Thursday, November 15, 2012

Healthy Eating: Focus on Every Day, not Thanksgiving Day


Tara Parker-Pope wrote an interesting post yesterday on the New York Times' Thanksgiving Help Line about the commonly thrown around stat that the average person consumes 4500 calories in the course of Thanksgiving Day.  In the piece, she works at length itemizing what 4500 calories would actually look like – choosing many fat and sugar-laden calorie bombs – and although she was able to reach the 4500 calorie count, it took some doing, and would, she concludes, if actually consumed likely leave most people nauseous and gaseous and reaching for a full pack of antacids. 

The take away was that while some people certainly pack in the calories on Thanksgiving, it’s likely not to such an extreme as has become lore.  The vilification of Thanksgiving as a diet-killing, weight-packing annual affair may be undeserved.  Yet, the day does serve to highlight what most health and nutrition experts can agree upon: it’s not one meal, or one day, that’s important.  It’s how we eat on all the other days that matters.

For many of us, everyday has become a lot like Thanksgiving Day when it comes to how much we eat.  We’re surrounded by so many cues to eat – and so few avenues to activity – that we consistently eat more than we burn off, and the result is the creeping weight gain we see over time. 

Certainly, the holidays don’t help, with the numerous parties and meals and other celebrations that span the time between Thanksgiving and New Years , but the other eleven months of the year matter even more.  And, unfortunately, it takes a lot of effort to keep those external cues at bay, and our internal motivation up, but it’s something we can all do – maybe not overnight but certainly in the long run.

Over the holidays and throughout the rest of the year, try these healthy eating and lifestyle tips :

  • Exercise, exercise, exercise.  Being active is one of the best ways of controlling weight.
  • Go Mediterranean.  A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy oils (like olive oil) can make you feel full, help regulate your appetite, and actually taste really good
  • Choose smaller portions and eat more slowly.  Slow down and give your body a chance to feel full before you move on to seconds.
  • Be a mindful eater.  Food is big business, and their main goal is to get you to eat.  Try to listen to what your body is telling you, not what the food business wants you to hear. 

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