The right steps towards a healthy holiday season are within reach.
Staying on track with your diet and exercise plan over the holidays may seem like an impossible goal, but it’s easier than you think. With a little planning and self-discipline, you can enjoy festivities with family and friends, indulge in some of your favorite treats and stay in shape over the holiday season.
“Rather than trying to lose weight during the holidays, make it a priority to maintain your current weight and avoid gaining,” says Dr. Matthew Pinto, medical director and owner of Vive Medical Weight Loss and Aesthetics, based in Marlton.
“It’s important to be realistic about your goals and make yourself accountable when it comes to eating right and exercising on a regular basis.”
Kirill Vaks, program coordinator and owner of Training Aspects in Voorhees, stresses, “Don’t put so much pressure on yourself over the holidays, and don’t expect yourself to be perfect. If you have an off day, just restart. Shake it off and move on.”
Hectic holiday schedules tend to wreak havoc on even the most disciplined individuals. But maintaining an exercise routine, staying hydrated and eating on a regular schedule is even more important when you’re short on time and feeling stressed.
“People often use the holidays as an excuse not to pay attention to their diet and exercise,” says Dr. Robert Fortino, owner of Premier Physicians Weight Loss, LLC in Turnersville. “Ironically, that’s the time when people usually have more time off and should actually have more time to work out and focus on their diet. The temptation to eat more and work out less is always there, it’s just more concentrated around the holidays. The key is to create healthy patterns before the holidays and make diet and exercise a priority every day.”
Pinto agrees. “People need to understand that it’s what you do 75 percent of the time that makes the biggest difference. The holidays are only a few weeks out of the year. You need to focus on making a lifestyle change as opposed to going on a diet. A diet is simply a method to change your lifestyle. But a healthy eating and exercise plan can improve your life over the long term,” he stresses.
So what’s a person to do when faced with all of those holiday temptations?
“Planning is key,” says Susan Reel-Panish, owner of Moorestown/Maple Shade Curves. “If you know you’re going to a holiday party later in the day, eat a light snack or some healthy protein before you go. In addition, be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. This way, you won’t show up at the party hungry and it will be easier to resist temptations later on.”
And when you’re at a party, think small.
“When you’re faced with a huge buffet, just make one trip,” says Pinto. “Fill your plate once and try to eat more vegetables and healthy proteins as opposed to breads, pastas and sweets. It also helps to take a smaller plate and just take a taste of the less healthy options. Smaller bites may be all you need to get over your craving and not overeat,” he says.
“It’s also important to limit your alcohol intake,” Pinto stresses. “In addition to adding calories, alcohol lowers your inhibitions, which makes you more likely to overeat.”
If you’re hosting a party, you have even more control over what you eat and you can offer healthy options to your guests as well.
“When cooking a holiday meal, look for healthier versions of your favorite recipes that allow you to reduce calories and fat content,” says Erin Riley, a registered dietician and bariatric coordinator at Community Healthy Systems/Salem Surgical Weight Loss Center in Woodstown. “Serve more vegetables, such as green beans and asparagus versus starches like potatoes and stuffing; eat lean proteins such as white meat turkey versus dark meat; and be cautious with sweets. Eat more of the main meal and eat a smaller portion for dessert. And give away any leftovers so you won’t be tempted to eat them,” she suggests.
Knowing what to eat is just as important as avoiding overeating.
“There are basically three rules for success,” says Fortino. “Eat what [was] put on this earth, control your portions, and exercise, exercise, exercise. In order to eat healthy, you need to create good eating behaviors. Focus on foods pulled from the ground or off a vine. Proteins, fruits and vegetables are the foundation of your nutrition. Eliminate wheat/flour products and avoid fast food, take-out meals, microwaveable meals and junk food—also known as GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. It’s also extremely important to stay hydrated. Drink three to four liters of just water per day, or half your body weight in ounces,” he stresses.
“When it comes to portions, eat what you need, not what you want. Limit your portion size to equal the size of your palm and walk away from the table with a little sense of hunger,” says Fortino. “[And] take accountability for your calories. You can track your daily calorie intake with apps like MyFitnessPal or LooseIt. A weight loss professional can help you determine what your actual caloric intake should be, based on your body mass index.”
A regular exercise routine is especially important during the holidays, according to Brian Kane, a fitness coach and co-owner at Evolution Fitness in Medford. “It’s important to stick to your exercise routine as much as possible. Plan ahead of time and try to squeeze a workout in before a party or the following day. Get family members involved in your plan to create an internal support system and help keep you motivated,” he suggests. “In addition to proper nutrition, an exercise plan focusing on resistance training workouts and metabolic resistance training, which helps burn fat and manage weight, will help you see positive results over the long term.”
Vaks of Training Aspects agrees. “It’s important to focus on the whole body, including nutrition, diet and exercise,” he says. “By eating right and staying active, even if it’s just doing five minutes of walking, going up and down stairs, crunches, squats or push-ups each day, you’ll begin to see results. The key is to start slow and take it one day at a time. As we tell our clients, ‘An extreme change lasts a month; a lifestyle change lasts a lifetime.’ Your goal should be to make a long-term investment in yourself,” he stresses.
“It also helps to set smaller milestones in order to accomplish long-term success,” says Salem’s Riley. “Focus on creating healthy behaviors such as reducing your calorie intake by cutting back on drinking soda or exercising three times per week.
By setting small, more manageable goals you are more likely to be successful at reaching your long-term goals over time. Just remind yourself that it’s a lifestyle change, not a quick fix.”
And try to cut yourself some slack.
“The holidays should be a joyous time to spend with family and friends,” says Pinto.
“Don’t beat yourself up over a few pounds, but do your best to get back on track when things settle down. Be realistic, make yourself accountable and focus on the long-term, lifestyle changes and you are sure to succeed.”
Community Health Systems/Salem Surgical Weight Loss Center
66 East Ave.
130 Route 70 E.
Moorestown/Maple Shade Curves
300 S. Lenola Rd.
Premier Weight Loss Physicians, LLC
129 Johnson Road
Training Aspects, LLC
910 Haddonfield-Berlin Road
Vive Medical Weight Loss and Aesthetics
10000 Lincoln Drive E.
Published (and copyrighted) in the Art of Living Well pull-out section of Suburban Family Magazine, Volume 5, Issue 9 (November, 2014).
For more info on Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
For information about advertising in Suburban Family Magazine, click here.
To find out where to pick up your copy of Suburban Family Magazine, click here.