The holidays and food seem to go hand in hand. Many of us look forward to the traditional holiday treats that elicit family memories. But for those who are working hard to lose weight, including those preparing for weight loss surgery, navigating this time of year is tricky and stressful. As a dietitian with Overlake’s Metabolic and Bariatric Services, I have witnessed how a patient’s situation dramatically changes the holiday season. Here is the advice I offer as support. I think it can be helpful for others who wrestle with enjoying yet managing their holiday eating.
Make it special. Growing up, my grandmother would spend hours making her famous fruitcake. For her, it was an art form, a way to say “I love you,” and it was her identity. Try to find new, special holiday foods that are not filled with sugar and butter but still made with love. One of our patients who was just days after having weight loss surgery, was thrilled that her friend made her sugar-free cranberry jello. Her friend made it just for her. Jello was special to her.
Eat with regularity. Even though holidays are hectic, make it a point to eat with regularity. Take time for a breakfast, a lunch and a dinner. If you are skipping meals, you will overeat and over-compensate with calories later in the day. Stress eating will be more likely, and when that happens it is usually not healthy foods!
Focus on each bite. Our lives are often busy and hectic. We have five minutes to inhale our fast-food lunch before we get back to our work. However, if you take a real break, you have time to take smaller bites and really chew your food. When you savor each bite and enjoy the flavor of your food, you will be more mindful of your meal and you will feel more satisfied.
Quality vs. quantity. After weight loss surgery, our clients can only tolerate small bites of food. When you can only eat several bites of food, you can become more of a “food snob.” As you slow down your eating and savor each bite, you become more critical over your food choices. For example, maybe that fast-food lunch that you inhaled won’t taste that great when you slow down and really taste what you are eating.
Finally, it is important for us all to remember that the holidays are about more than food. After our clients experience their first holiday, there are a few things they observe. When they are less focused on food, they are more focused on their family and new activities or adventures. As they get smaller, their world gets bigger. Happy Holidays!