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Planning Ahead For The Holidays

In the the second week of the "Weight Off With The Early Show" series, we looked at how to eat fit and trim when tempting holiday meals come calling.

No doubt, holiday eating will challenge more than just the folks we're profiling from five different cities who've agreed to allow our experts monitor their progress as they follow our weight loss plan.

Easter dinner for the Kennett Square, Pa., couple will be a test of will.

Becky Niederland
Age: 38
Current Weight: 185
Height: 5' 8"
Goal: 30 pounds

Gary Niederland
Age: 36
Current Weight: 240
Height: 6' 2"
Goal: 20-25 pounds

Obstacle: Becky and Gary will be spending Easter Sunday with Gary's family.

Gary's Challenge: A "hard-core" Pennsylvania Dutch, he grew up eating anything and everything that was made with pork or went into a pie. Shoofly pie is Gary's absolute favorite thing in the world, "I already know my aunt will have two pies for me to take home." And he says he's going to take them and eat them because he loves them. "I'm not going to embarrass myself and sit up in front of 4 million people and not lose weight, but I have got to have my pie."

Gary says this Weight Off plan is really a lifestyle change for him, because he's now cut his calorie intake by at least half. "I was easily taking in 3,500 calories a day. Cutting back to 1,800 is a big difference. I get hungry sometimes, but I'm willing to make this happen."

Becky's Challenge: While she won't eat everything on the list above, she does admit that she's a hearty eater like Gary. "At dinner, I can eat a whole fillet steak and a half a bag of egg noodles. I love potatoes, French fries and chicken - and of course the chicken is stuffed with bread stuffing or the like."

The sweets are where she will run into trouble on Easter. "That's my biggest challenge, the chocolate-covered eggs that Gary's family makes. But I'm not going to have them, " she adds. She suspects there will be other sweets calling her name as well.

Motivation: The Niederlands both cite their 17-month-old twin daughters as their motivation for losing weight. Gary is particularly concerned, because he wants to give his daughters something that he didn't have: two healthy parents around a long time. "I want to be able to bend over and tie my shoes and be able to pick up my two daughters."

Health History: Gary notes, despite all the heavy eating his family has done over the years, none have suffered from problems with cholesterol, and he doesn't believe anyone has had heart disease, either. On the other hand, Becky's mother is a former smoker who had triple by-pass surgery after a massive heart attack. Her father, also a smoker, died of cancer of the lymph nodes when he was 51 years old.

Gary says, "Before we went on vacation, we walked everywhere. Now we get tired more often and are always looking for ways to ride everywhere."

Becky laments that even though she's home all day with the girls, running behind them, running up and down the stairs, hauling laundry, she hasn't dropped a pound since they were born.

This couple is willing to do what needs to be done to lose their desired number of pounds. But, as you can see, at least one of them will find next week's family gathering a little difficult.

Dr. Aronne says when it comes to losing weight, every aspect of a person's life has be attacked, because an overall lifestyle change in eating and health maintenance is the goal. Still, he adds, one of the biggest mistakes people make is that they put undue pressure on themselves to do the impossible. That is, immediately get used to the idea of cutting calories drastically, exercising aggressively, and foregoing every indulgence for the sake of losing weight.

Truth is, the mind must prepare for this experience just as much as the body. Sitting on pins and needles at the holiday table, afraid of putting fork to mouth, is not the way to adopt a new way of living and achieving the eventual goal of weight loss.

First and foremost, Dr. Lou Aronne says, the way to survive holiday dining is Not To Panic. The good thing about what Becky and Gary has already begun is they've been thinking about their Easter experience. Although they may need to forego many things this year, Dr. Aronne says they don't have to give up everything. The message is do what you can do, for the idea is not to take all the joy out of the holiday experience. If food is the focal point of all activities, then make smart choices and enjoy many of the foods that you love.

Dr. Aronne provides the following tips on how not to fall into a food trap.

Planning is key, so write everything down that you want to eat for the holiday. Make a commitment to this contract. It will allow one to work in some favorite holiday menu ideas without guilt.

  1. Try to cut back on calorie intake a few days before the big event. For example, if the holiday meal is on Sunday, begin cutting out 1 bread/starch per day on Wednesday through Saturday. This will bank 320 calories toward the holiday meal. (By doing this, both Gary and Becky will be able to enjoy that special something at Easter without feeling deprived.)
  2. Increase your exercise regime. Add another hour or two or exercise for the week. This will help counter some of the extra unavoidable calories consumed at the holiday meal. (Something both the Niederlands will need to work on.)
  3. Have some control over the menu. If one is the host, this is a great opportunity to try a lower fat and lower calorie menu. If one is the guest, call the host and ask about the items on the menu. Offer to bring along a menu item for the event and then be assured that there will be something low-fat to eat.
  4. Remember to include your favorite holiday in your plan. If one doesn't eat something that makes the holiday special and symbolic, one will feel deprived. Deprivation leads to overeating. Include one special desired item for the day (Gary's shoofly pie.)
  5. Be sure to eat a small snack before you attend a big event. Nothing else will send a person out of control like a hungry stomach.
Dr. Aronne says it's important folks learn to avoid the traps of holiday dining, especially the one where people think it is inevitable they will put on extra pounds. He writes in an article for Health Confidential, "If you think you're unable to control your eating, you probably are. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

Dr. Aronne advises that each holiday gathering should be looked as a unique event. He says resolve to avoid these nine common food traps.

Trap 1: Falling back into old eating patterns.

Trap 2: Not having an eating plan. To resist temptation, you must anticipate what sort of food will be there and decide how to deal with it. Call ahead and find out the menu. Then plan a strategy.

Trap 3: Starving yourself beforehand. This never works. You get so hungry that it becomes impossible to watch what you eat. Before you know it, you're stuffing yourself.

Trap 4: Focusing on the food. The reason to get together with friends and family is to enjoy their company - not to gorge yourself. This holiday season, focus on the conversation, not your plate.

Trap 5: Drinking too much. Alcohol diminishes willpower and whets the appetite. It's also full of empty calories. Preliminary evidence suggests that alcohol reduces the body's ability to burn fat, although that hasn't yet been proven.

Trap 6: Giving in to peer pressure. Don't tell people you're watching what you eat when they offer you high-calorie food. Instead, say, "Thanks, but I'm not hungry."

Trap 7: Not asking for support. Find a buddy that wants to lose weight as well. Develop a strategy together.

Trap 8: Indulging in foods you find irresistible. If a single taste of a particular food zaps your willpower, don't even pick up the spoon. Know which foods make you lose control - and avoid them.

Trap 9: Letting one slipup lead to a binge. Going right back on your eating plan will prevent a tiny transgression from becoming a major fiasco.

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