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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, December 21, 2006

Be aware of calories’ values

By Charles Stuart Platkin


Some suggestions to keep this holiday weight-gain free.

Eat before: Don't arrive with your stomach rumbling. Instead, try eating enough healthy food beforehand so you're full before you arrive. Then you'll have much more self-control around those tempting party treats.

All or nothing: It's never too late to stop stuffing your face. Avoid the following thought: "I've already ruined my diet, so it doesn't matter what I eat now."

Plan to eat healthy: You're probably thinking about what you're going to eat anyway, so why not make it work for instead of against you? Plan what and how much you're going to eat at the event before you even get there — set limits and you'll feel better.

Prepare for food pushers: Learn how to say the following: "Oh, no thanks. I couldn't eat another thing." Or, "I'm watching my diet, and that piece of cake will throw me completely off track." Have your answer ready for those diet saboteurs.

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More suggestions to keep this holiday weight-gain free.

Stay balanced: Try consuming fewer calories a few days before and after the holiday, and/or increase your physical activity during this period.

Bring healthy food: Make a few healthy dishes that you know you will eat, and volunteer to bring them to the party or dinner.

Don't stuff your face while socializing: We often eat without thinking — we're so engaged in conversation and socializing that we stuff our faces without even realizing what or how much we're eating.

Pick right: Don't just eat anything: Pick and choose only those high-calorie foods that you absolutely love.

Be full: Look for the physical cues signaling that you have eaten enough. Wait 15 to 20 minutes after a meal before requesting seconds or dessert.

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I look forward to the holidays — the excitement, the presents, the good cheer and, of course, the food. Oh, the calories are everywhere: the parties, the dinners, the gift baskets, the drinks — and then come the pounds.

Don't get me wrong; I'm not telling anyone not to eat and enjoy, but keep in mind that there is a cost — a calorie cost. The truth is that most of us have no idea what a calorie is worth.

One way to determine that is to translate calories into exercise. Knowing the amount of time you need to engage in physical activity to burn off the calories you consume is a way to help you make conscious, clear food choices. The point is not to tell you which foods you shouldn't eat or the punishment you'll receive for eating a particular food. Rather, it's a tool for deciding what a calorie means and which calories are worth it.

I've written an entire book devoted to translating calories into exercise: "The Diet Detective's Count Down" (Simon & Schuster, 2007), which lists more than 7,500 foods and the amount of activity it would take to burn off their calories.

So, to make you more aware about your holiday eating, I've taken an excerpt from my forthcoming book and added key holiday choices to create a "calorie/activity" cheat sheet.

The chart shows typical holiday foods and the number of minutes required to burn them off after you've exhausted your daily caloric budget. Make a rough estimate of your own caloric budget by assigning 10 calories per pound for a female and 11 calories per pound for a male, multiplied by your activity level: 1.2 if you're sedentary up to 1.8 if you are very active.

For example, a 130-pound female who is somewhat active would have a budget of 1,300 calories multiplied by 1.5, or 1,950 calories per day. To lose weight, you'll need to eat fewer calories than you have in your budget. If you eat more than your budget, you'll gain. For a more exact calculation, go to www.dietdetective.com.

Charles Stuart Platkin is a nutrition and public-health advocate, and author of "Breaking the FAT Pattern" (Plume, 2006). Sign up for the free Diet Detective newsletter at www.dietdetective.com.

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