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Eating For the Holidays

Tis the season to be bombarded with healthy-living and food guilt, while at the same time having break rooms full of sweet Christmas treats. This time of year can add a lot of stress, especially when we are trying to make good decisions for our health yet enjoy the once-a-year cheer that comes with the holiday season. One day of over eating such as Thanksgiving or Christmas day is not going to ruin your waist line, however, an entire month or two could cause you to notice your pants fitting a little tighter.

So how do we balance our cravings for treats?

First, don’t wait until the New Year to hit the gym. There is no reason that fitness should only be our goal for one month of the year. Physical activity helps us to burn those extra calories we may have snuck in, but remaining active has a plethora of benefits such as: reduced chronic disease risk, increased flexibility, improved mental health, increased balance, and increased chance of living longer.

Physical Activity guidelines recommended adults participate in 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity physical activity. Moderate intensity means you are able to hold a conversation with the friend you are briskly walking with. Let’s do some simple math; 150 minutes divided by five days equals 30 minutes per day. If 30 minutes is too much, break up a 30 minute routine into three 10 minute routines. This could easily be done as a walk during lunch instead of scrolling through Facebook.

It is important to include some muscle-strengthening activities two or more days per week. While aerobic activity burns a lot of calories, increased muscle mass will help you burn more calories while resting at home later that evening. Don’t be intimidated by the big guys lifting weights at the gym - you can increase muscle mass significantly with the use of resistance bands or dumbbells!

If you’re anything like me you are a fair-weather exerciser, and this winter weather beginning to set in takes a toll on your motivation. Don’t let cold weather stop you from moving! Get creative with your movement indoors. Some ideas include: exercise videos, swimming at the high school or Athena center, walking the track at Wabash or Park and Rec, taking the steps at work, using resistance bands during your favorite TV binge, yoga, ice/roller skating, dancing at any of our local dance studios, or challenging a friend to see who can do the most squats, pushups, or crunches in one week.

Now that we’re moving, we need to consider our diet as a means to controlling our weight. When you see the sweet treats in the office break room, remind yourself that they will be there all week. Suddenly, when you accept that you can have one a day, you don’t need to eat all of them in one sitting. Really take the time to taste those treats! I am as guilty as anyone of having a sweet tooth, but I really don’t like cake, and for whatever reason when a cake shows up on the break table I need to eat it. So instead of letting your eyes do the eating, ask yourself “what do you really want to eat?” What aroma, appearance, taste, texture, temperature, or filling capacity are you looking for? So if what I really want is ice cream, the cake is not going to satisfy my craving. Instead, I should treat myself to an ice cream cone and save myself those extra calories.

This holiday season give yourself the gift of health instead of new (and larger) jeans. Get up, move, and ask yourself which sweet treats you’ll (responsibly) indulge in!