MELROSE PARK, Ill. – Special family meals, holiday buffets and free drinks can be open invitations for disaster for the more than 50 percent of Americans who are struggling with their weight and dieting. Navigating the holidays can be stressful, said Jeffrey Gersten, PsyD, Gottlieb Memorial Hospital. “Close family situations, the ready availability of trigger foods, such as cookies, kugels and candies, unhappy memories of past holidays – all add stress to make keeping your waistline in check a challenge.”
Dr. Gersten counsels participants in Gottlieb’s Medical Weight-Loss Program, where dozens have successfully lost, and are keeping off, as much as 100 pounds or more.
Frosted cookies are an important part of enjoying the holidays to Suzy Krueckeberg, 48, who lives in Oak Park. “I eat my favorite foods but change the portion size,” said the recent graduate of Gottlieb’s Medical Weight-loss Program. “At a holiday party, I will scope out the offerings and make my choices. I’ll eat one-half of a frosted cookie and one-third of a dessert slice – enough so that I have a true taste of the foods I like.”
Krueckeberg dropped more than 24 pounds in the 12-week Gottlieb program and has lost more than 30 pounds total, despite the challenges of the holiday season. “I still go to out to dinners and to restaurants and I’ll modify the meal so that I eat an open-face sandwich, or if I really want potato chips I’ll eat half and throw the other half away. I am aware of the calories and also of what I really want to eat,” she said. “I do eat more salads and vegetables, but if I want to eat something, I pay attention to those feelings and I eat it, but in a smaller quantity.”
“You can enjoy the holidays without losing control,” Dr. Gersten said.
Here are Dr. Gersten’s top five tips to keep you from going overboard this holiday season:
The Holiday Roadmap – You need more than just directions to the party, you need a plan for the entire holiday. “You don’t plan to fail, you just fail to plan” is an old chestnut worth picking up this yuletide season.“
Identify your trigger foods – those that you know you will be unable to eat in a moderate portion” and avoid them. Completely. “I know that one of my trigger foods is pizza,” said Dr. Gersten, who as a young man struggled with his weight. “I know that I cannot stop after just one slice, so I stay away from it altogether and remove myself from the challenge.” Provide yourself healthy options, such as bringing your own low-fat snacks to get-togethers. “Don’t starve yourself either,” Dr. Gersten said. “Your blood sugar level will drop, creating a hunger that is unstoppable, which will lead to overeating usually high-calorie foods.” Stick to eating three balanced meals.
The Telltale Crumbs – So you polished off the entire carton of French onion dip and the bag of chips, or gobbled the plate of cookies you received as a gift. Take control of the situation immediately. “Don’t tell yourself that because you’ve overindulged, all bets are off and everything is now fair game,” Dr. Gersten said. “Every moment is a chance to begin again. Don’t wait for New Year’s to make resolutions. Make them now – keep them.”
Give Yourself a Timeout – A walk in the neighborhood to enjoy the decorations, playing a favorite seasonal CD or even just taking a deep breath are all ways to relax and shake off stress. “When you are calm, you are in control,” Dr. Gersten said. “Don’t let the hectic pace of the holidays run you roughshod.”
Friends, Through Thick and Thin – Talk to a friend, or fellow partygoer, about your desire to eat healthy. “You can do it; they can help,” Dr. Gersten said. Enlist their aid in not encouraging you to “just try this” or guilt you into eating “my famous cake I slaved over for days.”
Maintain Utter Consciousness – “I grabbed a handful of chocolate chips the other day and ate them,” Dr. Gersten said. “I then grabbed another handful and chowed down, and realized I was just mindlessly eating.” Think about what you eat. “Give yourself the five-minute rule. Stop eating for five minutes to see if you are really hungry or just bored.”
To help you reach your goal, Gottlieb has a 12-week Medical Weight-Loss Program, which offers:
Medical supervision by Richard Finegold, MD, medical director of the program
Nutrition consultation with registered dietitians
Supervised exercise at the Center for Fitness with an assigned exercise physiologist
Behavior modification through group sessions with Jeffrey Gersten, PsyD, to discuss trigger foods, stress eating and alternative reward systems
Those interested in participating can contact the Center for Fitness at (708) 450-5790.
Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, Loyola University Health System is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and 22 primary and specialty care facilities in Cook, Will and DuPage counties. The medical center campus is conveniently located in Maywood, 13 miles west of the Chicago Loop and 8 miles east of Oak Brook, Ill. The heart of the medical center campus, Loyola Hospital, is a 569-licensed-bed facility. It houses a Level 1 Trauma Center, a Burn Center and the Ronald McDonald® Children’s Hospital of Loyola University Medical Center. Also on campus are the Cardinal Bernardin Cancer Center, Loyola Outpatient Center, Center for Heart & Vascular Medicine and Loyola Oral Health Center as well as the LUC Stritch School of Medicine, the LUC Marcella Niehoff School of Nursing and the Loyola Center for Fitness. Loyola’s Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus in Melrose Park includes the 264-bed community hospital, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness and the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Care Center.