Don't pick up that fork if your body isn't hungry


No one wants to be just average. So make it a point this holiday season not to gain the national average 5 to 7 pounds of unnecessary body fat. Instead, take this challenge. Work at maintaining your current weight while indulging in all your holiday favorites.

A number of studies done by Janet Polivy, Ph.D. show you'll do better at maintaining your weight if you don't diet. She concluded that, for dieters, eating a forbidden food (a delicious Christmas cookie?) can trigger out-of-control eating, probably because they think they've "blown it." Non-dieters don't have forbidden foods, but rely instead on natural hunger and satisfaction cues. So they eat one or two cookies, then just enough other food to get the right number of calories for the day.

If you're a chronic dieter, you've probably learned to ignore your natural cues. When you're dieting, you have to stop eating before you're satisfied. When you're "cheating," you may keep eating even when you've had too much. This might have started when, as a child, you had to clean your plate before you could have dessert.

But, as an adult, you can change, so your food life is more happy and less guilty. You can even have dessert first. Or, occasionally, eat nothing but dessert.

Pay close attention to your natural hunger and satisfaction cues. Then eat only when you're hungry (not tired, angry, lonely, bored or anxious) and stop eating when you're satisfied.

Here are a few tips:

Eat for yourself, not for others. Don't overeat just because your mother or your friend made it for you.

Get in the habit of saying, "No thanks. That was delicious, but I'm full now." Telling people you're on a diet somehow triggers their need to press food on you.

Choose only the best. Pass up the ordinary like cheese, chips or pizza that are available all year 'round. Indulge in holiday favorites only available now. Take pleasure in nostalgia foods that unite you with family and friends.

Savor each mouthful. Try to focus on eating and enjoying the taste, texture, color and aroma of food. Enjoy quality, not quantity.

Leave disappointing food on your plate. If it looks good, but doesn't taste great, don't eat it.

HTC Instead of anxious or unconscious party nibbling, move away from the food when you've had enough. Hang on to a low-calorie beverage so your hands are full.

Eat breakfast, lunch and dinner daily. Skipping leaves you starving (ignoring your normal hunger cues) and sets you up for out-of-control party eating. If a dinner party is going to be late, have some yogurt or a banana so you arrive feeling comfortable and in control.

Exercise regularly. Maintaining a routine helps keep your calorie expenditure in the normal range. That means you get to eat your usual amount of food. But if your exercise drops off, your hunger will, too. Pay attention to that cue and eat less.

If your host has forced a doggie bag on you, and it's something you don't really want, drop it in the trash.

Trash your holiday leftovers, unless it's something you really love. Soggy or stale leftovers aren't very satisfying, but come with the same high calorie price tag. Have some fresh fruit instead.

By honoring your natural hunger and satisfaction cues you'll be extraordinary, not average this year. You'll begin the new year with nothing to lose!

Colleen Pierre, a registered dietitian, is the nutrition consultant at the Union Memorial Sports Medicine Center and Vanderhorst & Associates in Baltimore.

Pub Date: 12/24/96

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