Don’t Be Sabotaged by Grandma’s Kugel

MELROSE PARK, Ill. – The buffets and open bars plus the special family meals are potential land mines for those struggling with their weight. 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, pies 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.

Cristina Pruitt, 23, who lives in Oak Park, gave her grandmother some fat-free mayonnaise this year to make her traditional Puerto Rican potato salad, as well as brown rice to steam, so Cristina can avoid the heavily oiled and seasoned Puerto Rican rice on the holiday table. “I used to eat all these traditional foods, and in large quantities, but no more,” said the formerly 260-pound elementary school teacher. Pruitt lost more than 100 pounds through Gottlieb’s Medical Weight-Loss Program.

“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 party-goer, 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.”

The Medical Weight-Loss Program at Gottlieb is a 12-week program including:

* 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 28 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 University 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.