Battling the holiday bulge

Don’t accept those extra pounds this year

By Caroline Shannon-Karasik

Sure, a few of our favorite things about this season are raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, but what about the spare tire and larger pant sizes the holidays can bring?

Still smitten with that third slice of fruitcake?

It’s easy to chalk up holiday weight gain as an inevitable part of the seasonal activities. People gather, they are merry … they eat until the buttons on their trousers burst off.

But what if there was some gray area in this seemingly black and white debate? What if you could literally have your cake and eat it, too? Turns out you can and it comes by implementing a little tactic you may have heard of before — moderation.

“Rather than pointing out certain foods that need to be avoided or swapped out, I believe it’s more important to approach the holidays with a mindset of inclusion versus exclusion,” said Sheila Viers, president of Live Well 360. “People often gear up for the holidays with all kinds of rules about what they can and can’t eat. That feeling of not being able to have whatever they think they really want can make things so much worse than if they’d just have a small portion of it, enjoy it, and then let it go.”

Adam E. Kessler, President of Fitness Planning Consultants, Inc. in Columbus, offered similar advice, adding that the ideal balance to a little splurge here and there is keeping with a regular exercise routine.

“Your body can handle the occasional party, filled with delightful treats,” Kessler said. “You will be exercising to burn calories and if the meals you are eating prior are healthy, then in the big scheme of things you are eating more good meals than bad, and your body knows how to process that. If you reverse, that is when your body throws in the towel and you pack on pounds.”

When it comes to exercise, the American Council on Exercise (ACE) recognizes that mistletoe snogging, holiday shopping and, of course, egg nog, are bound to get in the way. Aim for at least 20 minutes of activity per day, whether it be light walking with a friend who is in town for the holidays or a family basketball game. And get this: A bit of exercise will help to keep that oh-my-gosh-I-have-to-wrap-another-present stress at bay.

“You don’t have to make huge changes in your life in order to see a big difference,” said Bethanne Weiss, founder of Orlando-based FUNIQ fitness. “Even small changes –like substituting salsa for fat-laden foods– can make a huge difference. You can eat more, stay full, and not feel deprived.”

So, keeping the belly feeling like it’s not missing out on the fun is key to keeping your waistline in check and even swapping out a few not-so-healthy choices with some healthier options is a safe bet too.

“If I’m going to a holiday celebration I choose either a small glass of wine or a dessert, but not both, as I’ll surely be hungover the next day if I over-indulge,” said Alexandra Jamieson, a certified health and nutrition counselor, and author of several health books, including “The Great American Detox Diet. “Instead of alcohol, I’ll choose a cocktail glass filled with ice and add 1/4 orange juice to 3/4 fizzy soda water. This has the look and feel of enjoying a cocktail with your friends, but won’t cause misery the next day.”

Jamieson said she also quells candy cane and other sugary cravings with the addition of sweet, winter-appropriate root vegetables and baked fruit, like mashed sweet potatoes, roasted beets, steamed carrots, butternut squash soup and baked apples with cinnamon into her diet. The naturally sweet flavors help to cure an overly active sweet tooth.

And believe it or not, getting in a few bites before a holiday gathering can also help to keep over-indulging at bay.

“Eat a snack before you go and make sure it contains some protein: Half a turkey sandwich; yogurt and a piece of fruit; or a can of water-packed tuna,” said Catherine Kruppa, a licensed dietitian at The Houstonian Hotel in Houston.

And in case you forgot:

“Moderation, moderation, and more moderation,” said, Len Saunders, author of “Keeping Kids Fit.” “So many people think they get a ‘jail free’ card on the big holidays. They think, ‘well, it is a special occasion, so I can eat.’”

“Take breaks during the meal to give your tummy a chance to know it’s full.  Listen to your body, it will let you know when you [have had enough],” Saunders said.

Hear that? Yeah, that’s your belly saying, “Grumble … put down the fifth cookie slowly … grumble … and no one gets chubby.”

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