The comedian Lenny Bruce used to have a routine about shark attacks. He called it “Do’s and Don’ts for Swimmers in Shark Infested Waters”.
Are you ready for the first step?
Don’t go in the water.
I was reminded of this joke when putting together this article on holiday weight gain, because in this case, the (very obvious) first step is “don’t gain weight in the first place”. And actually, that’s a lot simpler than it sounds. Easy? Not necessarily. Simple? You bet.
Research over the last decade has shown that there are powerful forces—I’m talking Terminator- SuperHero powerful— that make it difficult to lose weight. First among them: hormones. An array of hormones, ranging from the well-known insulin to the lesser known ghrelin and resistin fight to keep you at your current weight or even “encourage” you to put more on, “just in case of emergency”.
Next, after hormones, is your brain. Powerful neurotransmitters like dopamine (the “gotta have it” neurotransmitter) direct you towards sugar-laden foods, an endless supply of which are always around on holidays. Hormones like leptin are supposed to signal your brain to eat less, but many of us are “leptin resistant”– the message doesn’t get through, our brains think we’re starving, and we act accordingly.
Point is that preventing holiday weight gain—or getting rid of those extra holiday pounds—takes a lot more than mere calorie counting. Try these tips to prevent holiday weight gain (and use them if you’re trying to drop the weight you already put on!)
- The Proactive Food Diary: Mental rehearsal has been shown to improve everything from basketball shooting to piano playing. When you visualize what you want to do—vividly, as if it’s happening right now—you have a way better chance of actually doing it, whether it’s shooting a basket, playing scales, or eating healthy food.
So instead of recording everything you eat after you ate it, try doing a food diary “in reverse”. Start the day with a clear image of what it’s going to be like. What food will be there? How will you feel? What will you eat?
Make a reasonable decision about what you will and will not permit yourself—will it be one small piece of Aunt Mary’s pie?- and then stick to it, exactly the way you wrote it down. I’ve done this for years, and it’s amazingly effective.
- Curb your appetite naturally. The easiest time to resist food is when you’re not hungry. So for goodness sake, don’t “save up” your appetite for the big holiday meal. Eat before you leave. Don’t—repeat do not—skip breakfast. And studies show that consuming a small green salad or a cup of non-creamy soup before the main meal causes people to spontaneously consume about 10% less calories at the meal, without even trying.
- Eat protein first. It stimulates metabolism and also satiety. Filling up on protein before hitting the sugar-laden sweet potatoes can make it easier to keep portions of the sweet stuff to a minimum.
- Try PGX. This terrific supplement- by Natural Factors—is pure glucomannon, a kind of super-fiber known to slow the absorption of sugar and to seriously (and naturally) cut your appetite. I use it all the time, especially at holidays. (You can get PGX at any Vitamin Shoppe.)
- Take a walk after dinner. Preferably a long one. It will help you digest and metabolize some of those extra calories and, because exercise has an “insulin-like” effect, will also lower blood sugar as well as insulin (the “fat-storing” hormone).
- Reprogram your brain. This one is probably the most important, especially for weight loss, and especially long-term. We live in a highly toxic food environment, one in which foods have been superbly and efficiently engineered by scientists for maximum “palatability” (read: addictiveness).
In the face of such brilliantly designed food “products”, we are next to helpless. These foods—particularly those high in sugar, fat and salt, in just the right combinations—are designed to hit all our addictive “buttons” and to produce nearly irresistible cravings. (Remember the advertisement, “betcha can’t eat just one?” That was probably the most honest statement ever made in an ad!)
The point is that we need to work on re-conditioning our brains so that the sight (and smell) of the foods that make us fat, sick, tired and depressed no longer trigger powerful cravings. Much like Pavlov’s dogs salivated at the sound of a bell, our brains now “salivate” at the sight of a Cinnabon (or a holiday feast with an equivalent orgy of sugar).
Now imagine, if you will, that the sight (or smell) of such foods didn’t trigger such powerful cravings. Imagine if they looked delicious, sure, but not irresistible. Imagine if you were not powerless at the sight of them.
In my program, “Unleash Your Thin”, we have an entire component that addresses just this issue. We teach you how to change your associations to the foods that are destroying your waistline (and your health). It’s a fairly simple process, actually, and it works.
Weight loss (and the prevention of weight gain in the first place) isn’t always easy. It is, however, simple– when you know what to do.
The six tips above are a great place to start.
Let the games begin!