WMU News

Tips for eating healthy during the holidays

Dec. 4, 2001

KALAMAZOO -- Seasonal platters stacked high with honey-baked ham, mashed potatoes and gravy, and other rich, calorie-laden comfort foods don't have to be off-limits for people looking to eat well during the holidays.

Dr. Arezoo Rojhani, WMU assistant professor of family and consumer sciences and a dietetics expert, offers several tips to help people keep off the five additional pounds many Americans put on over the holidays.

"Balance calorie intake during the course of the day," she says. "In anticipation of a big dinner party, try to cut down on portion sizes at lunch or skip desert."

At the same time, avoid skipping meals or complete deprivation, she suggests. "This generally does not work. Studies have shown that deprivation results in over-indulgence. Make all foods legal, just watch portion sizes. Also, it helps to stay physically active. Physical inactivity appears to be the biggest contributor to weight problems. Regular physical activity not only increases energy expenditure, it helps to control appetite."

Rojhani, an expert on eating disorders, says adults often ignore their internal hunger signals and eat "not in response to hunger, but more in response to external stimuli such as the smell of food, sight of food or, in some instances, in order to comfort themselves after a bad day or a personal tragedy."

But people don't have to fall prey to the false callings of comfort food. "Listening to internal hunger signals requires a lot of awareness and reinforcement," Dr. Rojhani says. "In order for people to do this successfully they need to slow down their eating and put smaller portions of food on their plate."

It takes approximately 20 minutes for satiety signals to reach the brain. "When people eat very fast, they tend to override these signals, so by the time they realize they are full, they may have consumed many extra calories. But with practice and motivation people can get a hold of it."

Media contact: Gail H. Towns, 269 387-8400, gail.towns@wmich.edu

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