Sunday, December 4, 2011

Holiday Energy ...

One of the best ways to keep up a good, steady level of energy through the holiday season (and to keep your weight in check) is to remember to eat healthy foods at regular intervals throughout the day, watching your intake of sweets, fat, salt and alcohol.

But with all the wonderful holiday baking and all the gourmet meals around, what's a person to do? ( The intentions are so strong but the body is oh, so weak ....!)

Well, recently I came across a holiday eating challenge on Ruth Buczynski's website, NICABM (National Institute for Clinical Application of Behavioural Medicine), that I think is well worth considering.  Based on the research of Dr Brian Wansink, PhD,  The Power of Three Challenge encourages us to change 3 mindless habits of eating for a period of 10 days and then see what a difference it makes in our lives. (He is convinced that we will want to continue, thus creating newer, healthier habits.)

Dr Wansink bases his challenge on the research laid out in his fascinating book, Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think. He believes that we have a Mindless Margin of caloric intake where we can increase or decrease our calories by about 300 per day without noticing much difference in our feelings of satisfaction. Over time, however, our bodies can tell the difference as we begin to gain or lose weight and to stabilize our energy.

Here is the list of suggested changes.  Why not choose the three you would like to work on ( or one, if you do better at changing one thing at a time) and give yourself an energy boost and a rest from weight gain this holiday season? (As always, check with your physician before making changes in a prescribed diet.)

1.  Eat in a well lit room. You eat less when you can see what you're eating.

2.  Keep the bones.  We have a better sense of how much we've eaten when we can see the evidence. This could mean keeping empty beer bottles lined up on the table or hot wing bones on a side plate.

3.  Use the 1/2 Rule.  Aim for 1/2 as much protein and carbohydrates while doubting your servings of vegetables and fruit.

4.  Fill your plate, but keep it small.  When you use a smaller plate or bowl, this will naturally reduce portion size.

5.  Come up for air.  Try to slow down your pace at the table so you can rely on your body's internal cues. Then follow them - stop eating when you start to feel full rather than when your plate is clean or when you're over-stuffed.

6.  Downsize rather than supersize.  Try ordering a size down from what you would normally order.

7.  Pre-plate your food rather than serving it family style.  It's easier to make more healthful serving choices when you make decisions before you start.

8.  Pass on second helpings.

9.  Use taller, narrower glasses rather than shorter, wider ones.  You'll end up pouring less, but you probably won't notice the difference.

10.  Prepare healthy snacks for when you're on the go (try carrying along an apple or a small bag of carrots).

11.  Minimize variety in your snacks.  You'll be surprised to find ourself getting bored with the same old cheese curls, and you'll end up eating less.

12.  Put your apples on display.  Show off healthy foods in a prominent, well-lit area of your eating space, and banish unhealthy foods to the back corner of your cabinets.

13.  Keep chips out of reach.  When you have to seek out junk food consciously, it gives you a chance to think twice before indulging.

14.  Turn off the TV.  When distracted, we tend to consume more calories inadvertently.

15.  Eat meals with people who eat more healthfully than you do.  Studies have shown that we're influenced by the food choices the people around us are making.

16.  Keep unhealthy but tempting food in aluminum foil or opaque containers - out of sight is out of mind.

17.  Using smaller eating utensils and serving spoons. It's an easy way to slow down how quickly we eat and get back in synch with internal cues.

18.  Here's one for the whole family:  rename healthy foods to make them sound more appealing.  You might turn down a carrot-beet smoothie, but would you refuse a rainforest cocktail?

If you have other ideas to share, we would be happy to hear them!


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