If you are trying to lose weight, the holidays literally are the heaviest time of the year.
So how do you eat, drink and be merry while you’re counting every single calorie? By getting a buddy who will help you make the right choices bite by bite.
Scientific studies have shown that people who diet with partners are much more likely to lose weight and to keep it off. And there’s no more crucial time to have a buddy on your side than from Thanksgiving to New Year’s.
“During the holidays, you can use all the help you can get,” says Alan Gettis, a nutritionist and clinical psychologist in River Edge, N.J. “I urge my clients to get a full-time year-round a buddy, it could be a husband or a wife, a neighbor or a friend. I’ve also been telling my clients about , where they can sign up for a buddy for free.”
But don’t wait for the first feast to find a buddy, says Susan Holmberg, a nutritionist and behavioral therapist in Oradell, N.J. “Once you start overeating, you don’t want a buddy,” she says.
Buddies give you moral support and help you identify bad eating habits and patterns because they have been there, too, she says. “You may want to have more than one buddy,” she says. “You can have one on the phone and one who exercises with you and goes to parties with you. You can make deals with your buddy where you both go to the party but only one of you goes through the buffet line or where you agree to split one meal.”
Buddies also are like therapists and coaches, who listen to you and keep you on the right path. “Your buddy should be a person you can share your feelings with and rely on in a pinch without fear that your feelings will be used as ammunition against you,” Gettis says.
Holmberg says that is particularly helpful to people who may be reluctant to change because those who sign on can choose a either real-life buddy, someone in their geographical area they can meet and exercise with, or select someone to work with solely online or via the phone. “Sometimes anonymity is good,” she says. “You are much more likely to try it if you don’t have to meet the person.”
Gettis points out that with [http://www.WeightLossBuddy], “you can find someone with similar goals, and both of you can support each other.”
Buddies also take on active roles, getting you to stop a bad habit and replace it with a healthy one. Gettis likens the process to a marathon, where the runners are tempted to give up before the 26th mile because it is so difficult to stay the course. “The 18- to 19-mile mark is the crucial one,” he says. “During a marathon I was once in, I came upon two guys running – one was hurting, and the other was encouraging him to keep running. I followed them for two to three miles, and the one kept saying, ‘Leave me.’ The other kept saying, ‘I’m not going to.’ And I thought, ‘What great friends!’ Then I heard the one hurting say, ‘What’s your name?’”
Perhaps the most important role that buddies play is helping plan strategies and then making sure that you make them work. “They can teach you to take baby steps and to change your environment,” Holmberg says. “For instance, they may suggest that you keep sneakers in your trunk or put on your gym clothes as you leave the office so you don’t have an excuse not to exercise. They can call ahead to the party to check on the menu and give you a low-cal recipe to bring so there’s at least one thing that you can eat.”
Holmberg says that some of the changes are so simple that people overlook them. A buddy may, for instance, suggest that you get at the end of the buffet line so there is less food available or help the host wash dishes because if your hands are wet, you are less likely to nibble on the last remaining crumbs from the serving dishes. “If you are asked to bring dessert, your buddy may remind you not to make chocolate chip cookies because the last time you ate a dozen cookies before you brought them to the party and nibbled the chips while baking and suggest that instead you make something like a pie that can’t be nibbled because it is cut only when served.”
Buddies also can help you practice being assertive, not aggressive to make significant changes in your diet and your lifestyle. “By being assertive, you attack the task,” Gettis says. “By being aggressive, you attack the person. You need to stand your ground and in a firm but angry voice say: ‘I really would appreciate it if you would not bring home anything fattening. You may have had good intentions, but I’d feel better if you didn’t do it again.’”
So don’t wait until you’re boxed in by back-to-back parties and surrounded by wall-to-wall goodies to find a buddy. Make an early New Year’s resolution to do it now, long before the marathon feasts begin, Gettis says. “You have to be realistic, so don’t count on losing 10 to 12 pounds during the holidays. Don’t say you’ll lose 10 pounds during the holidays, and don’t gain 10 either. And get someone to be your buddy for all 12 months of the year. You have nothing to lose – but weight.”
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