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Eating Strategies from Debora as Quoted in FITNESS Magazine

Beat the fat season

by Michelle Lee

The holidays are a double whammy: Not only is there an abundance of treats, but seasonal stress (family dramas, extended travel and endless social obligations) can make even the most disciplined dieter overeat. Here’s proof: At a traditional holiday dinner, the average American consumes more than 4,500 calories and 229 grams of fat, according to the Calorie Control Council. Fortunately, your waistline needn’t suffer. These four scenarios (from a family dinner to an office cocktail party) are typically rife with calorie and fat traps, so we’ve created a strategy for each to prevent an all-out pig-out. Hallelujah.

The event: Family get-together
The eating trigger: Stress
Hosting relatives or visiting family can be fun and rewarding, but it also puts huge demands on your time. Add the possibility of familial tension and your nerves can fray. “Stress increases levels of the hormone cortisol, which is linked to cravings for carbohydrates and fats,” says Pamela M.Peeke, M.D., author of Fight Fat After 40 (Viking, 2001). In ancient times these foods would fuel the fight-or-flight response, but these days you’re not fighting off invaders or running from tigers. Instead, you’re sitting next to your too-talkative sister-in-law, and all you want to do is eat.

Beat the binge: Practice stress resilience. If your mother always seems to push your buttons, give yourself a five-minute time-out, suggests Debora A.Robinett, a registered dietitian in Tacoma, Washington. Or strike up a silly conversation with your 4-year-old niece. Also, maintain your normal exercise routine throughout the season; daily activity is an excellent stress reliever. Avoid sweets and limit your intake of refined carbohydrates—both can boost cravings by causing erratic blood sugar levels. More smart options:

The event: Office cocktail party
The eating trigger: Alcohol
Toss down a few cocktails and your willpower suddenly flies out the window. “Worse, alcohol tends to redirect fat deposition to the abdominal area, so whatever calories you’re eating could go straight to your tummy,” says Dr. Peeke. Even if you’re not drinking, just being surrounded by tables of tempting treats raises the risk of uncontrolled grazing. Chatting up company bigwigs can make you a little nervous, too, and youmay find yourself constantly reaching for something—most likely from the hors d’oeuvres cart—to keep your hands occupied.

Beat the binge: Make sure you have a well-balanced snack (protein plus carbohydrates) before you leave for the event, suggests Dr. Peeke. An energy bar with at least 15 grams of protein and no more than 20 grams of fat will settle a rumbling stomach and provide you with anticraving insurance. If you’re going to drink, have a glass of wine (70 calories for white, 74 for red) or a spritzer. Alternate every alcoholic drink with a glass of water, and try to give yourself a full hour to finish each cocktail. Always stand away from the buffet table, and be choosy about the foods you select.


The event: Trip to the mall
The eating triggers: Boredom, hunger and exhaustion
Whether you’re enduring a full day of shopping or a few maddening hours searching for that last perfect holiday gift, malls pose one very serious diet threat: the food court. “Most food-court selections are high in saturated fat and sugar and low in vitamins, minerals and fiber,” says Robinett. Even foods that sound healthy can be a dietitian’s nightmare. Consider this: A Burger King BK Big Fish Sandwich packs a frightening 1,130 calories and 44 grams of fat. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish twice a week, but this probably isn’t what it had in mind.

Beat the binge: Plan ahead. “Bring nutritious snacks with you to ensure you’re not desperate for a quick meal,” says Robinett. If you do eat at one of the fast-food joints, seek out vegetables and lean protein, and pass up desserts and anything fried. Take your time reading the menus instead of making a rash decision. You’ll have it much easier during your next mall outing—in the fitting room. Here, some smart choices:

The event: New Year’s Day brunch
The eating trigger: A “last hurrah” mind-set

It’s the last “free” day before you start the inevitable New Year’s diet. If your resolutions are overly restrictive (no fat, no sugar, no pleasure of any kind), an all-out binge the day before may give you the feeling of a hearty send-off. But such thinking sets up an endless cycle of self-indulgence and deprivation that will threaten your success. Even if losing weight is not one of your goals, it’s still tempting to overeat at a big bash. “When we’re celebrating, we often underestimate how much we eat and overestimate how much we move around, and that’s a lethal combination,” says Dr. Peeke.

Beat the binge: Make a resolution not to go overboard. If you are planning to diet in the New Year, don’t make
changes that will be overly restrictive, no matter how much weight you’d like to lose. “If you can’t enjoy your favorite foods during a weight-loss program, the plan won’t last,” says Robinett. At a typical New Year’s brunch, Dr. Peeke advises sticking to protein-rich foods instead of carbohydrates like scones or muffins. “Egg-white omelets are low in calories, and the protein will help balance your blood sugar level, which means fewer cravings. Fiber-rich whole fruit, like bananas, berries and apples, are also good choices—pair them with yogurt or cereal,” says Dr. Peeke. A few more wise selections: