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Conquer Your Weight

Episode #54: How to Lose Weight During the Holidays

Show Notes

November 15, 2023

In this week's episode, we'll discuss tips you can use to continue to focus on your weight loss goals during the holidays.

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Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: This is Dr. Sarah Stombaugh and you are listening to the Conquer Your Weight Podcast, episode number 54. Announcer: Welcome to the Conquer Your Weight podcast, where you will learn to understand your mind and body so you can achieve long-term weight loss. Here's your host, obesity medicine physician and life coach, Dr. Sarah Stombaugh. Dr. Sarah Stombaugh: Hey everyone, happy almost holidays. This is the week before Thanksgiving and we are entering into full-blown holiday season. So between Thanksgiving and Christmas or Hanukkah or whatever you celebrate, there are all sorts of end of the year parties and holiday parties, and I want to help you with having a plan for how to navigate those so that you can continue to lose weight during the holidays. I will tell you right now as we are talking, I have kiddos playing on a bounce house right outside my office, and so you may hear them, there are some really gleeful shrieks and screams that are coming out, so if some of those happen to pop through, you'll know that is what is going on. As an aside for parents of young children, if you have space just a 12 by 12 area in your house where you can put a small bounce house, it is literally the best investment I think I have probably ever made. We moved into a new house in March and we decided to put a bounce house in an open area of our basement, and it has been so fun on days when it's cold or rainy or honestly just whenever the kids really love getting into it, it's a great way to get all those wiggles out. So that's what they are doing right now, and you might hear them because they are having a blast. So I want to talk today about losing weight during the holidays so that as you are getting ready to have Thanksgiving and every other fun thing coming up over the next month, month and a half here, you feel like you have a plan. And I think the most important thing is a lot of people decide, okay, I'm not going to really focus on it. I just want to enjoy the holidays. I'll buckle back down in the new year, but the reality is we know that it is very common to gain weight over the holidays. Many people maintain their weight all year long just to gain two to five pounds in the holiday season and then without really concerted effort, it can take up to a year to get that weight off. And many people don't actually ever get it off. So what we see is that you gain two pounds this year and five pounds next year and all of a sudden year after year that has slowly added up and you are dealing with more weight than, and you're like, oh my gosh, where did this even come from? And so I want you to feel empowered to continue to lose weight during the holidays to feel like you have a healthy, great attitude towards your food choices, and I still want you to be able to enjoy it. So let's talk about how that can be possible. So I say this often, but one of the best things that you can do is have a plan and before any sort of resistance come up, any sort of objections start to come up. I want you to realize that a plan can be broad. You may have no idea what is going to be on your Thanksgiving buffet if you are traveling to see friends or family. And so your plan may be something as simple as, I'm going to eat whatever I want, but I'm going to listen to my hunger and satiety signals. Your plan may be something like, I'm going to create a plate that is a quarter protein, half vegetables and a quarter fats and sweets or processed carbohydrates. Your plan does not have to be, I'm going to have these exact dishes and these exact amounts of them, but having a plan of what it is that you want to accomplish on that holiday is one of the best things that you can do. I also really encourage patients to listen to their hunger and their fullness signals. So like I said, that may be your plan where you're saying you're just tuning in to what is your hunger, what is your fullness, and making sure that you don't overeat. A lot of times people say, I just want to enjoy the holiday totally. And I know from personal experience that I have had the situation where I have overeat at a meal and that makes the meal much less enjoyable. I actually would have enjoyed the meal more if I had eaten less. And so by listening to your fullness signals, you may be able to actually increase your enjoyment of the meal. So you can both eat the foods that you want as well as eat the appropriate quantity of them that helps your body to feel satiated without feeling overly full. So listening to your fullness signals alone may be a really good tool to use. Another thing, thinking about the day of, a lot of times at our family, we will have Thanksgiving meal in the mid-afternoon, so let's say two, three o'clock in the afternoon, and this is going to vary, but for a lot of you, Thanksgiving and some of these other meals may happen at a different time than our usual eating window. And so sometimes we feel like we don't know how to handle that. So it's going to depend on what that timing is, but I want to make sure that you're going into that in a place where you are not ravenously hungry. Sometimes we have this mindset of I'm just going to save up all my calories and eat them at the