Jim Mullarkey has been attending MOVE weight management classes at the Montana VA with his wife, Marie, for over a year. Since starting the classes, they have lost a cumulative 32 pounds. I asked this couple to share some of their suggestions for keeping the holidays healthy. If you follow some of the tips below, chances are you may start the New Year feeling merry and bright – and possibly merry and light.
Operate like a pilot
Jim is a retired helicopter pilot. During flight, he had numerous instruments he needed to monitor to keep the chopper running smoothly. Just like he had to use data on the instrument panel to balance the power of the machine, you must continually self-monitor the calories you consume to help balance your weight control. To help manage your weight especially during the holidays, Jim and Marie suggest using an app such as the MOVE Coach Mobile app to track what you eat and how many calories you are burning. You could also keep a handwritten list or log.
Take a baking break
Marie knows that when you have an abundance of high-calorie sweets around the house, you are more likely to indulge. Last year, she decided to forgo baking and this year she will do the same. Instead, Jim and Marie will keep the house stocked with healthy snacks like fresh fruits and vegetables, and won’t buy chips, soda, juice and other less nutritious items. This reduces temptation – if it’s not there, you can’t eat/drink it. But the couple won’t completely forgo the baked goods as friends and family will share their baking throughout the holidays.
Watch serving sizes and alcoholic beverages
Most of the time, Jim and Marie don’t drink alcohol. They opt for water instead. But this time of year, they might enjoy an alcoholic eggnog or hot buttered rum. Because the calories in these drinks are so high, they limit themselves to just one drink. They practice the same restraint with high-calorie food. Jim says he eats just one small plate of food, “no seconds and definitely no thirds.” When it comes to desserts, Marie says they limit to one small treat at a time.
Prioritize the special dishes
“Don’t deny, just revise. Go ahead and have those special dishes that aren’t always available, but be aware of the total carbohydrates you are taking in,” said Marie. For example, if you are going to have grandma’s special sweet potatoes, consider leaving out the mashed potatoes or the rolls that you can have anytime. In addition, you can add more non-starchy (and therefore lower calorie) vegetables to your plate like green beans or broccoli. If you want to manage your weight, it’s important to make choices about which dishes you want the most, and which dishes you are okay leaving out. The total calories you consume vs. calories burned impacts your weight. Check out this MOVE handout on the Basics of Weight Control.
The Montana VA MOVE! Program wishes Veterans everywhere a very healthy holiday. Contact your local VA to meet with a Registered Dietitian and/or join your local MOVE weight management program.
*MOVE! Coach Mobile is a free weight control app for Veterans available on iTunes.
Holly Alastra is a licensed clinical professional counselor and a registered dietitian who coordinates the MOVE! and employee wellness programs at the Montana VA. Outside of work, she loves to mountain bike and ski with family and friends. She is also passionate about cooking, reading, and writing, and she recently launched a literary magazine with a group of fellow writers.