Holiday Blues & Weight Loss: Derail Your Diet? (cont.)

When you're feeling low and tempted to blow your diet, focus on taming your "inner brat."

"When we feel sorry for ourselves, we rationalize pigging out," Wallin says. "I call that voice inside the 'inner brat'; the part of you that wants it now! "If you can visualize that inner brat, even give it a name, think of it as a 4-year-old child, you're getting it under control," says Wallin. "Who's the boss, the brat or you? Let the brat eat one cookie, then say, 'That'll do you.' Wait 10 minutes, do something else, and see if the brat still wants another cookie. You might be surprised; you may not want it."

Get Walking

After you've had that holiday treat, get moving, advises Sheah Rarback, MS, RD/LD, a dietitian with the University of Miami School of Medicine.

"Have that one cookie, then take a walk," she says. "You're indulging the urge, plus getting double endorphins from the cookie and the exercise."

Walking also mutes cravings that come from boredom, Rarback tells WebMD: "If you get out and walk, you won't crave food as much."

Exercise is a major weapon against both the holiday blues and holiday binges, she says. "Both food and exercise increase the level of feel-good brain chemicals, which makes you calmer and decreases anxiety," she says.

The typical comfort-food meal -- high in carbohydrates with a little protein -- is an excellent feel-good combination (the protein helps keep you feeling full longer), Rarback adds. But "comfort" doesn't have to mean calorie-laden.

Rarback's list of healthy comfort foods:

  • Whole-grain bread with a slice of turkey
  • A glass of milk
  • Food rich in omega-3 fatty acids, such as cold-water fish (like salmon), nuts, and flaxseed
  • Chocolate, which has theobromine and caffeine for a mental boost, plus phenylethylamine to stimulate the nervous system and, possibly, produce positive feelings. You don't need a lot, half an ounce or 3-4 Hershey's kisses.
  • Protein for breakfast. "Sometimes people feel sluggish in the morning and have trouble getting going," says Rarback. "Don't have a big bowl of cereal, bagel, or toast. Have a protein meal for breakfast, like yogurt or eggs."

Beat the holiday blues by working these into your diet, says Rarback: "They're good for you all year, but if you feel prone to holiday depression, make sure you're getting enough."

Also, graze -- don't binge -- to keep the holiday blues away, Rarback tells WebMD.

"Instead of eating huge meals that make you sluggish, eat small meals so you'll have steady blood sugar levels throughout the day," she says. "Instead of feeling stuffed, you're always fueling. Portion control is important, but if you stay satisfied, you won't get super hungry and won't give in to binges."

Originally published Nov. 29, 2004
Medically updated December, 2006.

SOURCES: John Eliot, PhD, professor, Rice University, Houston; and author, Overachievement: The New Model for Exceptional Performance. Pauline Wallin, PhD, clinical psychologist; and spokeswoman, American Psychological Association, Pennsylvania. Sheah Rarback, MS, RD/LD, dietitian, School of Medicine, University of Miami.

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Last Editorial Review: 12/18/2006