Illustration: Serge Bloch
"It's the holidays. I can always restart my regular eating habits come January." Whether my patients say it or hear it from others, that sentiment can sabotage smart eating plans. And it helps explain why this time of year marks the beginning of irrevocable weight gain. Research published in the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that while people tack on only about a pound at the holidays, they don't lose it—the gain just stays through the winter and accumulates, year after year.
To avoid that trap, you'll need to gird yourself against the temptations at parties and family dinners. That's where assertive dieting comes in: I teach my patients how to anticipate problems and effective ways to say no—and mean it. The decision to give in to or resist an impulse often comes down to a split second. Taking charge in that moment with grace is a skill that requires preparation, rehearsal, and a handful of strategies that you can use in any social situation.