Health Matters – Just One More Christmas Cookie

It’s nearly Christmas, so out come the butter, the sugar, and the white flour. Many of us are baking those wonderful Christmas goodies?cookies, pies, bars, cheesecakes?and ogling each one of them with guilt as we recall our waistlines and our wannabe diets. And even if we avoid baking such delicacies, the tempting morsels still arrive from friends and family. Even the chocolate-bringing Santa seems part of the conspiracy! Is there a way to keep our weight under control despite the deluge of calorie-laden treats?

Happily, yes! As a weight-conscious postpartum mom and a naturopathic doctor, I’ve searched for solutions that will still give you?and me?the flavour of Christmas, but without the lasting effects. we’ll check out the psychology of overindulgence, and then review techniques and tips to deal with it.

The Dessert Wars

Let’s take a peek at some psychology here. We know we’re on a diet, or we know that we’re trying to maintain a trim tummy. But when the plate of goodies is set before us . . . well, we start out by nibbling just one. After all, It’s Christmas! Then we finish it. One little shortbread won’t hurt . . . Next, we start craving it and dreaming about it (the just-one-more syndrome), or our host urges us to the point of embarrassment to try another concoction. Then, before we know it, we’ve eaten another cookie, and maybe even slice of cheesecake.

Guilt sets in?I never, ever should have even touched one!?and then overflows: I’ve completely ruined this dieting day. This cascade of events is followed by the devouring of another cookie (I might as well!) and another, since, after all, the chance to keep to a calorie-restricted diet was lost four treats ago.

Ironically, our guilt causes us to consume still more goodies to compensate for the guilty feeling. After all, we want to feel good, and our brains are hardwired into thinking that maybe some great-tasting food will offer a nice mental pick-me-up. Later on, of course, we realize that we’ve overindulged and feel depressed about our waistlines. And the cycle continues.

The Guilt-Busting Game

So what can we do to escape from this cycle of guilt and depression? Although one option is to not sample any holiday sweets at all, It’s not my favourite technique. After all, completely denying yourself treats can make you crave them all the more.

Instead, I prefer to operate on the ?mostly healthy? principle. Essentially, this means that during the holidays, 95 per cent of the time I toe the line and eat in a healthy manner, following my diet and making sure I’m eating nutritionally dense foods. But the remaining five per cent of the time, I allow myself to bend the rules and try a sweet.

Since I have this understanding ahead of time, I don’t feel guilty after eating dessert, and I don’t end up overdoing it since I know that the next day, I can do it all over again. (Just for the holidays, though!)

The Game Rules

There are several rules to this game.

? Watch quantities: Try to keep that five per cent equal to one moderately-sized sweet.

? Keep the future in mind: Remember that appetizers and snacks are also included in that five per cent. Do you really want to ?waste? it on that handful of BBQ chips, or would you prefer one of your grandmother’s homemade shortbread cookies later on?

? Make that sweet count: don’t be the first in line at the dessert table, where you’ll feel hurried by others through your dessert selection. Be the last, and take your time to decide. If It’s your only treat, make it an amazing one: chew it well and savour it.

? Choose smart: If You’re equally torn between cheesecake and fruitcake, choose fruitcake. The calories in it are likely lower, as It’s full of healthy nuts and fruits.

? Consider guilt-free snacks: After all, Christmas doesn’t have to be all about calories and sugar! For example, keep dried fruits like figs, dates, and apricots on hand. Their sweetness will help take the edge off your sweet tooth, making it easier to save your five per cent for the evening’s dessert table or that midnight chocolate run. Other snacks include oranges or clementines (they’re in season!). For taste bud stimulation, try walnuts (but use caution as to quantity, as they are high in fat).

? Move on: Once you’ve selected your treat, don’t stand around at the dessert table, testing your willpower against the plates of sticky sweets. You’ll have better success if you move away, and strike up a conversation with someone rather than hanging around the source of temptation.

? Fill up: Drink tea or water before you select your dessert, especially if the dessert is eaten some time after your main meal. Not only will this distract you from staring at the others who are stolidly eating sweets, it will also give your stomach something to think about so you won’t attack the dessert table with hunger cravings.

Is a Christmas party around the corner? What about the big family gathering ? Try the above suggestions, and see if you don’t come off victorious! I’ve already thought ahead for my five per cent on Christmas Day: It’s going to be a piece of homemade shortbread. I can’t wait!

Katie D?Souza is an AU graduate and a licensed naturopathic doctor. She currently lives in Ontario.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for personal interest only; it is not intended for diagnosis or treatment of any condition. Readers are always encouraged to seek the professional advice of a licensed physician or qualified health care practitioner for personal health or medical conditions.

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