To prevent holiday pounds, arm yourself with a realistic strategy

MAYWOOD, Ill.  – Food, glorious food. Potlucks, cookies and eggnog are just part of the monthlong marathon of holiday food and drink. With treats tempting us at every turn, is weight gain inevitable?

“You can enjoy the holidays and not get swept away by the many tempting high-calorie treats,” said Allison Grupski, PhD, a psychologist at the Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care. “Participating in the festivities can include savoring the seasonal flavors without ringing in the new year with a tighter waistband.”

Dr. Grupski regularly counsels weight-loss patients at Loyola and is certified in bariatrics, or weight-loss medicine.

Here are tips from Dr. Grupski on how you can enjoy holiday treats without feeling out of control:

Attending parties and gatherings

Be prepared. Avoid skipping breakfast or lunch to “save up” for holiday dinner and dessert.  If you arrive to a holiday party famished, you are likely to eat more than you would have if you had shown up with your appetite under control.
Plan ahead. Decide which types of food you will eat and which you will avoid before you arrive. Once you are at the party, take a visual inventory of the food to see what fits into your plan before you begin to serve yourself.  And bring a healthy dish to share!

Wait for the crowd. There is often a mad rush to the table or buffet line once food is served; many people experience a mild increase in anxiety at this time.  Consider talking with other guests and waiting to serve yourself until most others have done so.  This will allow you to take your time and choose your food in a relaxed way.

Control your environment. After you have finished your planned meal and feel satisfied, use some of the following strategies to prevent continued eating: 1) discard your plate and utensils or cover them with a napkin if you are seated at a table, 2) engage in conversation in a location away from the food, 3) offer to help clean up, 4) play with any children present or invite another guest to take a quick walk outside, or 5) help yourself to a beverage like coffee, tea or an after-dinner drink as a signal that you are finished eating.

When you are the chef

Avoid nibbling. Be mindful of the tendency to sample while you cook.  Eating planned meals through the day, such as breakfast and lunch, can help prevent mindless snacking when you are cooking.

Dealing with leftovers. Purchase cheap plastic containers that your guests can fill with leftovers to take home.  Freeze any remaining food to reduce the tendency to snack mindlessly. If you have leftovers that are especially tempting to you and cause you to lose control, bring them to work, to a neighbor’s house or consider throwing them away.

General trouble-shooting

Beware of liquid calories. Eggnog, cocktails, soda, wine, beer, etc.  These drinks are high in calories, go down very easily and don’t do much to satiate hunger or provide nutrition.

Plan alternative coping strategies. Write down a list of active things you can do when you feel bored, frustrated, lonely or depressed. These emotions can lead to impulsive eating.  You could take a walk, call a friend, take a hot shower or do some cleaning while listening to your favorite music.  Keep the list taped to your refrigerator.

Be realistic. Trying to lose weight during the holidays can be a self-defeating goal, which can lead to frustration and often triggers overeating. Instead strive to maintain your weight.

Enjoy yourself.  Forget the all-or-nothing mindset. If you try to completely avoid your favorite holiday foods, you might end up thinking about them more and ultimately eat more than you would have.  Instead, plan to have your favorite treats at a time when you are not overly hungry.  Serve yourself a reasonable portion and take your time enjoying each bite.

The Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery & Bariatric Care is designated a Level 1 facility under the Bariatric Surgery Center Network (BSCN) Accreditation Program of the American College of Surgeons (ACS).  To achieve this accreditation.

The center had to meet a number of rigorous institutional performance measures. Since opening in 2012, the center has provided high level care with a multidisciplinary team of bariatric-certified professionals, including surgeons, psychologists, dietitians, exercise physiologists and physicians.

Surgical procedures offered by Loyola include laparoscopic adjustable gastric banding, Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and laparoscopic sleeve gastrectomy.

Free informational sessions and more can be found at or by calling (800) 355-0416.

Loyola University Health System (LUHS) is a member of Trinity Health. Based in the western suburbs of Chicago, LUHS is a quaternary care system with a 61-acre main medical center campus, the 36-acre Gottlieb Memorial Hospital campus and more than 30 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 is a 559-licensed-bed hospital that 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 campus in Melrose Park includes the 255-licensed-bed community hospital, the Professional Office Building housing 150 private practice clinics, the Adult Day Care, the Gottlieb Center for Fitness, Loyola Center for Metabolic Surgery and Bariatric Care and the Loyola Cancer Care & Research at the Marjorie G. Weinberg Cancer Center at Melrose Park.