The Food Journal and Food, Nutrition & Science

An alliance between The Lempert Report and The Center for Food Integrity

Post-Holiday Weight Management

Post-Holiday Weight Management

Health and Wellness

January 24, 2010

During the holidays, many consumers are motivated to maintain their weight and plan for a healthy year ahead, and this drive continues to shine in the early days of the new year. Unfortunately, though, after a couple weeks of regimented diet and exercise, resolutions often start to fade away and pounds creep back on.

While half of Americans view their diet as healthful, 44 percent say that the number one barrier to staying on track with their weight management goals is not seeing results quickly enough, according to the data from the International Food Information Council Foundation’s 2009 Food & Health Survey. Essentially, without results, consumers tend to become discouraged and are more likely to return to old habits. 

Yet, maintaining a healthy lifestyle post holidays is not an impossibility, says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of the best-selling book Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think and Director of Cornell University’s Food and Brand Lab. With a little focus, he says, consumers can get back on track and stay there year round without having to “diet” in the traditional sense.

“Most of us overeat because of family and friends, packages and plates, names and numbers, labels and lights, colors and candles, shapes and smells, distractions and distances, cupboards and containers,” says Wansink, “but I want people to see that making small changes in their kitchens and routines can make all the difference with no real sacrifice.”

Wansink says that consumers can benefit from some basic readjustments. For example, he suggests pre-serving food from the stove or counter instead of serving from bowls on the table so that the food isn’t constantly in front of you where you’re more likely to eat it. He also suggests using the “half plate” rule – a rule that requires you to fill at least half of your plate with fruits or veggies.

Encouraging the use of smaller plates (you’ll be serving yourself 20% less, but still feel like you ate an entire plate of food) is another great tip. In fact, Wansink’s research at Cornell’s Food and Brand Lab revealed that plate size significantly influences how much a person eats, regardless of the hunger quotient. A study involving 168 moviegoers found that participants – who were either given an extra large bag of popcorn or a large bag of popcorn – ate 45 percent more from the extra large bags than they did from the large bags. Some of them didn’t even realize they were doing so.

“Many of us focus on limiting our food or trying to fit in more activity to maintain our weight,” says Wendy Reinhardt Kapsak, registered dietitian and Senior Director of Health and Wellness at IFIC. “Research suggests that being more mindful of what is going on around you can actually allow you to enjoy your favorite foods and beverages while keeping your weight in check.”

Good advice, especially in light of the fact that just 15 percent of Americans are able to provide an accurate estimate of the number of calories they should be consuming in one day, and of those that report trying to lose or maintain weight, only 19 percent report counting calories.  

Still, the Foundation’s Food & Health Survey found that most people (78%) are trying to lose or maintain their weight. Of those that are trying to lose or maintain their weight, they are primarily changing the amount (71%) or type (65%) of food they eat or exercising (62%). In addition, 64 percent are trying to improve the healthfulness of what they eat. The key, says Reinhardt Kapsak, is to keep things fresh by looking for new ways to make changes in the ways we manage our weight.

She adds, “Having a healthy weight and active lifestyle is a gift that you can give to yourself and your family throughout the year. These tips can help consumers overcome some of the everyday barriers when it comes to achieving their weight management and weight loss goals.”

For more weight management ideas that you can share with your consumers,