Going to put a batch or two of holiday cookies into the oven today, were you?
STOP! Wait a minute. Read this:
WARNING: EARLY BAKING CAN BE DANGEROUS TO YOUR DIET.
Be honest: Doesn't that first batch always just sort of melt away, a cookie at a time? Who do you think is eating them anyway" Don't you always have to make up another batch at the last minute?
Making potato latkes? Got the feeling that you really ought to fry up a few in advance to see how light they can be?
Why don't you, instead, go out and buy something nice for yourself rather than salve over a hot cookie sheet or frypan?
That's the suggestion of cognitive-behaviorist and psychiatrist Henry A. Jordan. One way or another, it is echoed by almost every diet-management specialist you can find.
The world, about his time of year, seems lined up against even the most sensible, behaviorally-modified, food-mood-cued dieter around. The world, however, can be stopped and gotten off of, at least so far as seduction by food is concerned. Here are a few tips from some dieting specialist to help you weather the holidays . . . Thinly:
Don't plan to lose. Dr. Jordan and most behaviorists agree that goals for weight management during the holidays should be modest. Perhaps the goal should be to keep from gaining, or for limiting the gain to, say, two pounds for the month.
"The person who goes on a diet in November," says Jordan, "may manage to struggle through Thanksgiving, but Christmas is an entirely different holiday occasion in that it's not Christmas Day that does a person in, it's the whole assault for the whole month -- the increasing presence of food, not only at the market place, but at the increased number of social occasions . . .
"The weather turns a bit nasty so folks are more housebound and exposed to food in their own homes . . . Activity goes down because of the weather . . . and you put it all together and you have a situation which is almost impossible to control.
"Most people give it up. Set themselves up for failure."
Dodi Ardalan of the Georgetown University Diet Management Center talks about being wary of the disastrous effect the emotions of the season can produce. "Often," she says, "when we go into the season like this we think we're going to be control. But it's better if we anticipate that there may be problems . . . for example, missing a lost loved one . . ."
Don't let yourself get exhausted. "Then there's the fatigue factor," says Dr. Jordan. "This is the time of year when stress reduction can be reasonably important. So be sure to set aside 15 or 20 minutes to yourself -- to do something you want to do, even taking a hot bath." Don't mistake fatigue (loneliness, anxiety, stress) for hunger.
"Even in the midst of Christmas shopping," suggests Jordan, "buy something for yourself."
"It doesn't have to be a Cartier watch," says Catherine Bell, "though that would be nice. Just try a nice scarf." Bell is director of the Schick Center, a commerical smoking and weight-control organization which uses what she calls "counter-conditioning and positive reinforcement."
The Diet Workshop, another commercial weight-control operation, publishes holiday dinners for dieters, including an after-dinner (non-alcoholic) Grasshopper, a turkey stuffing made of cauliflower, and a mock "sweet potato" that's actually squash.
That's all fine, if you're preparing the meal for yourself, or your family's prepared to cooperate.
But Dr. Jordan shares the opinion that too much virtue is rewarded only by self-defeating pigouts. Don't try to eliminate all your favorite things. Just make sure you're in control. Don't let that butter-rich cookie say "eat me. "You tell it: "I can eat you because even though you are 150 calories, I have exercised an extra half hour for you."
On the other hand, if it is even the tiniest bit burnt around the edges, you can also tell it, "No, you are not the absolutely best cookie I can have, so you are definitely not worth that extra half hour of exercise . . . I will only settle for the best."
Leftovers. "What you can't pack up and freeze for another whole meal," says Dr. Jordan, "what you can't give away to guests to take home or back to school, just" -- he pauses here for the shock value to sink in -- "Just THROW IT OUT.
"I know that really upsets people," he says, but "if you're really worried about the starving (fill in, depending on age: Hottetots, Armenians, children in Europe, children in Africa, Cambodians)," he says with cool logic, "simply buy less when you're shopping, keep track of how much you save. Then put the difference in an envelope and send it off to CARE or one of the other relief organizations."
Don't worry about not having enough, he says, "Enough usually means enough for four days, anyway."
Parties. Caroline, a volunteer-member of Overeaters Anonymous, offers this advice when you're going out or having others in. (It helped her, she says, and she's lost 100 pounds through this AA-oriented non-profit group.)
"When you go to a party or are entertaining yourself, zero in on people, instead of food. I'm into zeroing in on personal relationships. Now I really enjoy talking with people, drawing them out instead of standing at the food table and yearning . . . and fighting the urge."
One thing all diet mavens agree on is that dieters need to recognize, as Caroline puts it, "we're not perfect. If you slip, don't let it be the beginning of a binge. Choose not to do it again."