Stay fit for the holidays
Sometimes, the festivities and good cheer surrounding the holidays can make you look a little more like the big-bellied Santa.
With holiday parties and workplaces overflowing with goodies during this season, how can you keep from overdoing it?
Ann Chapman, a Lawrence dietician in private practice and at the Watkins Student Health Center at Kansas University, says holiday is a big topic for the students she counsels.
“They don’t want to gain weight because of holiday dinners,” Chapman says.
A lot of people, she says, have this strategy: “Fast all day and then come starving to the big meal.”
Instead, she says, they should eat a good breakfast the day of the holiday feast and then make good choices during the meal.
“Eat more of the green beans, relishes and rice,” Chapman says, “and less of the dressing.”
Portion sizes are important, too, and Chapman advises taking “just a small sliver of pie.”
Throughout the holiday season, Chapman recommends maintaining a regular meal schedule.
“The holidays can be stressful, and it helps to stick to a schedule,” she says. “Be sure to eat breakfast. Lots of times people will sleep in during the holidays and skip breakfast, then grab something quick for lunch. By evening they’re ravenous, and they overeat at parties and at holiday dinners.”
She adds: “Don’t go to cocktail parties when you’re starving. Eat a full dinner or a substantial snack before going out. Eat foods high in protein and fat to fill yourself up — like peanut butter on whole-wheat toast or two hard-boiled eggs.”
Once you get to the party, Chapman warns, “Be careful with alcohol. People tend to overindulge. Alcohol not only adds calories, but it can enhance your appetite.”
She also says it’s a good idea to choose more fruits and vegetables (such as carrots, cauliflower and celery) from the relish tray at the party instead of filling up on deep-fried items.
“Fruits and vegetables have a higher fiber and water content, so there’s less room for chips and other high-calorie appetizers like Swedish meatballs, quiche, and crab rangoons,” she says.
Chapman says it’s very important to stay active during the holidays.
“Challenge yourself to find a fun and social way to stay fit,” she says. “Go ice-skating at Crown Center, go sledding if it snows, take walks with friends or go bowling. Be innovative.”
Staci Hendrickson, a dietitian with Healthy Balance Inc., 535 Gateway Drive, agrees.
“Try to keep a semblance of your regular exercise routine over the holidays,” Hendrickson says. “Once you get out of it, it’s hard to get back into it. Carve out that time and protect it. Exercise is great for stress relief.”
In Hendrickson’s practice, she works a lot with “intuitive eating.”
“Make peace with food,” she says. “Practice ‘conscious eating,’ and choose your indulgences wisely. If you don’t really like eggnog that much, don’t drink it. If you like fudge, then allow yourself that holiday indulgence.”
Hendrickson says if you “eat slowly and mindfully, being aware of what you’re doing, you’ll eat less. Rich, sweet foods actually have a point of diminishing returns. The first three bites might taste like heaven, but then you have had enough. Alcohol is more prevalent during the holidays, but it lowers inhibitions, so eat first, then drink.”
Hendrickson also advises making trade-offs.
“If you’re going to a party where you know there’ll be a certain dessert because your aunt always brings it, then save room by eating a lighter main dish and not as many appetizers,” she says.
Wayne Jackson, a personal trainer at Lawrence Athletic Club, says keeping moving during the holidays is the key to staying in shape.
“If you’re traveling, prepare ahead of time by trying to find the nearest gym in the area you’ll be heading to and getting a week’s pass,” he says.
Jackson also says there are lots of easy things you can do to work out without going to a gym.
“Walk outside or do a light jog if it’s not too cold,” he suggests. “You can also do simple activities like step lunges, jump rope, body weight squats and pushups in your house. If you’re taking a road trip, then pack small dumbbells in your trunk.”
Jackson thinks a traveler’s best friends are exercise bands.
“The newer bands stick in the hinges of a door in your hotel room or relative’s house, and you can really work your back muscles doing chest presses, squats and pull ups,” he says.