The holidays continue to creep up on us, and as I shared in my last column, the importance of getting any kind of fitness program in place now will help minimize the impact of the “turkey, cranberry, stuffing and gravy” effect later.
The really good news is that the average American gains only 1.5 – 1.8 pounds every holiday season. The difficult part of that to swallow (sorry for the pun, I couldn’t resist) is that this occurs with every year and every decade of life.
Facts like this seem somewhat benign; but unfortunately, the critical piece of information is that most Americans don’t lose this weight. With this simple math, it’s easy to see how the 1.5 pounds gained per holiday, per year, over several decades can have all of wondering “how” and “when” the girth changes occurred.
All this information naturally prompts a person to wonder how much exercise must be done in order to lose what has been gained. A summary by Dr. Cedric Bryain, ACE chief exercise physiologist, puts it in perspective. “A 160-pound person would have to run at a moderate pace for four hours, swim for five hours or walk 30 miles to burn off a 3,000-calorie Thanksgiving Day meal.”
There is good news, however, about some of the simple things you can do now that will have a significant impact in the event you over-consume during the holidays:n Work hard in the yard: Too often, we equate fitness with the need to attend a gym or dedicated location to work with weights. Start working on the holes you want to dig, the trees you want to plant and the wood you want to cut. Using multiple joints to perform any given movement increases the work your body does and burns more calories.
• Keep a three-day food log: Keeping a food log is one of the most effective ways to take inventory on what you eat and the frequency. Rather than starting my clients on a weekly log, I encourage them to get in good habits over a three-day period first. Using sites like www.calorieking.com are quick, easily accessible ways to figure out the nutritional value and caloric content of food.n Focus on the proteins: Usually, holiday meals have as many as 10-20 different offerings. Proteins turn on that metabolic engine (thermic response) to help burn calories while complex carbohydrates keep blood sugar up and regulated. Both are important, but if you choose to indulge beyond the usual, keep your plate dominant with proteins.
• Oh, those sauces!Let’s use salad as an example. Salad is terrific for you — high in multiple vitamins, minerals and nutrients (especially spinach salad) it is without a doubt, nutrient dense. Now take that same salad and drench it with thick, creamy ranch dressing high in calories. Your calorie density just went through the roof. This same “trap” can exist within many of your choices. String beans in a white, bleached flour gravy or cream sauce, yams or sweet potatoes glazed with thick brown sugar, and, of course, white flour breads and rolls just to name a few of the temptations. The secret is to eat these in moderation and small amounts.
• Burn em’ before you eat em’: Plan your festive day by doing something active or strenuous before the big meal. This can include going on a run or walk, working out, or taking a hike. For many people, these events become part of the holiday tradition and are a great way to balance food consumption with calorie burning.
Embrace the holiday, enjoy the holiday and most importantly, prepare for the holiday in a way that will include health as a part of your festivities. Remember a little more than six weeks left and “tomorrow, does come early.”
Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and online at http://theflashpoint.org and http://VictorFitnessSystems.com.