By Gwendolyn Glenn
7:00 AM EST, December 3, 2012
The holidays are in full swing and for most people that means lots of opportunities to eat delicious, high-calorie foods that they normally don't eat during the rest of the year.
According to the Calorie Control Council, during Thanksgiving alone, when plates are laden with turkey, dressing and gravy, buttery mashed potatoes, macaroni and cheese, candied yams and pecan pies, the average person consumes 4,500 calories and 230 grams of fat. A National Institutes of Health study found that translates into a pound of extra weight, which 85 percent of people do not lose during the course of the year. That adds up over time and before you know it, you're 10 pounds heavier.
With office holiday parties, church celebrations, and large family gatherings for Christmas and New Year's coming up, not to mention the time spent shopping, a lot of people slack off on their exercise routines during the holidays, even though they know they are going to over indulge at those decadent family meals. But Laurel's Health and Wellness Ambassador Carl Powell says people don't have to kick staying in shape to the curb this time of year.
Powell has a list of things people can do during the holiday season to ward off those unwanted extra pounds. He advises people to first, "Do some research and create a practical fitness plan. Don't wait until January to think about it."
In the meantime, as the holiday season progresses, he suggests that people stay as active as they can, whenever they can.
"You can have your gym bag packed and in your car, so if an opportunity comes up—shopping didn't take as long as you expected and the gym is nearby—you're prepared for it," Powell said.
And because many people are spending a lot of time at the mall shopping for Christmas gifts, Powell advises building in a bit of time to exercise while there.
"Wear comfortable shoes and spend about 30 minutes just walking around the mall before or after shopping," he said. "You don't have to race walk, but just stroll or go with the flow of others, without stopping in stores, and that can be beneficial."
Even though a lot of people kick up their exercise game and work out more before and during the holidays, others go on drastic diets, or eat little or nothing on the day of a big holiday meal or party.
"Don't starve yourself. You want to nourish your body, because if you skip meals, your metabolism slows down and your body stores calories. Eat throughout the day, so when you get to the party or dinner, you won't eat everything and can make healthy choices," Powell said.
Holiday parties and family gatherings are also a time when some people have high-calorie alcoholic drinks. Powell's advice is to complement those concoctions with lots of water.
"For every mixed drink you have, drink an eight ounce glass of water. It will fill you up and you won't eat as much and it will flush your system so you won't retain the calories," Powell said. "And also, avoid the eggnog if you can because it has lots of calories—350 calories in a small cup of eggnog—wine is a better choice."
A trend that is developing across the country that Powell thinks is a great idea is that many families and neighborhoods are gathering after big holiday meals to walk or bike together.
"Have that annual walk with family and neighbors after eating. It's a fun way to burn calories and can (be an incentive to) get you off the couch after a big meal," he said.
Because people have long lists that in addition to shopping for presents and food include putting up holiday decorations, cleaning their homes for guests and travel, they don't always build in a lot of time for getting much rest—big mistake, Powell said.
"Make sure you rest well because when you get the sleep you need, your body releases hormones that help you lose weight. Stress (and tiredness) does the opposite and sends off cortisol hormones that make you gain weight," he said.
Enjoying yourself during the holidays is a big part of the celebrations, so Powell is not a Scrooge in terms of his dos and don'ts. He said if you are going to splurge, which most of us do, enjoy treats you really love. He also suggests seasonal desserts, such as pumpkin pie, which won't be available year round. As for those who plan to overindulge, but want to get that one pound off after the holiday season, Powell goes back to his initial advice of planning ahead.
"You don't want it to be February and you're still trying to figure out what exercise or diet plan to go with that works for you, or you're waiting for products to come in the mail," he said. "And again, be practical. Don't say I'm going to run 10 miles a day when you're not even running or walking now. It's OK to take baby steps to be successful in getting back in shape."
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