'Tis the season for ghouls and ghosts, witches and skeletons, and the bane that arrives around fall to haunt our scales and waist lines: the holiday creep.
The holiday creep is that weight that many Americans begin to gain this time of year, by overindulging in holiday delights beginning with trick or treat candy.
"In the last few years, we've seen the popularity of Halloween really skyrocket, and how you manage this holiday really sets the tone for how you will handle the rest of the season," said Adrienne Youdim, MD, medical director of the Cedars-Sinai Weight Loss Center. "It marks the beginning of a holiday season that is laden with sweets, pies, celebratory feasts, cocktails, parties and other temptations derail important lifestyle changes."
While candies and other treats in moderation are fine for many, for the 55 percent of Americans trying to lose weight, those fun-sized chocolates can spell a diet disaster that marks the beginning of months of uncontrolled eating, said Youdim said.
Youdim said those who are actively trying to reduce their weight to manage health issues, such as high blood pressure or pre-diabetic conditions, should be especially wary of the holiday focus on food, and prepare themselves with strategies to get them through what can be a very challenging time of year.
Dr. Youdim and her team offer the following strategies:
• Skip passing out candy. Glow-in-the-dark necklaces or other inexpensive trinkets can replace the traditional sugary treats.
• Buy candy you don't like. Have a weakness for chocolate? Pick up some lollipops to hand out instead. Indulge wisely by allowing yourself one or two pre-portioned candies, then get rid of the rest.
• Be kind to your co-workers: find a dumping ground other than the office for unwanted candy.
• Question your motives every time you're tempted to reach for the candy bowl. Evaluate your emotional state. If you're eating to soothe stress or sadness, or out of boredom, find another way to cope.
• Track your calories, especially on the holiday itself and the days before and after. Keeping food records is one of the best strategies for weight loss, and has been backed by numerous scientific studies. Commit to writing down all the foods you eat, including the candies and other holiday treats, and you will be less likely to over-indulge.
• Maintain your routines throughout the holiday season. 'Tis the season when healthy habits take a backseat to the festivities. If you usually hit the gym or take a daily walk, don't take a holiday from these important healthy priorities.
• Set an example for your children. Be sure children eat dinner before trick-or-treating. As a family, come up with a candy quota not to be exceeded. Teach children to manage their treats by giving them an opportunity to choose their favorites, practice savoring them and rationing their hard-earned loot so all the candy isn't devoured in a day or two of binging.
• Don't make food the focus. Starting with Halloween, emphasize the fun of perfecting that costume and spending time with friends and loved ones. These aspects of celebrations -- not the food -- should be the main events.
Youdim also suggested for those serious about losing weight, a conversation with a doctor or a registered dietician is also something to consider.
"Many people seem to think that health providers like the Weight Loss Center are only for people who need surgery," Youdim said. "But, specialists and doctors have an arsenal of tools that can help anyone who needs to lose weight."
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