Saturday, March 17 , 2018, 5:59 am | Fair 49º


Tracy Shawn: Four Sure-Fire Ways to Combat Holiday Weight Gain

Between Thanksgiving and New Year's is it possible to actually lose weight? As a matter of fact, yes

We all know what packs on those extra pounds during this time of year: rich, calorie-dense foods laden on our tables by Thanksgiving that continue to tempt us all the way through to the New Year, coupled with the extra stress that the holiday season brings, as well as having less time for exercise. It’s no wonder why our pants are oftentimes harder to zip up by Jan. 1. Yet if you keep in place four healthy — and very doable — habits, you may find that you’ll not only avoid any extra “holiday heft,” but also may even lose a few pounds in the process.

1. Remember that Fiber is Your Friend. The natural fiber found in fruits, vegetables, legumes and whole grains helps to replace calories from fat and provides satiety. During the holiday season, these nutrient-dense foods are often shoved aside to make room for the more festive fare of calorie-dense foods such as stuffing, pies and sugar cookies. Yet if you make sure to eat both soluble fiber (which includes oats, fruits, broccoli and carrots) and insoluble (which includes bran, many vegetables, seeds and brown rice) to your diet every day, you can keep the portions down on the “party food,” while still enjoying the party. Two easy ways to help implement this is to have a balanced, high-fiber snack such as a bowl of bran cereal with milk before you go out, and to insist on helping out your host by bringing a large vegetable platter. (Note: According to the Dietary Reference Intakes guidelines, the average man should consume about 38 grams of fiber a day and the average woman about 25 grams a day. To reduce any possible stomach discomfort, make sure to gradually increase fiber intake.)

2. Keep the Furnace Going. Eating throughout the day will help you feel less hungry so you won’t eat as much at each sitting, and studies also suggest that eating more frequently does increase your metabolism. Meals and snacks that provide the balance of protein, carbohydrates and fat can also prevent rapid rises and falls in the blood glucose level. So forgo the “starve and scarf” routine. Not only will it may make you want to eat even more, but it also may increase the Grinch-like symptoms of low blood sugar — and who wants to be hungry and grumpy when your goal is to be social and happy? Make it easy on yourself: go for the salad bar at your grocery store, stop for a bowl of lentil soup between gift shopping, keep an apple and a bag of nuts in your car.

3. Be Creative with Keeping up with Your Exercise. Because of the shorter days, intermittent weather and the all-around busy nature of the season, it can be difficult to maintain your usual exercise routine. Yet this may be the time of year when we need it the most. Exercise not only burns calories and increases metabolism, but numerous studies show that it also combats stress, which can run quite high during the holidays. And we all know that tension can sometimes lead to even more overeating. So how is a stressed-out, over-scheduled person supposed to keep up the workouts? First, make exercise a priority over trying to make everything else “perfect.” Tell yourself that it’s more important to get that 30-minute jog in instead of cleaning all the dust bunnies from under your couch before guests arrive (they won’t notice anyway)! Also, make exercise more time efficient by working out at home in front of a workout DVD or checking out free exercise channels on TV. Just remember: any exercise is better than none.

4. Limit the Libations! According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005), alcohol moderation is defined as no more than two drinks a day for men, and no more than one drink a day for women. (And if you’re driving, you may want to stick with sparkling cider as most people retain some alcohol in their blood for up to three hours after a single drink.) Following this sound advice during the holiday season may be good for your health, as well as for your waistline. Since alcohol contributes non-nutritive calories and lowers inhibitions, a person may not only be overloading their bodies with empty calories from the drink itself, but also from the foods that they may be tempted to overindulge in. Also, because alcohol is a depressant — which effects can carry into the next day — staying on track may be even more difficult. And the last thing we need during this time of year is one more challenge!

So try and relax, knowing that if you follow the four simple steps of keeping up the bran, stoking your furnace, working up a daily sweat — all while keeping the buzz at bay — you may just get through this holiday season with both your brain and pants intact!

— Tracy Shawn, MA, “The Walk & Talk Weight Loss Coach”, is a certified nutrition and wellness consultant for men and women. She helps clients achieve their weight loss goals through individualized guidance and education. Click here to contact her.

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