June 22, 2024
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June 22, 2024
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Ask Jenn: The Holiday Weight Gain Blues

Dear Jenn,

I have a concern about the upcoming holidays and weight control issues. I have been trying to watch my diet, weight and health. I make progress with healthy adjustments in times like the summer when things are quiet and routine. When the Yom Tovim hit, my diet, weight and life seem to turn into an “out of control binge party.” Cooking, eating; cooking, eating; and eating and cooking … the scale becomes my worst enemy! I totally look forward to and enjoy the Yom Tovim for the spiritual and family quality aspects, but afterwards I’m left heavier and feeling blue. What can you suggest to help me stay out of this holiday rut?


Holiday Weight Gain Blues Mama

Dear Holiday Weight Gain Blues Mama,

I understand the holiday weight gain challenge oh so well! It is hard to resist the urge to consume specially prepared holiday meals, side dishes and decadent desserts.

This year, 2021/5782, the Jewish holidays follow Shabbat and require additional food preparations. Translation: More sit-down meals … Increased caloric intake over this challenging weight control period … Bad news on the scale … Undesired weight gain … Side effects of widened hips and tightened clothing … All resulting in feeling the blues.

This pattern can occur, but it is not inevitable. There are ways to prevent this destructive cycle. Do not despair, help is here!* The suggestions below will help you navigate the “season of temptation.”


Ritual, Culture and Emotional Eating

Many of our rituals include food. Dipping apples in honey (challah, too) and consuming fatty and sweet cuisine reflect the hope for a healthy, happy and prosperous new year. These sentiments encourage habit-forming emotional eating behaviors. They make it hard to hold back during periods of holiday celebration. Below are some recommendations:

1. Take a small piece of apple and/or challah and dip in one teaspoon of honey to fulfill the custom. Don’t let rituals turn into high-calorie appetizers.

2. Offer two options for appetizers—soup and fresh salad. Unless your soup is low in calories, fresh salad with a drizzle of dressing is the way to go for the calorie conscious.

3. Eat slowly, savor the tastes and textures, and allow the brain and stomach to synchronize. You might be surprised at how full you feel halfway through a meal!

4. Be mindful. Concentrate on your conversation and relationships during the meals.

5. Drink low-calorie fluids during meals: Ice water, seltzer and club soda will fill you up and help slow eating.

6. Follow the “Rule of One.” Take control of portions and no second helpings from the dining table display!

7. If you are hosting a meal, provide low-calorie vegetables to fill the plate.

8. After dessert, invite company to join you away from the dining room table. Continue “calorie- free conversation” away from second-helping temptations.

9. Remember, feeling hungry shortly after a hearty meal is an emotional desire to eat something yummy. It is not true hunger, the biological need for nutrient replenishment after not eating for hours. Distraction helps the feeling pass; walk, talk or read, but get away from the food! It is hard to fight the urge—it is brain training!

10. With special desserts, offer fruit as an option. Sip a hot beverage with dessert to help achieve satiety.

11. Invited out for a meal? Share your holiday weight gain challenge with the host. A caring host will not want to jeopardize your health goals. Perhaps the host will be happy to serve a natural, less complicated, healthier meal.


Healthy Holiday Recipe Ideas

If you are cooking/hosting, you can control the menu and ingredients. Most people appreciate healthy cooking. Who wants to eat a holiday or Shabbat meal worth 1,800 calories prepared with unhealthy ingredients? Preparing healthy, nutritious and colorful meals is a way to take good care of yourself and the people you love.* Below are some recommendations to reduce calories and serve a healthy final product.

1. Reduce fat content of a recipe by a third. The final product will still be delicious.

2. Lightly fry chicken or fish to brown, pat off excess oil and bake till done.

3. Steam, bake or grill colorful vegetables. Flavor with Pam spray and your favorite spices. Avoid sautéing in high-fat, salt and/or sugar-sweetened sauces.

4. Reduce sugar or honey content of baked goods; incorporate fresh fruit or fruit puree instead.

5. For chicken or meat based soups remove fat/schmaltz as it cooks. Cool and refrigerate. Before serving, remove any remaining fat.

6. Reduce salt by cooking with wine, vinegar, citrus juice and salt-free spice blends.

7. Use low-fat dairy products instead of high-fat products. Be sure to read labels.


Keep Active

It may not be realistic to lose weight during the Yom Tovim. Focus on maintaining your current weight by remaining physically active.* Below are some recommendations:

1. Walk off your meals with a companion; it is a great way of enjoying quality time in a “calorie-expending” way.

2. In between Shabbat and Yom Tov make time to lift weights. Keep muscle mass and burn fat!

3. Center yourself and keep stress down with yoga, tai chi or stretching exercises.


General Thoughts

During busy holiday times it is important to take care of yourself. Take Control of your diet by preparing and serving healthy foods, watching portion sizes and practicing mindful eating. Make time for exercise to burn off calories. “Center” your emotions with stress-reduction activities. Consume adequate fluids for proper hydration, to feel energized and to help weight control. Get enough sleep and rest to avoid cravings.

If you need diet, fitness and stress-relief support, Nutrition Transformations can help you sail through the rough currents of the holiday food fest. Start your Rosh Hashanah resolution to better your life by eating healthy, achieving desired body weight and getting fit. Call now for an appointment. Don’t wait. You are worth it!

Yours in good health and Shana Tova!

Jenn, founder of Nutrition Transformations

Nu-trans.com, [email protected],

* In-person consultations require full COVID vaccination.

* Send questions to Jenn.

* See my new holiday blog.

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