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Christmas Temptations
and New Year's Resolutions

By Gary F. Zeolla

It's that time of year again, when people stuff their faces over the Christmas holiday. Then after New Year's Day, they make a resolution to lose weight. Needless to say, there is a big disconnect here. If you didn't gain so much weight with the holiday eating, then maybe the New Year's resolution would not be quite so necessary.

For those who would like to avoid this dilemma, this article will try to provide a few suggestions that have worked for me. But if you still need to lose weight after the holidays, then some suggestions will be provided in that regard as well.

Avoiding Christmas Temptations

I write in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book:

But it would be possible to have a "cheat meal" once or twice a week, as long as you don't make it a "pig-out" meal. In other words, a reasonable amount of non-God-given foods for one meal will not cause problems. Such a meal could be timed to coincide with a special event, such as a holiday meal (p.237).

If you were to eat a reasonable amount of "junk food" on just Christmas day, that would not be problematic. However, for most people, holiday eating is not just on Christmas day. Many people have numerous family get-togethers, parties, and the like over the holidays. Eating junk at all of those events will add up to increased pounds, especially if you do not keep to eating a "reasonable amount" at each event. If each one turns into a pig-out, then your waistline and your health will suffer.

Rather than making each event a "cheat" meal, it would be better to try to stick to eating healthy foods at each event, but then pick out one or two "cheat" foods to eat. But then, keep the amount reasonable. To put it another way, eating one or two Christmas cookies at each event would not be too problematic, but eating one or two dozen would be.

An encouragement to overeating to watch out for is when there is a great variety of foods, like say numerous different types of Christmas cookies. The temptation is to try one of each. In fact, I have seen studies that show people tend to eat more when a great variety of food is presented to them than when only one or two choices are available.

But knowing this fact, you can prepare yourself beforehand. You do no need to eat one of each kind of food. If you're talking about Christmas cookies, just pick out one or two cookies and then walk away from the cookie table. Enjoy eating then, then focus on socializing and forget about the cookies.

Walking away from the food is a good idea in general when snack foods or hors d'oeuvres are placed out on tables before the main meal. If you stand beside them talking, you'll inevitably nibble on something, so go talk to someone on the other side of the room.

Come the actual dinner, if it is being served buffet-style with a wide variety of foods, a different approach might prove helpful. Go ahead and try each food, but only take a very small amount of each. That way, you won't feel "deprived" that you didn't get to try everything. Then maybe pick out one or two foods you especially liked to go back for seconds for, but then only take a medium sized portion.

Desert time can be especially problematic. The easiest approach is to just not have any desert. That is generally my approach. I might try a small portion of something, but usually I just don't bother. I figure it is best not to start. Once I do, then the temptation to eat a little bit of everything could be too great. And eating a little bit of everything when you are talking about desert foods can be problematic. In this case, if you have to eat something, pick out the one item that looks most appetizing, then take a reasonable portion, then leave it at that.

These approaches will work best if you are only talking about a couple of holiday events. But if you have a lot of such events, then it would be best to pick out just one or two of them to use as your "cheat meals," but then at the rest to stick to eating only the healthiest options available.

At most any social events, there will be some foods that are at least relatively healthy. Center your eating on those foods and forget the unhealthy options. My book provides lists of what are healthier food options and what are not so healthy options.

Of course, one particular problem any time you are eating someone else's cooking is you do not know how the food is prepared. Healthy, low calorie foods like vegetables can easily be turned into high calorie foods due to the addition of butter and fatty sauces. But you can generally tell if such things have been added. If they are, then remember that such foods would no longer fit in the "healthy" category. There can also be big differences in the caloric count of meat dishes. If the dish utilizes poultry or fish, it will tend to be lower in calories and fat than ones that use ground meat or other kinds of fatty beef.

Al of this is assuming you are eating food prepared by someone else. But if you are the host, then you will have much greater control over the kinds of foods that are available. Granted, you might need to make a few less than healthy alternatives to satisfy some of your guests, but there is no reason why all the foods you serve need to be such. In fact, many of your guests would probably appreciate having healthy and low-calorie options available.

For snack foods and appetizers, dishes of nuts or dried fruit and vegetable and fruit tray are always popular. If you provide nuts in the shell, with nut crackers, that will give you guests something to play while reducing the amount actually eaten. Pistachios are always very popular at my family's get-togethers.

For dinner, be sure to have lower calorie, healthy foods options available like vegetables, potatoes or rice, salad, chicken, turkey, or fish, all prepared without the use of heavy sauces or butter. Use spices to flavor things rather than butter, sauces, or salt.

