Your mother probably told you not to discuss politics, sex or religion. Now a psychologist suggests adding people's weight to the list of conversational no-no's during the holidays.
Although you might be concerned that a loved one's excess weight poses a health problem, bringing it up will likely cause hurt feelings, said Josh Klapow, an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham's School of Public Health.
"Most people know when the scale has gone up. Instead of pointing out what they may very well know, be a role model," Klapow said in a university news release. "You can take action by starting to eat healthy and exercise. Make it about you and let them model your behavior."
There are many ways to make the holidays healthier for everyone, said Beth Kitchin, assistant professor of nutrition sciences at UAB.
"This may not be a time for weight loss but just weight maintenance, as it is important to enjoy your favorite foods -- just not overdo it," Kitchin said in the news release. "My big tips for supporting someone would be to plan non-food activities, combine the holiday with activity by walking through the neighborhood with a friend to look at holiday decorations, or take the kids ice skating or Christmas caroling."
Food is unavoidable this time of year, so it's a good idea to plan ahead to help loved ones without making it obvious.
"Go shopping for healthy foods and serve these at your home when family and friends are over to eat," Kitchin said.
Klapow and Kitchin offered some other tips for weight control during the holidays:
- Stick to foods that are truly special for you this time of year, and skip other items.
- Provide low-calorie drinks, such as water, to help reduce the amount of food people eat.
- Serve portioned meals instead of eating family style. This will help people stay away from seconds, especially of the highest-calorie foods such as sweets and desserts.
- Get plenty of sleep. "Nobody should skimp on sleep," Kitchin said. "Studies show that you might overeat more when you don't get enough sleep, and you are also more likely to get sick."