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Controlling Holiday Eating

Controlling Holiday Eating


With the holidays coming up it will be important to mix a little care in with the cheer when it comes to keeping a good routine. Holiday eating presents several challenges. You may be surrounded by a lot of food at meals and everywhere in between. And food gifts may include more 'once in a while' choices than those that are best for your health. Think about what usually happens with food and holidays for you and what you think might happen this year. Anticipate the food events and strategize ahead of time for how you will handle it. And cut yourself some slack if all doesn't go as perfectly as planned so that you can get back to the routine that you feel best about. Take a look at the strategies listed below to see if any will work for you. Mix and match strategies so that they fit each occasion. The holiday season is nearly two months long, so it is good to get a running start at it early! Please note that these strategies are really for those of us who need to keep consumption under control. If your issues are different, then it is a good idea to talk with your dietitian to design some strategies to meet your personal needs. It's all about portion size. This strategy allows you to enjoy pretty much everything--in moderation. When you are faced with cakes, pies, and pastries, choose your favorite, enjoy a couple of bites, and leave the rest. Be a purist and wipe off the whipped cream or thin out the layer of gravy to enjoy the forkful of what you really like without the foods that don't give you pure pleasure payback. Make sure that your diet has a backbone of good food choices before adding lots of condiments or going to the dessert buffet. If you encounter a buffet line, take small spoonfuls of things you want to sample on your plate and make sure there is a reasonable amount of plate still showing through. As much as possible keep in mind any strategies that you routinely use for your health, whether it is low-fat, distribution of carbohydrates, or others in the choices you make. I can't stop myself. This is the 'avoidance' strategy for those of us who can't stop at one or two bites with holiday favorites. It still takes some forethought about what foods trigger this response and a predetermined decision to avoid those items. For instance, if you know that those frosted sugar cookies dipped in milk are a weak spot for you, the choice in this strategy is to keep them off your plate. If these foods somehow sneak onto your plate or someone is trying to be sweet by taking you some, 'just say no' and find something else to do that gets you through. Stop when you aren't hungry. In this strategy, you will need to learn what it is like to be hungry and what it feels like when that hunger goes away. Please make a mental note that this does not mean to eat until you are full. If you eat just until you stop feeling hungry, then you have had enough to eat. If you eat until you are full, then you were probably full up to 15 minutes before you started feeling it, and you are too full. If this is the feeling that you are used to after a meal, you may need to 'go into training' to listen to your body's signals about hunger and fullness. Whatever strategy you choose or make for yourself, cut yourself some slack if you aren't perfect, and start each day anew. Holidays are about the enjoyment of the company of others and ourselves. The food is a bonus and part of the background ambience to enhance those joys. Fields-Gardner is the director of services for The Cutting Edge, an HIV nutrition company. She is a member of the International AIDS Society and the American Dietetic Association's Dietetic Practice Group on HIV and AIDS. She has written a book on HIV medications and a guide to nutritional management of HIV for clinicians.

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Cade Fields-Gardner