THE PSYCHOLOGIST SAYS… Stay calm
It's normal to feel overwhelmed this time of year, but minimizing anxiety can actually help your waistline. Stress hormones like cortisol boost your desire for sugary and fatty foods, and research has found that chronically stressed women have more abdominal fat than those with low levels of anxiety, even though they followed similar diets. Your assignment: Pare down your to-do list in order to ease holiday pressures. Instead of planning a month's worth of seasonal activities, choose just a few that will be meaningful to your family (such as an evening of caroling), shop for gifts online to eliminate the frustration that comes from dealing with the mall, and don't feel guilty about turning down invitations to holiday parties.
KIRSTIN ASCHBACHER, PhD, assistant professor of psychiatry, University of California, San Francisco
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THE RESEARCHER SAYS…Trick yourself
We know that people eat 9% of their Thanksgiving calories before they even dig into the main meal—which means they're filling up on small bites like chips, dip and nuts. Stop yourself from going overboard this holiday season by skipping the starters. Then, when dinner is served, follow the "rule of two" by dishing up just a couple of your favorite foods (glazed sweet potatoes and green bean casserole, for example). My research has found that when people allow themselves to indulge in this limited manner, they consume about 30% less than they would if they served themselves a little bit of everything at once. The simple reason why this tactic works: When you eat the most appealing foods first, it makes the rest of the spread seem less enticing, so you feel satisfied faster and aren't as likely to want more.
BRIAN WANSINK, PhD, author,
THE PHYSICIAN SAYS… Pump up protein
Snacking on refined carbohydrates like crackers and pretzels can actually stimulate your appetite, especially if you already struggle with weight loss, making you want to munch on more carbs and sweets. But eating 25 g to 30 g of lean protein at each meal (the equivalent of 1 cup cottage cheese, 3½ oz grilled chicken or 4 oz cooked salmon) can help balance blood sugar levels and counter cravings. After two weeks of increased protein intake, you'll find that your sugar and carb desires start to subside, making it easier for you to say no to the bread basket or a second serving of pie—and ultimately helping to prevent weight gain.
CAROLINE CEDERQUIST, MD, author,
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