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For the Obese, Holiday Tables Serve Platefuls of Doubt

But fear of social pressures can be overcome with honest approach to food, expert says

SATURDAY, Dec. 20 (HealthDay News) -- The holiday season can be especially difficult for overweight or obese people as they struggle to control their eating habits and cope with widely held misconceptions, according to a Duke University expert.

"Social situations make people feel self-conscious about what they wear and what they eat to the point where they feel they're being judged for every morsel that touches their lips," Martin Binks, director of behavioral health at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center, said in a university news release.

"Some of the popular misconceptions about obesity are that people bring it on themselves, and that they look forward to the holidays so they can eat more," he said.

In fact, overweight and obese people are often nervous and anxious during the holiday season because they're worried they don't have the willpower to resist the many temptations. Some put a lot of effort into avoiding social gatherings or certain foods or eating triggers, and others say they can sense the judgmental attitudes of other people.

"Even if they aren't being judged, they become so self-conscious that they think they are," said Binks, who noted that the intense focus on food during the holidays compounds the challenges faced by overweight and obese people.

He offered advice on how overweight or obese people can celebrate the holidays without feeling badly or putting too much pressure on themselves:

  • Indulge in the inner spirit of the holidays, not the eating. Focus on spending time with friends and family.
  • When faced with food temptation, use portion control. If it's a holiday meal and you eat a bit more than normal, it won't harm your weight loss effort as long as you get back on track the next day.
  • If you're doing the party circuit, spend time socializing, not eating. Put something on your plate and use it as a prop.
  • Make a resolution to find out what you really hunger for in life and what you're looking for that you can't find in food.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention outlines how to have a healthy holiday season.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Duke Medicine, news release, Dec. 1, 2008

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