The holidays can be a challenging time for anyone who strives to eat healthy, and even more so for those who are trying to maintain or lose weight. If you have a loved one who’s attempting to make healthy choices, now is a great time to offer up your support.
“In the United States, our holiday celebrations tend to be centered on food,” says Sandra Santiago, RN, a nurse with the ThedaCare Bariatrics program in Neenah. “Birthdays, Valentine’s Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas are mostly food-centered, and most of it is high in carbohydrates and sugar.”
One idea to help everyone make healthier choices is to put less focus on food during these occasions. Instead, consider planning an activity such as a hike, bike ride, sledding, ice skating or skiing, Santiago says.
The support of family and friends is vital to those who are making lifestyle changes.
“Successful weight loss requires lifestyle changes, which include developing healthy eating and exercise habits, and being mindful about what and how we eat,” Santiago says. “For example, eating more slowly so our stomach can signal our brain when we’re full: That takes about 20 minutes. It includes being aware of what our body is telling us as we eat and determining why we want to eat and if we are comfortably full, not over full.”
People trying to lose weight also may be working through other habits, including eating out of boredom. In those situations, it can help to try a deep breathing exercise or choose an alternative activity such as reading a book or taking a walk.
Santiago offers these suggestions for how family and friends can help loved ones who want to maintain healthier eating habits:
- Model good eating habits by serving healthy snacks and meals.
- Talk with them and listen to why they want to make lifestyle changes. What’s important to them?
- Invite them to join you in a physical activity such as a walk or bike ride.
- Offer to watch their children so they can go the gym, engage in some physical activity or have some “me time.”
- Cook with them to help learn more about healthy foods, cooking methods and eating habits.
- Compliment their progress.
- Encourage them in their lifestyle changes; tell them you are proud of their determination and self-discipline.
“The support of family and friends is so important to anyone making lifestyle changes,” Santiago says. “Be a cheerleader and a proponent of their actions. That goes a long way toward encouraging them to be successful in their efforts. In the end, supporting them may help you live a healthier lifestyle, too.”
When More Help is Needed
Studies show that many people who want to lose weight have tried numerous diets throughout the years, only to regain the weight — and sometimes even more weight — after discontinuing the diet.
Bariatric surgery is a tool that can aid in weight loss and help people become healthier versions of themselves. The ThedaCare Bariatrics program offers two primary types of bariatric surgery — Roux-en-Y gastric bypass and gastric sleeve resection — as well as gastric surgery revisions, if needed.
“Some people who have a goal to lose a few pounds may be able to manage their weight by changing their eating and exercise habits,” Santiago says. “For those who have significant weight loss goals, bariatric surgery — and the support that comes with such surgery — can be a very beneficial tool.”