The holidays are here, which means family, festivities and FOOD! But it does not have to mean gaining a sackful of weight. The key to a healthy holiday season is balance eating and exercise while moderating food consumption. Let someone else obtain the 'bowl full of jelly' belly this December and instead spend your holidays healthy and active.
Weight gain can be avoided by balancing calories consumed with calories burned. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) offers these tips for staying physically active this season:
*Stick to you regular excercise routine as much as possible. Especially during the holidays, plan your physical activity routine in advance (don't leave it up to chance). Mark it on the calendar and consider it as important as any other appointment. Get at least 30 minutes of moderate activity daily and more if possible.
*Cut back on television viewing time and limit the number of hours children spend playing video games. Instead, take a brisk walk around the neighborhood to see holiday decorations. Spending time outdoors sledding, skating and building snowmen is also good exercise.
*Dance, clean the house or exercise to holiday music favorites.
*Routinely exercising with a buddy can also keep you motivated and eager to work out.
Being physically active can help relieve Christmas stress while also improving our overall wellness this time of year.
High calorie cookies and glasses of eggnog may not be a huge factor when it comes to Santa's waistline, but as for everyone else who's not a resident of the North Pole, it's important to eat balanced meals and snack in moderation especially through the holidays. These DHHS tips will help maintain good eating habits and your figure.
*Overcome the urge to overeat. Standing by the buffet table is temptation to over indulge in the good stuff. Remember holiday parties are a time to celebrate with family and friends, not just food. It's important to spend more time visiting than eating.
*Make sure to watch the portion sizes of food. Also, use a small plate and a tall, thin glass to make it look as if there are bigger helpings. It's okay to sample a small portion rather than depriving oneself of a holiday favorite.
*If restaurant main dish portions are larger than you want, share them with a friend, or order an appetizer or side dish instead. Otherwise take leftovers home for a later meal.
*Resign from the "clean plate club." When you've eaten enough, leave the rest.
*Leave those extra calories behind-limit the intake of foods high in fat or added sugar. Take from the relish or fruit tray instead of the truffle display.
*If you drink alcohol, do so in moderation.
*After food enters your mouth it takes approximately 20 minutes before the brain starts getting the message that you're filling up. Taking time to sit down and savor foods or at least waiting until you've chewed and swallowed one bite before you take another one will help slow this process, according to the ISU Extension Newsletter, "Family Ties."
Angela Loutsch, Program Coordinator of the Le Mars YMCA, also advises not eating food straight from their packaging. "Measuring out the amount of food you need and then putting the rest of it away will help you eat the right proportion." Loutsch also suggests drinking lots of water during the holidays. "A lot of the snack foods we eat have a high salt content in them, which makes us dehydrated."
If it's hard to find time to exercise during the holiday season, Loutsch recommends, "walking extra laps around the kitchen or climbing up and down the stairs. Even walking at the shopping mall is exercise." She also says that it's important to involve others such as family members to work out with you as well.
Setting a New Year's resolution to eat smarter and exercise more is another way to keep healthy over the holidays. "Making a resolution to stay fit can't just be a goal, it has to be a lifestyle change that you build into your routine," says YMCA's Heidi Middendorp. Setting New Year's resolutions to exercise more can be difficult to commit to. Angela Loutsch suggests making resolutions and goals that are specific and realistic to attain for the new year. "Start by writing down your goals and create a time that you want to achieve them by." Telling friends and family your resolution and posting it in visible places, Loutsch believes that you'll be more apt to follow through on goals. Keeping a journal is also a good way to track how much you're exercising and eating, which helps to pinpoint your weaknesses and attain weight goals efficiently.
This year's 2008 Lighten Up Le Mars is another way to get physically motivated during the cold winter months. Beginning January 16, Lighten Up Le Mars' three-month challenge will teach participants how to make healthy and lasting lifestyle changes. Lighten Up Le Mars is a division of a statewide initiative to 'Lighten Up Iowa.' "The program's goal is to get participants to move more and get more healthy activity into their lives," says Kris Hartje, Lighten Up Le Mars Program Coordinator. The health challenge focuses on two divisions: activity and weight loss. Teams may partcipate in one or both categories. Participants of Lighten Up Le Mars will receive health newsletters and access to classes offered through the YMCA of Le Mars. Teammates will also have access to log nutrition and daily activity on-line, making them eligible for local and state Lighten Up Iowa prizes. "It takes one step at a time, setting small, incremental goals helps create a path towards overall wellness." Registration for Lighten Up Le Mars is $15 and will begin the first of January.
It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas and this year, avoid the gift that keeps on giving--a wassailing weight gain. This December, leave the overindulgences to Santa Claus. By exercising daily and eating sugar plums and fruitcakes in moderation, you'll be sure to have a happy and healthy holiday season.