- Carol Michaels
Integrating Exercise and Health Practices During the Holidays
The holidays are fun and sometimes stressful. There can be holiday parties, family obligations, and eating temptations. How many of you just take a break from your fitness program and health practices?
A slight increase in body weight each holiday season can add up over time until it becomes a potential health problem. For people who are already overweight, the situation can be worse. The National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the average weight increase for the overweight person during the holidays was as much as five times higher than someone of average weight. These results suggest that holiday weight gain may be an important contributor to the rising prevalence of obesity.
Even though the average weight gain may be fairly small, weight is usually not lost once the holidays are over and can add up to a significant increase over time. In general, as we age, we tend to gain one to two pounds a year as our metabolism slows, and particularly, if we lose muscle.
The meals people eat during the holidays can add up to thousands of extra calories. You could actually put on a pound every day if you were to keep eating at this rate. Once you become used to the higher caloric intake, it may become the new normal. This would not be such a problem if we only indulged on the actual day of the holidays. Most of us, however overeat during the entire 5-week holiday season. If you do not exercise, you will just gain weight and be stressed.
Wouldn’t it be nice to start the New Year without the extra weight? Staying active now can also help you to avoid the common January pitfall of doing too much exercise after being sedentary during December which may lead to injuries. Jump-start your New Year by starting to live a healthy lifestyle today.
What causes our eating habits to deteriorate during the Holidays?
Stress. As if there was not enough stress in everyday life, holiday obligations and expectations add to the strain. There’s too much to do and accomplish in a short period, and that extra work can be overwhelming. It adds to stress, and the stress can lead to overeating
Exhaustion. The demands of fall/winter festivities can leave people feeling sluggish and sleep-deprived. When people are tired, they are more likely to overeat.
Emotional eating. Some people use food to soothe sadness, anxiety, dissatisfaction, or loss. Others simply use any celebration as an excuse to overindulge. Holiday marketing of food and consumerism contributes to the excess as well, and even people who have been trying to eat healthy throughout the year may give in. Comfort and nostalgia play roles, as well. Others develop a "What the hell?" attitude and forgo their usual eating habits during this time. Furthermore, some people are sensitive to shorter days and have a seasonal affective disorder. They may become depressed and tend to overeat in response.
With all these obstacles to overcome, how can one avoid putting on those holiday pounds?
Let’s Focus on what you can do.
Look for solutions instead of obstacles. Plan ahead; be smart and creative, so that you can enjoy the holidays without wrecking your health. Acknowledge the affect the holidays have on your exercise routine. Understand your strengths and weaknesses so that you can determine the triggers that cause you to skip your exercise sessions. Everyone talks about the holiday weight gain. Try not to think like that. Think about being with family and friends while eating in a healthy manner and maintaining a fitness routine.
Use your time management skills.
You do not have to attend every party. Pick and choose the parties that are important to you. It might be better to rest or exercise than go to another party. Take care of yourself. Get enough sleep, a flu shot, wash your hands, and eat nutritious foods
It is important to learn how to say no. Learn to say no to a party or a sugary treat that your spouse or co-workers gives you. The pressure to give in can be great; we don’t want to put a damper on the merrymaking or disappoint loved ones.
You also do not have to cook every single dish for a dinner that you are hosting. Have each guest bring something-a side dish or a dessert.
Adults do not need to exchange gifts-pick a name out of a hat and buy one gift.
How will you handle all the food at the parties?
Plan in advance. Drink a couple glasses of water and have a light snack before you go to a party so that you will not be ravenous which leads to poor food selection. Hunger can undo the best intentions. Showing up to those holiday buffets on a semi-satisfied stomach will save you a lot of calories. Allow some treats for those special days, and then get back into your healthy routine the next day. If you’re traveling for the holidays, pick up some healthy, portable snacks at the grocery store before you leave so you’re less likely to be tempted by unhealthy options.
Be aware. Be conscious of what you eat and how much. Avoid sources of temptation whenever you can. Try to focus in on some healthier options when you are at that office holiday party. If the office break room is filled with cookies, fruitcake, and eggnog, try not to go in there.
Bring a veggie platter so that you know there will be something healthy to eat.
Small portion sizes and no seconds
Alternate your alcohol with a glass of water. Drink a lot of water before the party. The alcohol served at many social events can also destroy our resolve to eat in moderation.
Walk around the buffet table first. Be a food snob. A large percentage of the food on the buffet table is really not that delicious.
How can I fit in fitness?
Schedule fitness into your day. Don’t let a busy schedule get in the way of your exercise program. You need to exercise over the next few months more than ever. There is always an excuse not to exercise.
Exercise first thing in the morning when you have more energy. It will also reduce stress, which will help you to control your food intake.
You can break up exercise into several 10-minute exercise sessions.
Walk at lunchtime.
Save time by using HIIT.
Think about which exercises you like to do and you will be more likely to do them.
Book a trip for January or February, which will motivate you to exercise in order to look good at the beach.
Find an exercise buddy for companionship.
Hire a Personal Trainer for accountability