How to Avoid Permanent Weight Gain During and After the Holidays

by Shelley Cannioto

I have been lucky enough to travel and live overseas for a number of years. I loved almost everything about it and was fascinated to compare attitudes, lifestyles, and habits of other cultures to what I had always experienced in America. I met my husband while I was living in England. He is Italian so I moved to Italy shortly before we were married. Italians have a knack for always looking beautiful and slim despite having a passionate love of food!

My first holiday season was one of wonder, to say the least. In Italy, Christmas is not actually the largest ‘feast’. They have seven (SEVEN!) food-centered holidays in total which begin on December 8, then you have Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and Santo Stefano (Dec. 26). You rest a few days before celebrating New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The last feast is on January 7. I felt like I was suffering a delicious but uncomfortable death! All the mamas and nonnas spent days preparing their most delicious dishes and fully expected you to enjoy every morsel. We spent several hours around the table talking, eating and laughing. It was amazing. But I started to wonder if any of my clothes would fit after all of these multiple course meals. Each meal typically consisted of a charcuterie plate, pasta, risotto, meat, vegetables, bread, fruit, nuts, desserts, and alcohol!

Sadly, I was not blessed with a fast metabolism and have to watch everything I eat. I was curious as to how these slim people could eat like this and not really gain weight. Italians not only pay very close attention to how much they eat but also to the quality of their food. They opt for fresh food almost 100% of the time, which is important to note.

However, I would say the trick to ward off weight gain is how they eat after the holidays. Six days a week you will find live cooking shows on TV, which usually last a few hours. This was not a surprise since Italians love to cook and love to eat! After the holidays on January 8th, I turned on the TV not really looking forward to watching two hours of cooking. I was tired of eating, I was tired of food, and I was well overfed. But there was nothing else to watch so on the TV went. That day a dietician was introduced to the audience. I would learn over the next few years that she is a regular on the program every January. She gave advice daily for one week. What she taught changed how I approached the holidays. She said that it is important to give your body and digestive system a break. The break is temporary, lasting only a few days and you can decide how long you need. During those days, focus on eating basic foods. For instance, eat simple things like toast or plain yogurt for breakfast, minestrone or other broth soup for lunch, fruit for dessert, herbal teas, and a lot of green vegetables. The meals should be light and easy to digest. Also, you are less likely to be tempted to overeat.

I love the simplicity of the approach and typically use this in my life. This attitude helped me to change my habits during and after the holidays. Rather than eating food I may not want, I focus on what I do want and try to choose things that were fresh. I do not beat myself up over what I did eat or how much I ate; instead, I chose to start afresh with lighter foods that I enjoy just for a little while. Celebrations are important! But so is balance. We may not be able to avoid gaining a little weight in the holidays, but I see no reason to let that weight stay with me and think there is a pain-free, healthy way to avoid it.


Shelley Cannioto Contact

Shelley Cannioto is originally from Memphis but suffers from a bad case of wanderlust. Soon after graduating from college, she had the job offer of a lifetime that took her to the United Kingdom for six years. While there she met her husband Stefano who convinced her to move to Italy. They have a four-year-old son, Matteo, who keeps her active and alert. Shelley has worked in Pharmaceutical Sciences at UTHSC in Memphis for three years.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

A Smoking Gun State of Mind

by Jean Perdicaris

My significant other quit smoking five years ago – November 16, 2012 – precisely one week after we reconnected. He’d been a smoker for 40 years – the same number of years we’d not seen each other. (Yeah, we’re one of those couples that found each other on social media.) He was a recent Floridian transplant to the Mid-South. I was living in Texas. Anyways, if you ask him, he says the key to his quitting was jolly ranchers – the watermelon, grape, & sour apple variety by the bagful. Our first year of courtship was a commuting one, and jolly ranchers served as a chaperone on our dates. They were a habitual presence. Every two, three, or four weeks, we’d meet up in east Texas – the geographical mid-point for us. I’d bring jolly ranchers. He’d bring jolly ranchers. We’d shop for jolly ranchers. On occasion, we’d have to “hunt” for jolly ranchers. It was those times that salvation was often found in a still wrapped, albeit sticky hot flavorful mess, underneath a car floorboard. I don’t know how he determined that jolly ranchers were his ticket to success. He’s an unconventional guy, and he had an unconventional method. It had to have been so difficult, but he quit. In hindsight, I wonder how he managed during those interim weeks we were apart. He was alone. He had no tangible support. It’s still hard for me to discern because he never talks about it. Ever. I was living alone in another geographical state, and he was living alone in a bit of a mental state. I do know he quit smoking around smokers. At that time, it was part of his occupational culture. Other than jolly ranchers, his other prime ploy was going to the designated smoking areas, and, pardon the pun, blowing smoke at his peers. He’d sit in their mist, literally, and taunt them to puff their exhaust in his face. That had to have been intense, but he says it was a way of continuing to belong within his coworkers’ inner circle.

The more time has passed, the more I appreciate the significance of his quitting. Recent google stats say seventy percent of smokers want to quit, but only six percent succeed. He’s shared he could pick up a cigarette every day. He’s shared he has to quit every day. I appreciate more and more the wider world’s smokers’ struggles in quitting, and shame on me for taking a sanctimonious stance on our second date. (I had issued him a “quit me or quit them” proclamation.)

My significant other & I are pushing sixty. We’re older. We’re wiser. We’re darn cute together, but I don’t think either one of us realized that this one single step – his compelling decision to quit smoking was, decidedly, the most important undertaking to a better life for the both of us. We’re living a happy little life in northern Mississippi, and I give him most of the credit. While he’s had a wildly successful five-year run, I’m pledging to do a better job at empathizing with those who, every day, are trying to quit.

I work at a health science center – one that includes several trauma hospitals. Ironically, there are designated outdoor smoke areas. I have a newfound compassion for most of those smokers. They deal mightily with many psychological & physiological dynamics – addiction & withdrawal. I imagine these smokers I see are also coping with a loved one’s physical suffering and pain. Why else would they openly smoke in this multi-hospital environment? I used to identify people as smokers versus nonsmokers. I used to reel from second-hand smoke. Now, because of my beloved, I just viscerally sense the second-hand struggle. For them, every day is a smoking gun. For me, every day is a frame of mind.


Jean Perdicaris Contact

Jean is the senior administrative services assistant in Student Affairs & Enrollment Services at UTHSC. She has a Bachelor’s in Music Education from Southwestern Oklahoma State University and spent years as a choir director of multiple youth and adult programs. She believes her teaching background, along with decades as an active community, church, & school leader as well as a dedicated power walker, is well suited to meet the many demands of a multi-functional department. Jean grew up in Europe, Oklahoma, and Texas. She joined UTHSC in 2016 and is delighted to now call northern Mississippi home.

Disclaimer
Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.