should be aware that foods reinforce happy times and one may be drawn by such feelings to overindulge in calorie-rich foods. Therefore, one should be prepared with a strategy to minimize the consumption. Note the word “minimize.” The strategy is not to go overboard. Simply avoid rich sauces and gravies. Make your plate look real full by spreading foods out. East in slow motion. At dessert time, go for fresh fruits. Don’t repeat anything. These simple strategies alone may save you at least a thousand calories per meal.
- Create obstacles to prevent you from eating problem foods.
If your refrigerator is empty you obviously don’t have to fight eating urges. But that is unrealistic. Overwrap the food in the refrigerator so that you may develop resistance to eating while you unwrap it. Another example of creating obstacles to eating involves nuts. If you must eat nuts, work for them. Buy them in a state where you have to peel them or crack them. Buying buts by the jar makes the calories to accessible. Remember that your objective is to minimize consumption of foods outside the limits of your weight loss or maintenance diet. Do everything possible to create a distance between you and calorie-laden foods.
- Minimize contact with large amounts of foods.
Only serve or allow others to serve you your meal allotment. Leave the table when you finish. Don’t linger around the desserts and goodies that may add to your caloric intake. Plan only to eat small amounts of the goodies you just cannot resist.
- Avoid shopping for calorie-rich foods.
Avoid buying problem foods. An old strategy applies here. Make a list of what you need and stick to it. Seasonal cakes, cookies, and beverages will be prominently displayed at the grocery stores to lure buyers.
- Do not interrupt your regular exercise routine.
Although dieting is the best way to cut caloric consumption, exercising is the best way to increase caloric expenditure. If you exercise on a year-round basis, it is wise not to discontinue the practice at the time of the year when you are likely to consume excess calories. Combining prudent eating with moderate exercise during the busy holiday season will keep your weight loss or maintenance objectives on tract.
- Avoid moods that may lead you to overeat.
The holiday blues may be triggered by almost anything. Crowded stores, memories of childhood, or simply shopping frustrations. Plan and prepare simple meals in advance of an anticipated busy shopping day. Don’t fall into the trap of filling yourself up with calorie-rich junk foods. anticipate the blues and prepare for them with a dietary antidote that will not load you up with empty fattening calories.
- Become aware of environmental cues that prompt you to eat and counteract them.
Avoid television commercials that lead you to the refrigerator or the cookie jar.
- Avoid eating situations. If you cannot, be prepared to resist the temptation to overeat at these events.
Office parties, the neighbors, old friends, and family reunions during the holiday season seem to coexist with calories. If every food is viewed as a caloric vehicle, chances are they may be resisted. Resist temptations by going for the garnishes. Carrots, unstuffed celery, fresh fruits are definitely more nutritious and less caloric than the standard chips and fatty dips fare. Enjoy but be prepared to defeat your eyes when tempted to attack those calorie-rich items that will only add inches to your “waste.”
- Don’t go off your successful eating plan, just adjust it or modify it for the holidays.
If you must eat fruitcake, plum pudding, and drink eggnog do so in moderation. A modest serving off holiday foods does not make a person obese – is the chronic overconsumption of calories. Eat and drink everything in mentally measured small amounts. You simply cannot have it both ways; if you want to be trim you just have to give up eating large amounts of foods. Successful diet strategies emphasize relearning how to eat by emphasizing slow food consumption and small satisfying portions.
- Keepsnack foodsout of sight.
Snack foods are nothing but calories. Simply avoid them. Consider that you have to walk for 22 minutes to burn off ten potato chips. Need more be said?
- When you eat, only eat.
If you usually watch television or talk on the phone while you eat, your body may not realize it. The result is that your senses are not fully satisfied and you will probably be attacking the refrigerator, the cupboards or both within an hour or hour-and-a-half after eating. So when you eat, just eat and satisfy your appetite by enjoying every allotted calorie.
- Find eating substitutes.
It simply isn’t easy giving up foods. But you know yourself best. If you are most vulnerable to going off your dietary plan, let’s say between 8:00 and 11:00 P.M., then plan your exercise activities during those times. Plan substitute activities for those seemingly unsurmountable periods when calories beckon. The goal, of course, it to distract one’s appetite with personally satisfying substitute.
You work hard all year to lose and keep those extra pounds off so that you may look best. All it takes is several holiday binges and all your efforts may be wasted. Two or three weeks of holiday meals may mean weeks or even months of rigorous dieting an exercise to attain lost goals. In a word, if you confront common holiday and everyday dietary pitfalls with effective counteracting strategies, you will maintain your motivation to keep unwanted pounds off and become increasingly confident knowing that you are effectively mastering your weight control problems.