Noe Valley Voice December-January 1999-2000

Weighing In: Expert Advice on Holiday Eating

By Stephanie Rapp

It starts with those miniature Hershey bars hoarded from Halloween. Add to that the Thanksgiving turkey, stuffing, pumpkin pie, and midnight leftovers. Top it off with Hanukkah latkes, Christmas eggnog, and New Year's Eve caviar. It's no surprise that the average American gains 8 to 12 pounds this time of year. In San Francisco, we gain only 5 to 7 pounds, but that is still enough to send us running, res-olutions in hand, to the gym on January 1.

Take heart. There are plenty of local resources to help us avoid those holiday gains.

For one, Weight Watchers holds meetings on Wednesday nights in the Castro (the closest place to Noe Valley). About 100 men and women attend for a weigh-in, pep talk, and nutrition and diet information. WW group leader Lisa Camozzi has some simple advice based on her 14 years with the program. "Take responsibility," she says. "When you realize it's not your spouse or your job that's making you eat, then you can change."

She also says that preparing a mental plan of attack can help you rise above tempting situations. Most of us know what we'll be facing when we arrive for a holiday meal or party. Decide what you want to eat in advance and try to stop when you are full, she says.

Camozzi adds that consistency over the long haul is the key. "It isn't one cocktail party that will make you fat."

Making consistent healthy choices is what Cathleen Henderson has been preaching to Noe Valley residents for 16 years. As the owner of Lite for Life on Sanchez Street, Henderson provides nutritional counseling that focuses on behavior modification and stabilization of blood sugar. The prepackaged foods, which conform to the plan's starch and protein limits, are optional, she says, but they are useful for busy people who don't have time to prepare healthy meals.

Henderson's advice is to avoid sweets, which trigger blood sugar surges and dips and invariably make you feel hungrier. She also suggests eating five times per day. "Don't go out to a party or dinner when you're famished. You'll pig out."

While she's always busy this time of year, Henderson notes a recent surge in clients, which she attributes to the approach of the millennium. "People don't want to be fat in the year 2000."

Many diet experts swear sugar is to blame. Others point the finger at carbohydrates. According to Nicky Salan, owner of Cover to Cover Booksellers on 24th Street, the best-selling diet books this year are The Carbo Addict's Program for Success ($14.95) and The Carbohydrate Addict's Healthy Heart Program ($24.95). These books, by Richard and Rachael Heller, focus on the evils of carbs and the virtues of protein. The Hellers' program also hearkens back to the Atkins' diet of the '70s, and is nearly as controversial. (Fat is on the menu.)

For most of us, holiday splurging means only an extra handful of cashews at the office party and five or six gingerbread cookies on Christmas. But for individuals with eating disorders or those who are chronic overeaters, holiday indulging can be disastrous.

According to Diana Murphy, M.F.C.C., a therapist specializing in eating disorders, we all use food to nurture ourselves through stressful times. However, for some people, eating moves from nurturance to numbing. "You eat too much at a party. So you go home and eat ice cream and candy. Then you tell yourself that you're a terrible person, and you binge for a week."

Her advice to break the cycle begins with awareness. "Look at what is really going on emotionally. Talk to someone, a friend or a therapist, when you feel overwhelmed. And forgive yourself. Eating too much once or twice is not criminal."

Chronic overeating is not limited to the holidays, though for some it can escalate at this time.

Overeaters Anonymous (OA) provides a supportive environment for individuals whose eating negatively impacts their lives. Overeaters, as well as those with bulimia or anorexia (and family and friends), are welcome to attend OA's daily meetings at the Noe Valley Ministry.

According to a member of the local group, "If you eat for the wrong reasons, you're not alone. OA is one solution." OA is not a weight-loss program but a recovery program based on the 12-step model. There are no fees and no weigh-ins at this "spiritual but non-religious" program.

I'd like to suggest another resource we have in the neighborhood: hills. Given that parking is impossible in Noe Valley this time of year, try doing your holiday errands on foot.

Just to write this story, I logged almost four miles. Using a pedometer for accuracy, I walked from my house on 20th and Noe to the post office to mail holiday cards (.57 miles). Then I took two paces down 24th Street to the Noe Valley Bakery, where I stopped by the open door and sniffed the freshly baked pumpkin pie (they say taste is 90 percent smell). Next I went window shopping on 24th Street until I reached Sanchez (.19 miles), then down Sanchez to Lite for Life at 26th Street (.13 miles), then back up Sanchez to the Noe Valley Ministry and over to Cover to Cover on 24th (.6 miles). Next, I took a spin through Douglass Park (1.1 miles), and then hiked home via Weight Watchers at 18th and Eureka (1.4 miles). Total distance: 3.99 miles. Walking briskly, I burned approximately 350 calories, the equivalent of a slice of pumpkin pie and glass of champagne.

My other tip is to drink lots of water (water keeps you full and actually decreases water retention). Also, park as far away as you can from your destination and enjoy your favorite foods in moderation. Happy holidays.


Weight Watchers

Weight Watchers meets Wednesdays in Room 205 of the MCC Center, 150 Eureka St. (at 18th). Registration and weigh-in are at 6:30 p.m. The meeting starts at 7 p.m. Call 1-800-651-6000 for further information.

Overeaters Anonymous

Overeaters Anonymous meets daily at the Noe Valley Ministry, 1021 Sanchez St. Meetings are from 7 to 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday, and from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Sunday. Call 436-0651 for additional meeting times and places.

Lite for Life

Lite for Life is located at 1300 Sanchez St., at the corner of 26th Street. The office is open Monday through Friday, 7 a.m to 4 p.m.; Thursday, 7 a.m to noon; and Saturday, 9 a.m. to noon. Phone
641-4489 for details about the program.


Diana Murphy, M.F.C.C., is a therapist who specializes in eating disorders. She can be reached at 681-1767.