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Staying Healthy During the Holidays

By Nutritionists Sarah Treat and Kay Spears

It’s that time of year again when temptation is everywhere. You’ve worked hard all year to lose weight and stay in shape. Now you don’t want to gain the dreaded 5 to 10 pounds over the holiday season.

But it’s so tempting. The Christmas goodies, holiday parties, and cocktails make it so easy to overindulge. Not to mention the never-ending schedule packed with shopping, decorating and family gatherings keep you so busy that it’s easy to quit exercising.

What if you decide to let it go and worry about it later? On January 2nd, you could find that you have 10 new pounds to lose. Let’s look at the work it would take to get back to the pre- holiday weight.

To get rid of those 10 pounds, you would need to run five miles a day, six days a week, for 10 weeks. Ouch!

Another option would be to decrease your calorie intake to 500 a day, seven days a week, for 10 weeks. By March 15th you would be back to where you were.

There’s another option though. One that could mean you won’t gain weight — and may even lose a few pounds.

With a little planning and determination, you can make it through the holidays and still be friends with the scale come January 2nd! Here are some suggestions to help you greet temptation with confidence.


Make a vow to increase the minutes of cardio to your normal routine, and also boost the number of workouts.

The surgeon general recommended a minimum of 30 minutes a day of moderate intensity activity back in 1996. However, when you are trying to lose weight or offset an increase in caloric intake, I recommend five-seven sessions a week, 10-20 minutes in duration.

Also, by increasing your exercise, you can offset the stress that everyone inevitably feels this time of year.

Watch Caloric Intake

Losing weight or maintaining your ideal weight is not rocket science. You simply must not take in more calories than you burn.

Remember, that with any nutritional regimen, you have a caloric “budget”. Watch your “spending” habits. A helpful tip: a few days before a holiday party, cut out starchy carbs (breads, pastas, potatoes) and eliminate sweets from your diet. This will give you some extra calories to “spend” on your holiday favorites without guilt.

Control Portions

The holidays aren’t a license to overindulge. Repeat to yourself: “all things in moderation”. Enjoy your favorite desserts, but have a smaller portion. When you reach for seconds, ask yourself if you are really hungry or if you are eating just because. Remember: calories in – calories out.

Don’t Go Hungry

Whatever you do, don’t go to a party hungry or save your appetite for a big end-of-the-day meal. Make sure to have a healthy snack, such as a piece of fruit or cheese before a big event. If you find yourself in front of a large spread of holiday goodies on an empty stomach, you will have little chance of avoiding the holiday weight gain.

Remember Quality vs. Quantity

Not only do you need to watch calories on any weight loss program, but you also need to pay close attention to your food choices. Fill your plate with vegetable dishes, fruit, nuts, small pieces of cheese. Go lighter on the heavy carbohydrate foods, desserts, and drinks.

Watch the Cocktails

Alcoholic drinks can really drive up .the calorie count. For example, an eight-ounce Pina Colada has 450 calories. The problem is not in the alcohol itself, but what you mix with it.

Here are some low calorie cocktail tips: choose club soda, diet sodas, or water for a mixer as they have 0 calories, or select a glass of wine at only 80 calories, a vodka or gin and tonic at only 93 calories, or maybe a Tom Collins at 122 calories.

Weight Train

It is very important to work those muscles. As the engine of the body, our muscles burn fuel (calories). It’s estimated that each pound of muscle requires 37.5 calories for sustenance at rest (basal metabolic rate). If you’re not putting forth a serious effort in the strength-training room at least twice a week, you’re forfeiting approximately one-half pound of muscle per year. That’s how much will waste away or atrophy. As a result, your metabolic rate lowers. If there is no corresponding reduction in caloric intake, the result is a gradual gain of body fat.

Stress Less

Face it, the holidays can be stressful. Too much stress can lead to emotional eating and chemical imbalances in the body. Elevated stress for a prolonged period of time elevates the hormone cortisol. Too much cortisol has been linked to weight gain, sleep disturbances, anxiety problems, etc.

Make your health and happiness a priority. Here are some helpful tips: plan ahead and get your shopping done early, don’t over-commit your time (you can’t do everything and be everywhere, so don’t even try), stay within your budget, and have realistic expectations — not everything is going to go YOUR way!

Make a choice this year not to be a victim of the 10-pound holiday weight gain. Better yet, make a personal choice to lose a few pounds.

Imagine how good you’ll feel when January rolls around and the scale doesn’t tip in the wrong direction!