Each year in Islamic cultures, believers eschew food and drink between sunrise and sunset for the month of Ramadan. In modern America, for a little over a month, we do the opposite.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, at all hours of the day and night, we celebrate the sanctity of food with a ferocity that pays little heed to integrity of our waistlines. Studies have shown that the average adult packs on a pound during this period, which, compounded over years, can leave us with a physique resembling that of Old St. Nick. Try these tips to curtail the corpulence:
1. Moderate, mildly
Plowing through the holidays on a rigid diet is likely to produce failure and foil the fun. The best approach is one of disaster mitigation. “I don’t think it’s a great idea just to avoid everything,” said Nick Becker, owner of Anytime Fitness in Three Springs.
The very definition of holiday is “a day marked by a general suspension of work in commemoration of an event.” So have some fun.
2. Celebratory but not sedentary
One thing you shouldn’t take a holiday from is your exercise program. Even though it may become of shell of its former self, don’t dispense with it entirely. Whether its walking the dog or going to the gym, keep up the routine as much as possible. “One of the biggest things is people don’t move as much,” said Sherri Wormser, a local therapeutic chef.
3. Love food, but remember food isn’t love
When it comes to the holidays, a sugar cookie is not just a sugar cookie. It’s memories baked into a crisp, festive shape. Often we indulge to satisfy a craving that is not physical but emotional. Wormser said she has fond memories of making holiday cookies with her grandmother. Uncoupling cherished foods and the feelings they evoke may not be possible, but identifying the emotion can help you find another way to produce it without filling up on calories.
3. Get outdoors
We live in a winter wonderland – enjoy it. Sitting by the fire is great, but it’s even better after an afternoon of skiing, snowshoeing, ice skating or sledding.
“There’s a lot of fun things to do outside,” said Robert Graham, fitness director at Durango Sports Club.
Alpine activities not only burn calories, but they also fill up time that might otherwise be spent filling up.
4. No feast-famine flip-flopping
Starving yourself before an evening of indulgence does more harm than good. Not only are you more likely to overdo it when you arrive because you are ravenously hungry, but it also wrecks havoc on your metabolism. A book released earlier this year, State of Slim: Fix Your Metabolism and Drop 20 Pounds in 8 Weeks on the Colorado Diet, notes that skipping meals causes your body to enter survival mode and conserve fuel.
“When you have an inflexible (unhealthy metabolism), your body doesn’t switch very rapidly between types of fuel (carbohydrates, fats, protein), and it’s during these periods when it doesn’t switch quickly that you body accumulates fat,” the book states. The take-home message: regular, healthful meals beforehand will help you avoid binging at the bash.
5. Slow down on the spirits
Liquid holiday cheer comes with a heavy calorie toll. A cup of eggnog with a splash of booze will cost you 406 calories, according to the website FitDay. Sources recommend substituting sweetened and/or alcoholic beverages with water or seltzer with lime. If you want something warm, try peppermint or chamomile tea, which also are soothing and stave off stomach problems.
6. Portion control
Sources recommended using smaller plates and piling on the healthier offerings first. Eating slowly and savoring each bite also will help cut down on the quantity consumed, Wormser said. A study published in the journal Appetite even found that eating off red plates reduces the amount people eat. The theory is that people instinctually associate red with “stop.” Guess that means green plates would be a bad idea.
7. Don’t do leftovers
A fridge full of leftovers from last night’s party may equal simplified meal planning for the next week, but it’s also going to double or triple the damage of an overly rich meal. Nutritionists recommend pawning off the surplus. Broke college students are good candidates and in ample supply around here.
8. Numbers don’t lie
Several nutrition websites recommended regular or even daily weigh-ins to keep track of creeping mass. Personally, I can’t think of a worse holiday buzz kill, but I also know spouses can not and should not be relied up to give an accurate assessment of their significant other’s size shift.
9. Out with the old
Fitness sources recommended creating new, active family rituals. What about a game of flag football instead of a full day of armchair quarterbacking? Or walking to see Christmas lights instead of driving? Or sledding and snowball fights instead of video game marathons?
10. Cut yourself some slack
Odds are, no matter how modest your fitness goals over the holidays, you will fail to achieve your aspirations. Beating yourself up over that will only engender apathy, sources said. Instead take small, simple steps to get back on track.
“Enjoy the holidays,” fitness director Graham said. “Don’t get too guilt-ridden.”
You’ve still got months of bulky sweater wearing before anyone will notice.