Food Is Not Your Enemy

Holiday Eating 101, Or How Not to Freak Out

Thanksgiving is behind us, and yet it feels like we’ve only just begun. Food–much of it not super-healthy, to put it mildly–seems to be everywhere. Snowman-shaped butter cookies at the office. Eggnog at a friend’s cocktail party. Chocolates in your child’s backpack from a party in her classroom. And then there’s the looming specter of an outsize ham on Christmas Day, or sweet potato pie during Kwanzaa. Sigh.

What should you do? Is it time to urge your mom to make a lower-fat turkey breast for Christmas, rather than that delectable ham? Should you gear up to refuse to eat a single cookie, telling everyone you’re watching your weight?

No and no.

I’m of the mind that on days meant for feasting, whether Thanksgiving, Christmas, Chanukah, or Kwanzaa, you should feast–without guilt. Do you really want to be the killjoy at the table who complains how fat you are, who points out the huge number of calories in the mashed potatoes? On these days centered around eating, eat–eat slowly, joyfully, and savor every bite and moment with your loved ones.

What you don’t want to do is treat every day between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day as a day for feasting. That’s where we can get into trouble. Giant, heavy meals for one day in November and a couple in December will not kill you, or make you gain 10 pounds. But if you’re at a holiday party every few days, shoveling in pigs-in-a-blanket and downing cups and cups of eggnog, that’s when you’d benefit from taking a step back and realizing you can’t keep up this pace of eating and realistically expect to stay at your current weight.

If you do overindulge at one party too many? Don’t beat yourself up about it. When the new year rolls in, recommit to eating healthy foods, get back into your exercise routine, and know that you’ll soon be back in fighting shape. And if you need support along the way, you know who to call!

Weight Watchers Recognizes Apples and Oreos are Not Equal

I was on News 12 Brooklyn last week discussing the huge change Weight Watchers made to its point system. In short, the weight loss giant is finally recognizing that all calories are not created equal.

An apple used to have the same number of “points” (members are allowed to consume a certain number of points every day) as a 100-calorie pack of Oreo cookies, which gives members the sense that one food is as good as the other. But this is certainly not so–apples are healthy, and Oreos are not. Not only that, but the refined sugar/carbs in an Oreo will make you hungrier sooner than the apple, and will also lead to further cravings for refined sugar. With the apple, there is no such problem.

Catching up to the latest science about how our bodies respond to different foods, Weight Watchers now assigns more points to processed, junky foods, fewer points to healthier foods, and no points at all to many fruits and vegetables. This is a move in the right direction.

However, the problem that remains with Weight Watchers is that it’s exhausting and unsustainable to count points for the rest of your life.  It’s important to be able to judge what and how much you should be eating without relying on this tedious system. Perhaps this is why so many people gain the weight back after going off the program.

How to Deal with Uncle Norman
December 9, 2010, 12:20 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: ,

No, I don’t have an Uncle Norman. But let’s pretend that Uncle Norman is everyone’s “problem” relative who must be endured at holiday time. He’s the family member who makes comments about your weight. He loudly expounds on the politics of the day, expressing views that are in opposition to everything you stand for. He asks your sister why she hasn’t found a husband yet, and when your brother is going to find a “real” job. He’s a big reason, perhaps, you get stressed around holiday time.

It’s no secret that at a time of year when we like to envision sitting around the table, Norman Rockwell-style, counting our blessings with those we love the most, many of us actually feel either miserable or ambivalent. And too often it’s our family that is at the root of our negative feelings about the holidays.

But is it our family, or is it us? Is Uncle Norman causing the acid to swirl in your stomach, or is it your reaction to him?

Uncle Norman is likely not going to change. So, knowing what you know about him, instead of letting him get to you, you can do something about how you respond around him. Whatever you do, don’t try to bury your feelings with food. Stuffing cookies into your mouth won’t solve anything. Rather than trying to numb yourself with comfort foods and sweets, allow yourself to feel sad or angry for a few moments, and then make a decision about how you want to deal with the situation:

-Try talking. If Norman’s annual comments about your weight bother you, consider letting him know it, in a neutral tone of voice. “Norman, it hurts my feelings when you say things about my weight. Would you mind not reminding me about it when I see you?”

-Breathe. If Norman makes a comment that angers you, stop and breathe deeply for a few moments. It will instantly calm you.

-Forgive and accept. Norman is who he is, and your getting upset and sulking around him won’t change his personality. Look for the good in Norman, forgive his imperfections, and then…

-Find a like-minded relative to spend most of your time with. You can have a quick catch-up conversation with Norman, but then hone in on your sibling, cousin, or aunt you adore, and talk, reminisce, and enjoy your hot apple cider with them for the rest of the evening.

Most of all, let go. Let go of your expectations that there will be issues. Let go of your fear that you’ll be unhappy. Go in with an open mind, and open heart, and the knowledge that you have control over how you respond to your family.

Enjoy your holidays.

Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements Not Necessary?
December 1, 2010, 11:37 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease | Tags: , , ,

A new report by the Institute of Medicine indicates that not only do we likely not need calcium supplements, but that perhaps doctors have been going overboard in declaring pretty much everyone vitamin D deficient.

Most people get enough calcium from food, the report indicates, and we actually need less vitamin D than we’ve been told in recent years.

Of course, this report is further confirmation that there’s a lot of conflicting, confusing information about nutrition out there. There seems to be a study to support every point of view about how we should eat. Regarding vitamin D, though it is suspect that suddenly everyone appears to have a deficiency, I do have clients who have noticed a real difference in their health when they’ve addressed what their doctors told them were low levels of D.