First of all, Happy and Healthy Holidays to all! May they be joyful and as stress-free as possible. When I say joyful, however, I want to specify that it does not mean total abandonment of healthful lifestyle choices (proper nourishment and exercise). While some of you may think there is a contradiction in the phrase “Holiday Health,” what I’m referring to is balance.
Have fun, go to parties, and treat yourself to foods and beverages you don’t normally consume … but with moderation. While there may be more parties and dinners to attend, and although there may be less time than at any other point in the year for following an exercise routine, it is still feasible to eat right and to burn the extra calories.
What’s needed first is the desire and the determination to be fit and to remain fit and healthy. Then, there must be a plan, one which incorporates a schedule whereby you create workout appointments for yourself that you will commit to as though you were meeting with your boss or a client.
Workouts don’t need to be lengthy; keep them short and intense. If you must, break them down into smaller portions (as with your meals). For aerobics, exercise 10 minutes, three times per day. For strength conditioning, challenge one major muscle per day (10-15 minutes); be sure to work opposing muscles on alternate days.
Next, establish baseline measures; with a tape measure, take and record the girth measurements of your body, particularly your waistline and hips. If you belong to a health club, ask to have your body fat estimated, preferably with skinfold calipers; they are more accurate than many other options and are a fantastic way to track measures at various points along your body.
Quantifying your current girth measures and body fat, and predetermining the measurements you wish to attain will help you establish a deeper sense of accountability; the numbers actually can become an inner coach. Share those numbers with your loved ones, allowing them to become a team of coaches.
Here are some final tips on how to avoid falling into a creeping fat trap:
1. Avoid the mistake of saving your appetite, starving yourself, so you can eat more at the party. Two problems with this approach are: a) you will slow down your metabolism; b) you will more likely overload on the less-healthful options; when you don’t eat for more than three or four hours, your blood sugar begins to drop, causing a marked increase in cravings for unwholesome foods.
2. Particularly on holidays, or days when festivities are planned, be sure to eat a hearty breakfast; what you eat first thing in the morning is what determines your metabolic rate for the rest of the day.
3. Mingle with talkers, not the eaters and drinkers. Focus on the main activity that parties are set up for, to mingle, not to pig out and fatten up.
4. At dinner, eat high-fiber foods (salads, vegetables, multi-grain bread). This will help you to experience satiety sooner, and before cravings set in.
5. Drink with dinner, not beforehand. With the celebratory atmosphere of the holidays, it is easy to over-drink.
The extra pounds of fat accumulated by many people during the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day are usually never fully lost. People tend to store from one to three extra pounds of the newly gained weight from just those few weeks of holidays…enough to sabotage an entire year’s efforts, and serious enough to contribute, or cause, creeping fatness and obesity. Over time, this could add up to an extra 10 to 30 pounds of excess fat.
Follow the above guidelines, and you will more easily maintain a leaner healthier body…while adding more joy to your holidays. Again, Happy Healthy Holidays!
Salvatore Fichera, MS, is an Exercise Physiologist. He is the author of the recently-published book, Stop Aging—Start Training. Reach him at 212.687.1646 or email@example.com.