5 ways your veterinary team can avoid holiday weight gain

Encourage your staff to employ healthy holiday eating habits for an energized new year.
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Dec 20, 2013

In the days separating Thanksgiving from New Year’s, the average American adult will gain one to three pounds. That doesn’t sound so bad—until you realize most won’t ever lose those added pounds. As the owner of two veterinary clinics for more than 20 years, I always considered how I could encourage healthier lifestyle habits for my staff. Here are five rules I follow and share with my staff to avoid excess weight gain during the holiday season.

1. Request healthy fare

Here’s a success measurement you’ll probably never hear from another veterinarian: I always secretly gauged how well my clinics were performing each year by the number of holiday cards and gifts they received. Nothing made me happier than to see every available square inch of countertops plastered in jolly cards. I cheered inside each time a basket of cookies or brownies was delivered. Each hand-baked goodie validated our hard work. It wasn’t until holiday season in the year 2000 when I started to change my mind about scoring piles of chocolates and pies.

In 2000, I embarked on a total lifestyle transformation. My wife, Laura, and I had begun critically reviewing everything from our diet and exercise to sleep habits and supplements. As our traditional holiday haul started to pour in, we questioned the message we were sending to our staff, as well as clients. How could the “health freak” endorse caramel-coated cookies?

So I did something daring: I asked for treats other than cookies and cakes. I inserted a little blurb in our quarterly newsletter (this predated Facebook and modern websites) requesting vegetable platters, low-calorie sweets, fruits and nuts. Of course, some of my longtime clients insisted on baking their own specialties, but it got everyone talking. It solidified our “super healthy” status in the community. It visibly took my commitment to helping pets and people live healthier lives to another level. This simple step can help you, too.

What I love about asking your clients and manufacturer representatives for nutritious alternatives is that it makes a clear statement about where you stand on diet. I firmly believe that how we feed ourselves directly relates to how we believe our pet patients should be fed. Call me old-fashioned, but “do as I do” has worked out pretty well for me with my practices.

Asking for nourishing munchies also shows your staff members that what they fuel their bodies with impacts their overall health, and as a leader, you care enough to help.

2. Avoid accessibility to sweets

Despite your pleas for fresh fruits and veggies, you’ll still be swamped with sugary sweets. The next step is a hard one: Hide the goodies. Whenever we received a plate of dangerously delicious delectables, it went straight into the office until later. My logic was that by removing the goodies from the direct line-of-bite, I could help my team avoid impulse eating. This only works if your practice manager (or you) has really good self-control. If not, try buying a bigger safe.

3. BYOB – Bring Your Own Bites

Many members of our fast-food nation simply don’t know how to prepare healthy food. I’ve found that by bringing in my own nutritious victuals, I’m able to expose people to foods and ingredients they would’ve never contemplated before. As you embark on your own personal health crusade, be sure to share your spoils with your staff. If nothing else, offer everyone a handful of nuts.

4. Make a food statement at your office party

Cook a favorite healthy, low-calorie dish instead of the usual catering cuisine. Provide tasty non-alcoholic beverages instead of wine coolers. One year we made little information cards we placed in front of our healthy homemade creations. We listed main ingredients, health benefits and calorie counts. Those dishes were emptied earliest. Whatever you feed your team, make it have a purpose. Give your food choices some thought. Sure, it may cost a few extra bucks per plate to go off-menu, but you’ll more than make up for it in setting a good example.

5. A little chocolate is OK

Many people get the wrong impression that I’m against everything good. Nothing could be further from the truth. I enjoy fantastic foods, fine wines and even a craft beer on occasion. Good food can also be highly nourishing, as you’ll learn on your quest for better living. Better living isn’t about starvation or deprivation; it’s about better choices. This holiday season, think before you chew; consider how those choices impact those around you. My success secret? Lead by example and live a healthy, selfless life.

I hope you’ll keep in mind these five rules this holiday season. There’s no better gift you can give yourself and loved ones than better health, increased energy and stronger relationships. And it’s OK to savor some dark chocolate once in a while.