Thanksgiving meal, and then by the time we get to a meal at say two or three o'clock in the afternoon, we are so ravenously hungry that we eat too quickly, we overeat, we're less mindful about the type of choices that we make. So maybe we're making choices that are not necessarily in line with our goals. So I really encourage you to start off the day strong. If you're going to be having Thanksgiving at two or three o'clock in the afternoon, make sure that you do have a really hearty breakfast, something that has lots of proteins, something that has fats, something that is going to help you feel satiated that may be starting to wear off by two or three o'clock in the afternoon so that you are appropriately hungry to be able to enjoy the meal, but do not go into that meal starving similarly, a lot of times because we're traveling or it's a holiday and we're eating differently than we usually would, it's very common that there might be coffee cakes or muffins or pastries and foods available that we wouldn't necessarily eat for breakfast. And I just want to caution you, if you decide to eat that, that is totally fine. But if you're someone who doesn't usually have that type of processed carbohydrate for breakfast, you may find that it sort of spikes your blood sugar, makes your blood sugar feels sort of crashing down afterwards, and that you might actually find yourself ravenously hungry in the early afternoon despite the fact that you had chosen to eat breakfast. So just be really intentional early in the day, what are the choices that you can make there that are going to support you throughout the day, especially, especially getting that protein in. Another thing I want you to think about is how can you be the most generous guest? So even if you're cooking, that's great, but even if you're going to a dinner where you are not expected to bring anything with you, or maybe you're the person who always brings pie, I want you to also think about a dish that you can bring that is fully in line with your health goals and something that you really, really enjoy. So if you show up to Thanksgiving and it's foods that you're not excited about, it's foods that are maybe greasier or creamier or fattier or more sugary or whatever it is. If you look at the whole spread and you're like, Ooh, I don't really know what is going to align with my food choices here, that is a perfect opportunity to bring something along with you. Even if you think it's going to be a healthy spread, you will just be a very generous guest if you bring something along with you. This can also apply to beverages. So a lot of times, especially if you're cutting back on sweetened beverages, cutting back on alcohol, sometimes you show up and there's all these great sodas or wines or beers, and if you have decided to cut back on those things, it can be really boring to be like, I'm just going to have a water, and you might make you bring up certain feelings. And so can you decide that you're going to bring along your favorite flavor of sparkling water and bring a dozen of them so you can share them with your friends or family that you're spending the holiday with. And in terms of that side dish, to choose something that you know can eat in a large volume if you chose to, and it would really serve you. So that might be a vegetable, that might be a really nourishing salad, something that is going to align with your food goals. I also want you to think about the caloric intake through the day. My patients all know I don't spend a lot of time talking about calories, but calories are still calories. They're energy absorbed from our food. What we do know is that we can also have quite a bit of calories in our beverages, and our body does not recognize those in the same way as if we were to eat those same foods. So if you imagine eating a meal with a Coca-Cola, that Coca-Cola is not going to help you feel any more full, any more satiated, but it is going to have a meaningful amount of calories, usually a couple of hundred depending on the volume that you have. And so one of the best tips that I have for you is to minimize or just to have no calories from beverages. If you can have your calories from food, those are going to contribute to our normal hunger and satiety signals, and you are less likely to sort of overdo it in terms of the full amount of calories that you are having throughout the day. I also want to think about eating for yourself and not for anybody else. We've talked about this before, and this comes up with my patients really frequently when we realize we're eating for reasons beyond our own desires. So sometimes we're eating beyond our own hunger, but other times we're even eating beyond our own wants. And so someone has offered something to you and you feel guilty not having it. They've cut a slice of something for you and you feel guilty not having the whole amount. And so going into your Thanksgiving or into your holiday season with the plan that you are going to eat only because you want to, not because someone else wants that for you, that might also mean that you are serving yourself. So particularly at dessert time, a lot of times I know if you say, oh, I just want a small slice of pie, your definition of small slice may be very different than someone else's definition of small slice. So if you have the opportunity to serve yourself, that is always going to be the best option. Only you really know what your hunger is. Only you know what your fullness is and the amounts that are going to satisfy your ones and your needs. And so whether it