Weight loss after 50: A sane holiday eating plan

Dear Wendy,

Aaaaaaand here we are in December. I don’t know exactly how it happened, but it did, and you know what that means: it’s time to go totally off the deep end, diet-wise.

alt="IMAGE-hungry-must-eat"Eat it all! Mincemeat tarts! Shortbread cookies! Turkey and stuffing and gravy and sweet potatoes! Chocolate! Latkes! Not to mention all the egg nog you can imbibe without actually passing out.

Oh, wait. Wrong. Let’s try this again.


Oh, yay. Lettuce and tomatoes. Again.

It’s time to go on a strict diet.

Time to knuckle down and grit our teeth as we adhere rigidly to our food program. We can watch our friends and families go nuts food-wise, while we gnaw on pieces of celery and sip our Perrier, secretly seething with resentment and longing.

Okay, I have to admit. Neither of these two options seems like a great idea.

I’ve worked too hard for too long to blow it all on a month-long food orgy. And yet, I’m really not willing to sit out the festivities, chewing on my own wrists to keep the cravings at bay.

What to do? Well, I think the first step is to set some kind of realistic goal for the holiday season. For me, that would be “Don’t gain weight.” Which, oddly, doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding all the treats. It does mean going easy—having a single piece of shortbread rather than a plateful, say.

Fully cooked shortbread rounds on a baking sheet.

Why yes, I do appreciate shortbread. Why do you ask? (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For most people, food has a lot more meaning than “that stuff we cram into our digestive tracts to keep ourselves fuelled.”

Food means family, it means love, it means pleasure. (Especially shortbread, just saying.)

And food has cultural meaning: think of the Danish lunch that your family eats over the holidays, or the latkes I made last week for Hannukah. What would our holidays be like without those traditions?

So is it really reasonable to insist that we give it up completely at this time of year? I would argue that it’s not. So what should we do? Here are a few of the strategies I’ll be using:

  1. Stay the course: I won’t be trying to lose weight; I’ll just be trying not to gain. That gives me a bit of leeway, and offers the option of a treat from time to time.
  2. Even at this time of year, 95% of what I eat will be good for me. That means I don’t go completely off the rails; I follow my usual breakfast/snack/lunch/snack/dinner pattern. (And no fair substituting cookies for breakfast, eggnog for snack, etc. We’re talking real meals here. With veggies and protein. As usual.)
  3. Keep on tracking. Yes, I know. I’ve rattled on about food tracking so often here, I sound like a broken record. Tough noogies. Consistent, honest food tracking is the best tool I know to keep myself eating well. The only difference at this time of year is that from time to time I’ll exceed my daily calorie allowance. But here’s the trick: I planned it that way. I expect it to happen, and I’m giving myself permission to enjoy a treat or two, without stressing out about it.
  4. Plan ahead. I have a pretty good idea of the holiday events I’ll be attending this year. I don’t always know what’ll be on offer, but often I can make a good guess. One friend always serves tourtière; another can be counted on to provide cookies galore. If I know what’s coming up, I can plan ways to fit these foods into my daily food allowance.
  5. Keep moving. I’ll be continuing to exercise throughout the holidays. Exercise not only helps me burn off a few of the calories I’ll be consuming; it will help keep stress and fatigue at bay, and I’ll be happier knowing I’m still doing good things for my body.

Most of all, enjoy the holidays, food and all. Because really, if we don’t do that, what is the point? If I moan and agonize over every extra calorie, I’ll just be undermining myself, making myself feel bad, and making everyone around me miserable. Which doesn’t sound much like the holiday spirit to me.

Better, I think, to appreciate good times with our friends and families, savour the social round, and enjoy a gustatory treat now and then, while still taking care of our health.

I’m up for it. Are you?

Love, Karen

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13 thoughts on “Weight loss after 50: A sane holiday eating plan

  1. Shortbread! I never turn down that homemade buttery goodness. You know how I like to make up rules for myself. One of the simplest for me is to only eat homemade, delicious treats. So anything that looks store bought (not bakery bought, but grocery store bought) is easy to pass by, and if I take a bite of something that turns out to be less than delicious, I will sneakily throw the rest away when nobody is looking. I am no good, however, at following anyone else’s rules, and I break your second rule all the time. If I know I’m going to be encountering homemade cookies later in the evening, I will eat a light dinner.

  2. Good tips. I too set the rule like Ginger Kay, if it is not homemade, I don’t eat it at a party. I also consider the cook or baker if I know their recipes are made with mixes, I pass.

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