Feature Articles: Food, Fitness and
Win the Holiday Battle of the Bulge
Tammy Roberts, MS, RD, LD, Nutrition and Health Education Specialist, Barton County, University of Missouri Extension
Research conducted by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases shows that most of the weight we gain in one-year’s time occurs between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day. That same research shows that we don’t lose that weight when the holidays are over. If we can avoid the holiday weight gain, we will be taking positive steps to prevent obesity and prevent or delay the development of heart disease, diabetes and other serious health problems.
The holidays are a time when everyone eats more food. There are parties to attend, dinners at the office and church and more family gatherings. Food is the centerpiece for a majority of those events. Challenge yourself to make another activity the priority. Develop a scavenger hunt that encourages people to get outside and around the neighborhood to find unusual items. For the competitive minded, this is a great activity. It’s also a good way to get some physical activity.
Physical activity plays an important role in weight maintenance. We can gain health benefits by getting 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise most days of the week and anaerobic exercise (strength training) two to three days per week. That sounds impossible, but aerobic exercise can be playing actively with the kids, raking leaves and walking up stairs in ten-minute bouts. Regular physical activity helps with weight control by helping to burn excess calories that would normally be stored as fat. Be sure to check with your physician to see what kind of physical activity is appropriate for you.
If you are attending an event, make sure your covered dish provides a low calorie option. You can make a beautiful vegetable wreath by placing toothpicks in a variety of vegetables and placing them around a Styrofoam floral ring. It makes a beautiful buffet table centerpiece that only provides 40 calories for every half-cup.
Be sure to enjoy all of your favorite holiday foods; just limit the amounts. When you are eating one of your favorite high-calorie foods, make sure to take time to savor the flavor of a reasonable-sized portion and then stop.
For this holiday season, focus on fun instead of food. If you can maintain your pre-holiday weight, you have accomplished a major feat.
Last update: Monday, January 11, 2010