Taking Off Those Holiday Pounds
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Taking Off Those Holiday Pounds

The holidays have come and gone. Life as you know it is back to normal. Except, of course, for those extra pounds you may be carrying as a hefty reminder of holiday revelry.

It shouldn't be too difficult to work out a diet plan that will help you shed those extra pounds. You can reach and maintain your desired weight by keeping the following tactics in mind:

Find a Good Time to Start

Losing weight is a challenge, and requires the same careful consideration that you would give to changing your job, moving, or choosing a college. Create a plan that really suits your lifestyle. Plan to start during a quiet time in your life, not when work and family responsibilities are likely to be at their peak.

Check With Your Healthcare Provider If You Have Any Medical Problems

You want to be certain that your eating and exercise plans are compatible with your health status. This is especially important if you have diabetes, as loosing weight may change your requirements for sugar-lowering medication.

Plan an Exercise Program

Walk, join a gym, do a video—just move! Dietary change without exercise is unlikely to produce long-term results. Exercise will make you feel better about yourself, increase your cardiovascular fitness, and enhance your weight loss efforts.

Map Out Your Campaign

You may prefer to start with an exercise program and then add in the dietary changes. Or you may prefer the reverse. If you're very motivated, you may want to start both the exercise and diet segments simultaneously.

Choose a Good Book for Support

This might be an inspirational, first-person narrative about weight loss, an exercise book, or a healthful cooking book.

Consider Your Approach

While quick weight loss is always most desirable, it isn’t healthy nor is it lasting. You want to choose a plan which will allow for 1 to 2 pounds of fat loss per week while preserving your lean body mass and water.

Don't Forget Fluids

Drink at least eight, 8-oz. glasses of water per day. Water is noncaloric, fills you up, and prevents the shakiness of dehydration. And don't forget the psychological benefit—water gives you something to put in your mouth when you're trying to forget about eating. Flavor your water with a spritz of fresh lemon or lime.

Eat Slowly and Really Taste Your Food

Set your table with good china and pretty linens. Make meals an attractive, appealing part of your day.

Keep Track of Your Progress

If the scale intimidates you, look for other ways to chart your progress. Also, take the scale with a grain of salt. If you are exercising, especially lifting weights, then you could be losing fat and gaining muscle. The scale won’t reflect this healthy change. Try other ways of measuring your weight loss. For example, try on a snug pair of pants every other day. As the waist band becomes less snug, you'll become more motivated. Or use a measuring tape to measure the inches of your waist or hips or other body part, and chart your progress once a week.

Keep a "Food and Mood" Diary

Jot down what you eat, when you eat it, and how you feel as you're eating. Over the ensuing weeks, you'll be able to see a pattern and adjust your eating plan accordingly. If you find yourself eating when not hungry, journal about it. see what other needs you have, emotionally, and deal with them instead of eating.

Don't Punish Yourself

If you over indulge, get over it. One splurge doesn't undermine your overall efforts. Learning to forgive yourself and overlook your indulgences are the keys to long-term weight control. If you have one bad meal, move on, don’t turn it into a bad day or bad week. One bad meal is no big deal, but the giving up and calorie fest that can come next is damaging to progress.

Survive the Plateaus

If you experience a plateau in weight loss, take a look at your program. Are you eating enough? If you aren’t eating enough, the body will slow down and go into starvation mode. Are you eating often? Skipping meals or going more than 3-4 hours without a snack can also cause a plateau. The other thing that can resolve a plateau is mixing up the exercise.

Elicit Support

Recruit your significant other, work colleagues, or children for encouragement and support. Remind them that although you don't need the diet police, you would appreciate that they not sabotage your efforts. Also, there are many commercially available weight loss programs that are helpful.

Reward Yourself

Both small and large treats will help you to realize your goals. Break your weight goal down into smaller segments and compensate yourself as you reach each one. The more you reward yourself, the more motivated you'll be to continue. A reward can be a small treat of free time, a movie, or an hour in the sun. Or you might take yourself on a vacation as you approach and reach your final goal.

Keeping the Weight Off

Losing the weight is your first challenge. Keeping it off is the next. While there is no simple formula for maintaining your new physique, the following motivational keys may be helpful:

Break the Maintenance Commitment Into Small Intervals

Make one commitment to losing weight and a second commitment to maintaining your weight loss. It's easier to commit to keeping your weight steady for one year than for "the rest of your life."

Create New Habits

Trigger these habits on a daily basis. If you decide to eat breakfast every day, set out the cereal bowl or the dry ingredients the night before.

Avoid Deprivation

Although strict diet regimens are successful for short periods, deprivation over time is self-defeating. Food should be enjoyable. Keep a list of foods that you like and that are compatible with weight maintenance. When you find yourself craving a former, less healthful meal, treat yourself to the foods on your list.

Monitor Your Weight

Get on the scale; try on a predesignated pair of slacks; use a tape measure. The method isn't important. Just be sure that you are able to keep track of the pounds. If you find that you've put on one to three pounds, just be extra watchful for a few days. If you put back more than four pounds, however, you should gear up for "relapse recovery."

Expect to have at least one relapse. Just don't let it go on for too long. The most important thing is to recover as soon as possible. Begin by filling in the blank: "I've put back some weight because...." Then take control of your response.

If you've put back some pounds because you're bored, maybe enrolling in a low-fat cooking class will help restimulate your interest. As you build your recovery plan, enlist the support of at least one person who really understands the ups and downs of weight reduction.

Nurture Yourself

Remember that you are a capable, intelligent person who can accomplish whatever you set out to do. Learn to cope with the stress that leads to overeating. Keep a mental picture of your total weight loss experience—your new body, the feeling of being in control and taking care of yourself, or even your new clothes.

Be Flexible

Weight maintenance involves shifting from restricted eating to more flexible eating. This flexibility is harder to handle than a simple set of rules. Just accepting the fact that weight maintenance is difficult is an important step to continued success. Recognizing that some setbacks are inevitable will help you cope with them as they occur.


American Council on Exercise (ACE)

American Dietetic Association


Dietitians of Canada

Healthy Living Unit


Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. Available at: http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/obesity. Accessed November 12, 2006.

National Institute of Health website. Available at: http://health.nih.gov/result.asp/476. Accessed November 12, 2006.

Tsai AG, Wadden TA.Systematic review: an evaluation of major commercial weight loss programs in the United States. Ann Intern Med. 2005 Jan 4;142(1):56-66.

Last reviewed June 2008 by Dianne Scheinberg MS, RD, LDN

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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