is the meal, whether it is the dessert, if you have the opportunity to serve yourself, please do that. This also might be an example where you can be that generous guest. And so if the hostess is going to be serving up the dessert, you can offer to help her. And so you can guide the size of what you want for the amount of dessert you can offer to do the cutting while she does the serving of it. There may be ways where you can also show up as a generous guest, but use that as an opportunity to take the slice of pie that you actually want rather than a slice that was too big because for many of us, as soon as it's on our plate, if we're not paying attention, it may enter into our mouths. And so it's better for it to just the amount that you want is the amount that goes on your plate if you can swing it. Another thing I want you to think about is actually stopping to enjoy the meal. So this is where having a plan comes in because then you just get to follow your plan. So even if the plan was really broad, even if the plan was a quarter plate protein, half of a plate vegetables, a quarter of the plate carbohydrates, or your plan was, I'm just going to eat to my fullness signals or something like that, even so being able to actually enjoy your food is so important. A lot of times we say, oh, my plan is just to, I don't want to worry about the day. I just want to enjoy it. But we make no plan and then we end up feeling badly afterwards. We end up sort of beating ourselves up like, oh, I really shouldn't have had that second portion, or I can't believe I had so many sweet potatoes or whatever it is. And we actually end up feeling guilty, which does not serve us at all. And so if you put the food on your plate, you need to decide that you are going to enjoy that food. It doesn't mean if you're eating it and you're like, Ooh, this tastes gross. You don't have to eat it, obviously, but if you are going to choose to eat it, choose also to enjoy it. There is no guilt that comes up afterwards. And if those guilty feelings start to come up afterwards just to remind yourself gently, it's Okay, this was the plan. I chose to do this. This is exactly what I wanted. So this is that establishing a relationship with yourself, building up that reputation of yourself, you know that you have your best interest in mind, you had a plan, you stuck to the plan. And for goodness sakes, if you are going to eat two slices of pie, please enjoy those two slices of pie. The calories have been consumed either way. So please, please, please just let it be something that you really, really enjoy. And then lastly, I just want to remind you that is just one day. So regardless of the types of food consumed, regardless of the calories of food consumed, regardless of whether you did stick to your plan or you didn't stick to your plan, it is just one day. And so eating not according to your food plan, not according to how you would normally eat on Thanksgiving Day, for example, does not have to mean anything for the rest of the holiday season. If you sort of fall off the bandwagon, which I don't even really love that phrase anyway, but if you fall off of your food plan, there is no reason to let that mess up the rest of the day. So that may still mean that there's more food or eating opportunities later in the day that doesn't have to mess up the entire weekend. And it certainly does not have to mean anything for your entire holiday season. So even if you ignored every single piece of advice that I have and you want to just do whatever you want on Thanksgiving, totally fine, but that does not have to mean anything about the next day or the next weekend or the next month, one bad day. And as you know, I do not assigning morality to our food choices, but one bad day does not require beating ourselves up and letting the whole thing slip away. There's no reason you can't get started later in that day or the next morning that is totally available to you. I love working with patients in the holidays. A lot of times we have that mindset where you're like, I'm just going to wait until January. There is no reason that that has to be the case. So if you were listening at thinking like, man, I really wish I had someone to just tell me what to do during the holidays, let me be that person. I would love to support you in that. We can look at your food choices, your goals, and we can work together to help support a healthy weight loss journey even through the holiday season. There is honestly no better time than just right in the thick of it. Let's make a plan for every single one of those events. So if this sounds like something you're interested in, pop on over to my website at It's in my show notes. I would love to connect with you and see how I can support you in your weight loss journey. I am accepting new patients from Illinois and Virginia where I'm licensed to practice medicine. Occasionally. I have patients who reach out who are from other states. And if that's the case, if you are in another state and you're like, oh my gosh, I wish Dr. Stombaugh was here, reach out to me. Anyway. I would love to help get you connected. I know a lot of different physicians across the country. I recently went to the Obesity Medicine Association conference and met even more of them. And so if you were looking for someone to support you, I would love to be that person, or I would love to connect you with someone who can. Thank you so much for joining me today. I hope you enjoy your holiday season. Take care. bye-bye.
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