My daughter and I were baking cookies the other evening at a friend’s home. We made those green wreath cookies with cornflakes and green food coloring. I am generally not a sweet eater – really could take or leave them. However, that night when I got the cookies home I think I ate five wreath cookies. Maybe I had more than that. Honestly, each one tasted better than the last. Surprisingly enough, I woke up in the middle of the night quite nauseated. My body was clearly trying to tell me something. Since I felt like that was out of character for me, I started to think about why I ate them, why they tasted so good, and why I didn’t want to stop. Stress and sleep deprivation are two keys as to why we overeat. Since daylight savings time ended, my sleep habits have been atrocious. I am up at 4 am and exhausted by 4 pm. This holiday season has been overwhelmingly stressful, although I’m not sure why. However, I am sure that my eating that night may have been caused by my high anxiety level and lack of sleep. Point being during the holidays, not only are we faced with parties and special events tempting us with delectable fat-laden dips and buttery christmas cookies, but many of us during the day are running at full speed with a million things to do, while laying in bed at night wide-eyed thinking about the million things we have to do!
Children and adolescents may or may not struggle with these issues as well. If you suspect your child’s stress level is high or they are having difficult sleeping, this issue must be addressed. However, they absolutely have to deal with the more abundant eating opportunities and temptations surrounding them. Cookie baking, treats brought into school, gift exchange parties, etc. all present themselves during this time. Who really wants to be thinking about what they are eating at a secret santa gift exchange? Unfortunately, this is where the cold hard facts come into play. You do have to think about what you’re eating. You can have a bad day or two but when this is not kept in check, the pounds will starts to creep up on you. You must sit down with your child and discuss how to handle these situations. TAP – thinking, awareness, and planning.
For example, your son has been invited to an end-of-season football/holiday party. Over the past several weeks, he has been working on improving his eating and exercise habits. He has lost two pounds and you know he feels proud of himself. You would hate for him to sabotage his past efforts. Now it’s time to sit down with him (for a quick minute, for his sake). Praise him for his recent accomplishments and then casually mention the upcoming party. Remind him while he’s at the party he needs to think and be aware. Try not to mindlessly grab snacks. Suggest he thinks about what looks good and what he would like to try. Be aware of his feelings of satiety. Have him ask himself, am I still hungry? Did that really taste good enough to have another? Always, make sure your child has a plan. Does he have a snack before he goes to the party? Maybe not, because he thinks he’ll eat the goodies anyway. What will he do if he is repeatedly offered foods? How does he politely say no? What if his friends are playing a game of who can drink the most cans of coke? Sounds crazy, but this has actually happened in my family. Anyway, his plan will be up to him. Believe me, I know your child may or may not be receptive to what you suggest and tell them. Never give up on them and never stop trying.
Finally, realize your child’s best bet during the holiday season is most likely to maintain and not gain. It might be unrealistic to continue weight loss during this time. Compliment your child on their weight maintenance. It’s a great achievement. You don’t want to nag them but make sure you are there to support and guide them. As always, acknowledge everything positive they do. Have a wonderful, joyous holiday with the greatest gift of all – your child.
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart. Wishing you happiness.” Helen Keller