Before you reach for that second helping of pumpkin pie, consider this:
The average American adult gains between 2 and 12 pounds between Thanksgiving
and New Year's Day.
For several years, my own scale tipped eight pounds to the right after
every holiday season, and those pounds are difficult to lose. Instead
of vowing to work it off later, the best bet to beating holiday weight
gain is to avoid it altogether.
This might sound impossible, particularly because travel, parties and
hosting houseguests guarantee a disruption to your routine. But maintaining
your weight during the holidays can be easier, more fun and more family-friendly
than you might imagine. It just takes some creativity.
At Hoag's Mary & Dick Allen Diabetes Center, we advise our patients
to increase the frequency and/or intensity of their exercise during the
holidays to help curb weight gain during the three-week period in which
grandma is plying them with pie.
One way to do this is to insert exercise into family gatherings: Get the
entire crew to take a walk or go on a neighborhood scavenger hunt between
dinner and dessert, challenge relatives to an after-dinner "Dance
Off," or even propose to vigorously clean your host's house (who
would decline that offer?).
Wherever you spend the holidays, the local Chamber of Commerce will likely
know of sponsored events, such as 5K runs, that can get the whole family
moving. Walking around well-appointed neighborhoods to check out the holiday
decorations is also a good alternative to gathering around the TV in a
collective food coma.
Volunteer to take the dog to the dog park. Go ice skating. Recruit nieces
and nephews for a game of flag football or soccer. These activities not
only get the heart rate going, they create lasting memories.
If your holiday plans keep you in Orange County, our great weather and
many tourist attractions offer ample opportunities to walk. On a recent
trip to Downtown Disney, my mother-in-law's pedometer registered 4,000
steps in just two hours. A family trip the mall can turn into a fun mini-workout:
Park far from the entrance, walk briskly between stores and return to
the car frequently to drop off packages.
Even if TV figures prominently in your family's holiday traditions,
institute commercial fitness breaks. You can turn this into a healthy
competition between family members with incentives for the most repetitions.
If your relatives "bah-humbug" all your suggestions and insist
on sitting through the holidays, try isometric exercises that can be done
anywhere: Sit up straight and do repetitions of tightening your abdominal
muscles and glutes. By the time Virginia learns there is a Santa Claus,
you'll have gotten in a great workout!
Whatever you do, try not to be sedentary. Hit up the hotel gym, do sit-ups
before sunrise, pack some resistance bands in your luggage and make use
of this easy, portable workout device. After all, exercise improves your
sense of well-being and reduces stress during these hectic winter days.
So by keeping your blood pumping, you will not only help curb weight gain,
you are much more likely to truly enjoy a happy holiday season.
Denise Wachman is a registered nurse and certified diabetes educator for
the Mary & Dick Allen Center for Diabetes at Hoag Hospital.