Health Team

Dieting? Bite-sized holiday food can help

Posted December 10, 2008 5:00 p.m. EST
Updated December 10, 2008 6:18 p.m. EST

— It is the time of year for holiday parties and delicious treats, but that is also a source of guilt and discouragement for many people trying to lose weight.

People with severe weight problems and who need special help turning holiday food down, can turn to a residential program at the Duke Diet and Fitness Center. It teaches people how to overcome the eating habits that have tripped them up in the past.

Before last year, Shelley Heitzner, 61, couldn't imagine being inside an exercise room.

“Exercise wasn't even on my menu,” she said.

But just about anything else was on her food menu.

“I'm a food lover,” Heitzner said. “I never checked to see how much I was going to do on an intake. I just ate until I couldn't eat no more.”

Heitzner struggled with her weight, and many temptations that popped up during the holidays were her downfall, she said.

“I could go through a box of Cello's chocolate cherries,” Heitzner said.

The media didn't make it any easier for Heitzner to lose weight.

“It's a very integrated marketing approach to try and get people to consume more food,” said Dr. Martin Binks, with the Diet and Fitness Center.

Binks said clients at the center learn to focus more on centering their celebration on friends and family and on eating smaller portions of holiday treats.

"It isn't going to sabotage your whole plan if you follow the daily healthy lifestyle that you're working towards,” Binks said.

It was regular exercise and trying to stay within daily calorie limits that helped Heitzner lose over 50 pounds in the past year.

"I learned how to push away the chocolate-covered cherries. I learned how to eat within reason. And if I did break it, I knew how to get back on it quickly,” Heitzner said of her diet.

Heitzner said she is confident that, with help from the center, this season won't be a diet-buster.