Desert is the most difficult. Keeping the variety to a minimum will makes things easier on you and things less tempting for your guests. Keeping the size of cookies small will enable guest to sample a greater variety without overeating. It is possible to make many deserts less damaging by reducing the amount of fat and sugar in most recipes without a loss of taste. Applesauce can be used to replace some of the fat; cinnamon can be used in some recipes to increase the sweetness while using less sugar.

Also, do not overdo it in the preparation of food. Of course, you want to make sure there is enough to go around, but any leftovers will prove to be temptations to the host for days after the event. Especially, do not overdo it in preparing desert items and cookies. If there is a lot of food left at the end of the evening, encourage your guests to take some home with them.

But if you do get stuck with a lot of leftovers, it is not a crime to pitch the food. Really, the food police will not be raiding your home. Your pigging out on leftover cookies will in no way help to feed starving children on the other side of the globe. That mindset is just plain stupid and needs to be vanquished. If you want to help the hungry, make a donation to your local food bank.

A final point worth mentioning is do NOT "starve" yourself during the day before an event, thinking you are "saving up calories" to eat at the event. Going all day without eating will just lower your metabolism making the foods you eat more likely to be stored as fat. And going to an event starved will make the high-fat, high-sugar foods look even more appetizing and will lead to overeating in general. Plan on eating normally during the day before the event and then keep that pattern as much as possible at the event. At best, cut back a little on your intake during the day so you won't feel guilty about eating a little more than usual at the event.

Most of all, you need to enter each holiday event with the mindset that the main purpose of your being there is not to eat but to socialize with family and friends. That mindset will take your mind off of the food.

If you do overdo it at some event, don't beat yourself up over it. Forget it. One day of overeating will not cause a significant weight gain, as long as you get right back on track the next day. But don't starve yourself the day after thinking you will make up for overeating the day before. That will just leave you hungry and more likely to overdo it at the next get-together or to raid the fridge for leftovers.

It is also worth mentioning that amidst the busyness of the holiday season, it is important to keep up with your exercise program. A lack of exercise coupled with overeating will lead to weight gain. It is also important to try to get adequate sleep. Lack of sleep will lower your metabolism and make you more susceptible to give in to temptations.

New Year's Resolutions

When I was working out at commercial gyms, I always dreaded January. I knew as soon as the holidays were over, the gym would be packed with all of the "New Year's resolutions people." These are the people who have not exercised at all the previous year, but now, with the holiday weight gain, have made a resolution to lose weight and get back in shape.

The gym would stay crowed for about a month, and then all the newbies would start to dwindle off. Come the first spring-like day, the attendance at the gym would be back to pre-holiday levels.

My point here is working out for a month will not do you any good. A true "resolution" would be to make exercise a regular, year-round habit. If it takes a New Year's resolution for you to get started, so be it, but stick with it.

But when you do start, do not overdo it. If you do, you will probably just end up overly sore, possibly injured, and almost certainly discouraged. Start slowly and gradually build up over a period of weeks or months. The chapter on "Starting and Progressing in an Exercise Program in my God-given Foods Eating Plan book provides details in this regard.

My book also provides suggestions on losing weight. But the main point is your focus should be on eating in a healthy manner. If you do that, coupled with exercise, and the pounds could very well come off without ever having to go on a "diet."

A second main point has already been touched on, reasonable portion sizes. People's conceptions of what constitutes a "normal" serving of food have been skewed by restaurants and especially fast food joints providing ridiculously large servings of food. My book provides information on what normal serving sizes should be.

"The Good Part"

As a Christian, I look at the Christmas season as a time to focus on the birth of my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and to enjoy time with family and friends. I've never quite understood how it has gotten turned into "a perfect excuse to go right off of your diet" as a particular Christmas carol says. What do eating Christmas cookies have to do with celebrating the birth of Christ?

When Jesus visited the home of His friend's Mary and Martha, Mary spent time socializing with Jesus, while Martha was overly-busy preparing an elaborate meal for her guests. Jesus said, to her, "Martha, Martha, you are anxious and disquieted about many [things], but of one [thing] there is need. But Mary chose the good part, which will not be taken away from her" (Luke 10:41-42; ALT3).

"The good part" of Christmas is the birth of Jesus Christ and the chance to spend time with family and friends. Make that your focus over the holidays, and all of the Christmas goodies will not be such a temptation.

 

Note: ALT3 refers to my translation of the New Testament, the Analytical-Literal Translation: Third Edition.

 

Christmas Temptations and New Year’s Resolutions. Copyright 2008 by Gary F. Zeolla.

The above article was posted on this Web site December 1, 2008.

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