COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Is the prospect of holiday food stressing you out?
You're not alone – especially if you're on an active journey to manage your weight. Professor Delia West, with USC's Arnold School of Public Health, specializes in exercise science and behavioral research surrounding weight loss and management.
She said the holidays can be especially hard for people who are working to maintain or lose weight. But, there are ways to continue on your journey while also enjoying your favorite holiday foods.
"Think through: what are your best tastes of things? Enjoy it," West said. "If it's something you're eating just because it's there, you want to stop yourself and say, 'Am I enjoying this right now?' And if the answer is no... then, by all means, don't eat it."
Easier said than done, she says. But it's critically important to connect on a deeper level with what it is you're eating. Does it have emotional value? Is there a specific memory it evokes?
"Probably if I had to come up with one mantra for the holidays," West said, "It's "stay balanced."
For USC junior, Michaela Baker, she understands the notion of food triggering memory.
"My grandma taught me how to make her mac and cheese," Michaela said. "It was a very special memory I had very young in the kitchen, like writing down her mac and cheese recipe. Everyone loves it. Everyone knows it as 'Ma's mac and cheese.'"
But, Michaela follows a low-carb diet. It's helped her lose 12 pounds since July, and she says she's on her way to achieving the health and wellness she's always wanted. The reality of heading home for holiday food and portion sizes is looming. For someone working to maintain their weight over the holidays, like Michaela, West offers a few helpful tips.
Be mindful: do you really want to eat what you're eating? Plan ahead: plan your meals and plan the food you'll indulge in. Manage your stress: get a little bit of extra exercise when you can and don't beat yourself up!
Michaela offers one of her own.
"I would encourage everyone if they want to lose weight or start a diet... write it down," Michaela said. "There's something in writing it down."
Michaela blogs on her personal website. She chronicles her journey, along with several other interests. She says heading home this holiday season, she will approach her plate like this.
"When you are serving your plate, maybe you don't need that extra serving of macaroni... maybe go for an extra serving of vegetables," she said. "It's all in moderation."