Eat Right and Exercise Smart this Holiday Season!

With the holidays coming on, it seemed appropriate to spend a few minutes looking at health and fitness, and a holiday strategy. You can be successful this holiday season!

Before going any further, please note I’m not a doctor or nutritionist. I’m just sharing information that seems to help a lot of other people. As always, if you have particular health and nutritional needs, you need to consult with your physician!

Over the years, we’ve probably all read media stories that saying the average American adult gains five pounds between Thanksgiving and New Years. I’ve even said it myself. But that’s been based more on anecdotal information (self-reporting) than scientific studies. So it’s somewhat suspect. 

But now there is some actual research available that may put you more at ease. According to the new studies, the number is actually closer to a single pound. However, there are a couple pieces of bad news.

First, the average weight gain for adults is between 1-2 lbs a year. That’s the average. Some people gain more. And here’s the really bad news. If you’re already overweight, you could gain up to five pounds over the holidays. 

One study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma showed that college students of “normal” weight gained a half pound during the holidays. But students who were already overweight gained two pounds. 

Another study published in the New England Journal of Medicine showed that the weight we DO gain doesn’t come back off. So the normal upward creep in weight is in large part due to the holidays. 

What does this mean for us? If you’re of average or “normal” weight, you probably don’t need to worry too much about it. Staying active and watching what you eat will pretty much take care of it. 

But if you’re overweight, or actively trying to lose weight, you should be concerned. Without a holiday eating and exercise strategy, you’ll 1) stop losing weight; 2) probably gain weight; and 3) it might be as much as 5 lbs!

So what do we do? First, don’t miss your workouts. If you quit burning the extra calories from those workouts AND take in more than normal, that’s too big a swing. You’re gonna gain some serious weight. You’ve got to workout. I’d even workout double whenever you can.

As for the eating, while it’s usually not a good idea to miss meals, sometimes it makes sense. If you know you’re having an office party, skip the usual snacks. Sometimes I’ll skip a meal too, if I know it’s going to be “bad.”

You just have to guard against the possibility of overeating because you’re hungry. But getting a few calories ahead can give you some room for some of those “unavoidable” holiday calories. Then you just work off the rest. 

This is not a good long-term strategy. But it will get you past some of the bumps in your diet. Besides, some experts are now saying that regular, periodic fasting can help you control your weight. 

One example would be to eat “normally” two days and then fast a meal or two on the third day. You would time it so the fasting happens on a less active day, maybe even on a rest day in which you don’t work out at all. Of course, a better plan is to watch what you eat, and workout every day. 

The other big thing is not filling up your plate. If there’s something you want, take a little bit. Then take a little of something else. Resist the temptation of taking full servings of everything you want; you could end up eating several meals. 

Remember, if you can’t even see your plate for all the food on it, you’re going to be in that group that gains weight this season. I’ll see you at the party!

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