By Wayne L. Westcott, Ph.D. and Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S.
Quincy – Are you in the habit of letting the holidays interfere with your exercise routine, or prevent you from engaging in any physical activity at all? You may be thinking, “Oh, why even try? I’m surrounded by temptations that I can’t possibly ignore, so what’s the use of exercising or eating right?”
It’s true that much of your December time may be spent purchasing presents, and celebrating with family and friends, while sitting around eating and drinking high calorie foods and beverages that you normally would stay away from. Would you believe that the holidays are the best time to start healthy habits? For example, imagine continuing with your exercise program, improving your nutrition, and perhaps initiating a structured fitness program? Feeling skeptical? Let us show you how to get started by breaking some of your old habits and replacing them with healthy new ones during
Perhaps you are like many people who think they have to go all out when starting an exercise or nutrition plan. The all-or-nothing approach can be overwhelming, and, in most cases, it is not sustainable. In fact, you may give up before you really get started! To achieve any important goal, it is best to break it down into manageable parts. For example, a friend said that rather than nagging her husband to exercise on a regular basis (the big picture), she enrolled him in a workout program (resistance training, endurance exercise, and stretching) that met just once a week (the small picture). He agreed, although he was adamant that he didn’t have any extra time to exercise. He was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed his new exercise experience, and miraculously found time to train twice a week, ultimately three times per week, and he’s been working out ever since!
A similar approach can be applied to your eating habits. We realize that it can be very difficult to eat healthy during the holidays. However, positive adaptations can be achieved with small changes. For example, rather than overhaul a traditional holiday meal, substitute healthier ingredients (olive oil, non-fat yogurt, etc.) for higher calorie components (butter, sour cream, etc.). The meals you prepare will definitely be healthier and will probably taste just as delicious. As a result, you are likely to experience less weight gain than normal during the holidays.
Here are a few more suggestions that may help you avoid the five to seveb pound fat gain that many of us experience during the month of December.
DRINK MORE WATER – As a matter of fact, drinking cold water acts as a mild appetite suppressant and burns calories as it warms to body temperature.
EAT MORE FRUITS AND VEGGIES – Apples, oranges, pears, carrot and celery sticks, pepper slices, and cherry tomatoes are highly satisfying and can prevent calorie overload that comes with standard snacks and large holiday meals.
EAT HIGH FIBER FOODS – Vegetables and whole grains aid gastrointestinal transit processes. For example, low-fat dried fruits, such as prunes, figs, dates, apricots, and raisins may satisfy your sweet tooth, and help you to avoid less healthful cookies, cakes, pies, pastries, and candy. Just don’t eat too much dried fruit, as these foods are relatively high in calories, as well as fiber.
EAT LESS AT LUNCH – Especially on days you are hosting or attending a dinner party to avoid too many total calories.
MAKE WISE FOOD SELECTIONS – Select healthier meals, such as broiled fish or baked chicken, healthier soups and salads, lighter salad dressings, less butter and cheese, and ask for meals without gravies or sauces, or get them on the side.
LIMIT DESSERTS – Try to eat just one dessert per day to avoid too much of a good thing, especially during the season when desserts are most prevalent.
DEPART PARTIES EARLY – Enjoy the festivities, but know when to call it a night to avoid excessive food consumption and unnecessary extra calories.
AVOID OR LIMIT ALCOHOL – Alcohol is highly caloric and can contribute to eating too much high-calorie holiday food. A seltzer with a splash of juice, lemon or lime should satisfy your thirst with far fewer calories.
ENGAGE IN DAILY AEROBIC ACTIVITY – A 30-minute walk burns about 200 calories depending on your bodyweight and walking pace.
STRENGTH TRAIN TWICE A WEEK – To burn more calories and strengthen your musculoskeletal system, do at least 2 sessions of strength exercise each week. In a Tufts University study, strength training produced a 7-percent increase in resting metabolic rate and a 15-percent increase in daily calorie requirements among the adult participants.
WORK OUT WITH A BUDDY – Ask a family member, friend, or co-worker to train with you. Find someone who walks the walk, who is both an encourager and a role model in his or her nutrition and exercise behavior.
If you would like to engage in some exercise during the holiday season, consider our Quincy College “December to Remember” fitness program. This highly supervised exercise program features brief circuit training sessions, twice a week, for a period of four weeks. Participants in this 30-minute fitness protocol perform: two strength exercises for the legs, followed by five minutes of aerobic activity; two strength exercises for the trunk, followed by 5 minutes of aerobic activity; and two strength exercises for the upper body, followed by five minutes of aerobic activity, as well as stretching exercises. Please contact Wayne or Rita at 617-984-1716 if you would like more information about our basic and brief December fitness program.
About the Authors: Wayne, L. Westcott, Ph.D., is the Director of Quincy College’s Exercise Science Department and has authored 30 books on strength training. Rita La Rosa Loud, B.S., co-directs the Quincy College Community Health & Fitness Center and Fitness Research Programs and has also authored fitness publications. ∞
Reprinted from the December 2019 edition of the South Shore Senior News