By Karen Kansler, R.N.
Special to the Catholic Review
The holiday season is here. We’ve either eaten or given out all our Halloween candy, and Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s are just around the corner.
How do we survive eating and drinking moderately at parties and finding time for physical activity so we can avoid the unwanted weight gain of three to seven pounds? Fight fire with fire!
To help lose those seemingly inevitable extra pounds that creep up on us over the winter, causing stress to our joints, blood pressure, body image, sleep and heart health, you should sneak in opportunities for exercise and moderation whenever you can. Here are some real-world, you-can-do-it tips for ambushing those infuriating “few extra pounds.”
Breathe, then get moving. Whether you’re taking a morning walk with your pet or walking around the mall window shopping, take some deep breaths. Focus on your breathing to help expand your lungs and reduce stress.
If you schedule your workouts, which can even be during the Christmas rush, your body will benefit.
• Park your car farther away than usual at the mall. After a purchase or two, walk briskly back to your car and lock your purchases inside. Then, walk back to do more shopping. Wear a pedometer, and you’ll see how quickly your steps add up.
• Do heel raises or balance on one foot while standing in the check-out line.
• Stand next to a bench and do 15 to 20 squats before you sit down to rest.
During this activity, remember to drink water and treat yourself to a healthy lunch. Better yet, bring fresh fruit to nosh on while shopping so you don’t splurge on sugary, calorie-laden snacks that can cause weight gain.
Do the “Turkey Trot”
For many people, Thanksgiving dinner is often the start of holiday overeating. After the turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes, and pumpkin pie – with sometimes second helpings – we can feel as though we’re in a “food coma.” Experts from the American Dietetic Association say the after-meal dragging could be associated with changes in certain hormones induced by the food, or it could be the feeling of being “weighed down” by a large amount of food sitting in our stomachs.
To help reduce calories during this feast, choose smaller portions and enjoy the taste. Drink lots of water or other non-alcoholic beverages to help fill you up. And, instead of taking a nap right after the heavy meal, take a walk with family members to continue the holiday fellowship.
Be a “party smarty”
We all love holiday parties and the buffets that come with them. The calories can add up, though, especially when there are multiple parties throughout the Christmas season. To elevate your “smarty party IQ,” and keep your health on track:
• Select a small plate and only pick two or three food choices. Perhaps you’ll only have one or two small cookies, and try some new foods that you’ve never had before.
• Work the room and talk to guests so you’re focusing more on socializing than eating.
• Have wine spritzers, which are made with half a glass of wine mixed with club soda, and have a large glass of water in between your cocktails to help reduce your caloric intake.
Move it to lose it in 2013
If loved ones ask what you’d like for Christmas, request a gym membership or exercise DVD and free weights to help you meet your fitness and wellness goals. Make managing your weight and exercising among your 2013 resolutions. If you need help, talk with your doctor so you can create a safe weight loss plan that includes physical activity with reachable goals.
If you don’t shed those pounds right away, keep up the good fight. The new year is the perfect time to begin again (and again) with the wisdom of lessons learned. If loved ones ask what you’d like for Christmas, request a gym membership.
Karen Kansler, R.N., is an arthritis outreach nurse at Medstar Good Samaritan Hospital. Email questions to Karen.Kansler@Medstar.net.