From autumn through winter, the holiday season is crammed full of food temptations for those trying to follow a weight loss program. It seems to start at Halloween. Candy corn, orange frosted cupcakes, adorable mini chocolate bars – ghosts and goblin temptations exist at every turn! Then comes Thanksgiving: Aunt Martha’s homemade jam doughnuts and Susie’s rich cocoa start off the day, followed by the feast of marshmallow-topped sweet potato casserole, cornbread stuffing-filled turkey, hot biscuits dripping with butter, and pecan pie piled high with whipped cream…then the week of leftovers. And before you know it, Christmas cookie exchanges, endless holiday parties, and oh yes, ring out the fattening old year with champagne cocktails!
For a dieter, it can seem like an endless nightmare of temptations. Want to stay strong on your diet this year? Then it’s time to fill that diet toolkit:
1. Toss out what you don’t need in your own home. You’re the master of your domain, yes? So clean out the kitchen today! If it’s filled with an abundance of high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as crackers made with white flour, cookies, and corn chips, put them in the office break room, give them to a friend, or, if they are unopened, take them to a homeless shelter.
The problem with high-glycemic carbohydrates, such as sugary cereals and white flour cookies or crackers: these carbohydrates are rapidly converted to glucose, which floods the bloodstream. The result is an equally high level of insulin, which causes blood sugar levels to drop quickly, resulting in fatigue and cravings for even more carbohydrates. By eating low-glycemic foods instead, the rapid insulin response and resulting weight gain do not occur. So fill your refrigerator, cupboards, and freezers with treats such as pre-cooked chicken breasts without skin, fresh or fresh-frozen sugar-free fruits and vegetables, and fat-free or low-fat dairy foods.
2. Stress contributes to weight gain in multiple ways. For example, food can be used as a drug to stuff down the stressful feelings. In addition, stress results in a sequence of events that begins in the brain. The stress results in the release of a hormone from the pituitary gland. The adrenal gland then sends out stress hormones, including high cortisol levels. Even after the stressful moment has vanished, the level of cortisol remains high. This stimulates the appetite to replenish the fuel the body has burned. By consuming sugary foods, you prompt more cortisol production. As a result, the body stores more fat than needed. If stress remains problematic, cortisol levels continue to rise, resulting in a repetition of the cycle and additional weight gain. Chronic stress results in an “apple” body shape.
During the holidays, stress levels often raise. You’ve got cookies to bake…presents to shop for, then wrap….a home to decorate. Go through that list of stressful activities and figure out what you can downscale and substitute. For example, your diet toolkit might include techniques such as “Skip baking cookies for the kids’ school party: get at bakery. Spend that hour soaking in a hot tub with a good book!”
3. Sleep. Sounds too simple? It’s not. Adequate sleep contributes to weight loss by restoring your energy levels and resetting your hormones. People who do not sleep well tend to feel tired, grabbing high-carbohydrate foods that are high in sugar in an attempt to boost their energy. The cortisol level rises, speeding up fat storage. Some research has indicated that insufficient sleep may impede surges of growth hormone, which are needed to reduce body fat and promote lean muscle tissue.
If you currently have problems sleeping, try these tips in your diet toolkit:
– A relaxing CD. A variety are available, specifically designed to help you fall asleep at night. Listen to different ones at the local music store or online to find the right one for you.
– Clean out your bedroom of all electrical gadgets. Cell phones, laptops, DVD players, TVs, iPods – out! Studies show that all these devices tend to create sleep problems.
– Put the pet in the other room. Sorry, Fluffy and Fido, but studies also show that even though you love your kitten or dog, their presence can create problems for your ability to fall asleep and stay asleep.
4. Sparkling water and sugar-free gum belong in your diet toolkit: they’re your go-to defense tools when you are cooking, baking, or doing other activities that can lead to mindless munching on fattening foods. Sparkling water with a wedge of fresh lemon or lime can keep your tastebuds happy, while chewing cinnamon sugar-free gum helps you think twice before you try “just a taste” of chocolate chip cookie batter!