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Christmas is Coming: Are You Getting Fat?

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The goose is not the only one who gets fat during Christmastime. The average person gains seven to ten pounds every holiday season, while some studies show that is it closer to one to two pounds. Whatever study you subscribe to, it is your own personal reality that really counts. The real issue is whether we ever lose those extra pounds or do we just keep adding weight on each year, making us fatter, unhealthy, and frustrated?

Since the holidays are a time for parties, gourmet dinners, and other festive events surrounding food, cookies, candy, and alcohol, it means that we increase our caloric intake quite substantially — usually empty calories (void of nutritional value) that are full of fat, sugar, sodium, and white flour. Moreover, we tend to throw discipline out the chimney, neglecting exercise and other important dietary regulations.

There's no getting around it, those extra holiday calories, especially carbohydrates, added sodium, excessive alcohol consumption, as well as other variables will put more weight on your body. But there is some good news here: those extra pounds might not be all fat. Holiday weight gain may stem from glycogen storage and/or water weight, which can cause you to think you are getting fat.

Because there are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, you would need to consume 3500 calories over and above your metabolic rate and activity level in order to gain that pound of fat and vice versa — 3500 calories to lose a pound of fat. Although it is more complex than that, this tidbit of information is timely and should give you a little peace regarding your holiday eating habits.

Don't get too jolly yet; when you consume excessive amount of calories (food and liquid) over an extended period of time you will get fat. And poor eating habits will mess with your health especially if you are obese, have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, or any other health predicament.

As a fitness expert for over 29 years, I know that it's somewhat futile to place weight loss on a News Year’s resolution list, so I’m proposing a different strategy this year: a preemptive attack against "holiday fat." You don’t have to start your new year with the goal of losing the weight that you had planned on losing last year plus the ten pounds you just gained over the holiday season.

The simplest thing you can do over the holidays is to increase your water intake, especially if you are drinking alcohol. The health benefits of water are already well known, but did you know it has a profound impact on weight loss? Most of us retain water because we do not drink enough water. We even mistake thirst for hunger, so we eat more instead of drinking water. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water; start early in the day and make sure you have access to water all day long. Keep in mind, dehydration not only has health consequences but also affects our mood and can make us lethargic, making it impossible to function, exercise, and shop.

Second, you can exercise — either add an exercise routine or increase your activity level during this time of the year, especially if you don’t want to give up your holiday eating habits. This is key to keeping your body intact, will help burn those extra holiday calories, increase your energy level, and do wonders for your holiday cheer, not to mention all the other rewards you'll reap from exercise.

I’ve heard all of the excuses why people don't exercise and I have even used a few from time to time. Exercise doesn’t have to be an all or nothing situation — a little goes a long way. And if it prevents you from that dreaded holiday weight gain, it's worth it — "an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Power walking, running, biking, swimming, and other cardiovascular activities are easy to do and only take about 30 minutes or so. Weight training is one of the best activities you can do to prevent weight gain and will not only shape and firm your physique, but will increase your lean body mass, which means a faster metabolic rate. Again, time should not be an obstacle because a weight training workout can be done in about 20 minutes or so. And since the goal is to maintain your weight, we can always add more to your exercise regimen later, like core conditioning, functional training, as well as corrective and flexibility exercises.

Okay, so you don't wan to join gym. You don’t have to. All you will need for walking or running are a decent pair of tennis shoes, and as far as a home workout routine, there are some inexpensive pieces of exercise equipment that you can use for a great workout: a Swiss Ball, a foam roller, dumbbells, and exercise bands.

By implementing just two tactics, more water and exercise, you'll escape the holiday weight gain forecast. You can also monitor your diet a little by using these twelve diet tips for Christmas:

1. Watch the alcohol; these empty calories add up quickly.

2. Eliminate or decrease intake of sugary, unhealthy drinks like soda. Why waste all of your calories on liquids that have no nutritional value?

3. Limit the cookies, candy, pies and other holiday treats.

4. Increase your fiber intake during the holidays: this will give you that feeling of fullness and you will be less likely to overeat. Choose fresh fruits and vegetables as well as whole grains and legumes.

5. Don’t go to a Christmas party or dinner famished; have a snack an hour or so prior. This will keep you from eating everything in sight.

6. When dining out or attending a Christmas party, skip or be selective with the hors d'œuvres. It is hard to know what's in them. Stick to the veggie and fruit platters; they are safer due to the fact they have nutrients without all of the fattening stuff.

7. Don't salt your food; there is plenty of sodium in prepared meals.

8. Always have your sauces on the side; this is where extra calories, sugar, sodium, fat, and white flour are found.

9. As a main course at a dinner party, avoid the fancy, creamy, saucy type dishes and if possible and without offending anyone, only eat dishes that have a clean look to them (like plain fish, beef, chicken, etc.). Do what I do: sneak the bad stuff to the dog and pretend you ate it!

10. If you are the chef for a party or dinner, find some decorative, healthy (low fat, low sugar and low sodium) recipes to add to the menu.

11. Pace yourself; the holiday season is quit long and each day you will be able to enjoy foods that are normally diet taboos.

12. ‘Tis the season to be jolly, not uptight, so don’t stress out. Take pleasure in all that the holiday season has to offer, especially ones that don’t involve food — family, friends, faith, and charity.

Remember this is not a comprehensive weight loss strategy — it is a preemptive attack against "holiday fat," yet it does include an array of expertise that you can incorporate into your lifestyle year round, if you haven’t already. This approach will prevent you from gaining those extra pounds this holiday season and, who knows, maybe you will lose a few and start 2010 leaner than you left 2009!

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About Christine Lakatos

  • http://cybergalsblog.blogspot.com s13cybergal

    How refreshing to find sane advice about food and the holidays. I was 80 Lbs. overweight last year and have failed at dieting always.

    I tried a new tact. Fix my nutrition and I’ll stop craving the junk food. Now I’m down 35 Lbs and can have the occasional milk shake, or cookie and still maintain control.

  • http://willkillforfood.com Lisa McKay

    Excellent article, Christine, I especially like the practical tips about drinking more water and getting more exercise. You’ve inspired me to take more walks during the holiday season!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    s13cybergal, congrats on your success. Keep up the great work.

    Lisa, thanks, yeah we can have all the “head knowledge”, but if it is not made practical, we fail as fitness trainers. Now if I could just bottle motivation and sell it, I’d be on to something. Would even buy some for myself. lol
    My best to you this Holiday Season!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Wow, guess I was in the wrong section, MY BAD!

  • http://thingsalongtheway.blogspot.com/ Cindy

    Hmmm…I read Lisa’s comment on the fresh comments page and it sounded much better!

    “…I especially like the practical tips about drinking more…”

    Gotta love the fresh comments page… 😉

    Cheers!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Cheers, Cindy!!!

  • http://www.joannehuspek.wordpress.com Joanne Huspek

    GAH! Thanks for reminding me I need to get on my treadmill…

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    Very good, Joahnne and Happy Holidays!

  • http://kitchendispatch.blogspot.com Kanani

    No, I am not getting fat. This year I lost the taste for sugar! Actually, it was a gradual thing. I cut out the teaspoon of sugar from my coffee, and once I did that –well, I lost the craving for that hit of sweetness everyday. Also, I don’t drink. So that helps too. I notice a lot of women have that puffy look in their 40’s and I figure much of that is alcohol. Is this right?

    Sure, I still have chocolate (dark), but really ….between the daily yoga that I restarted when my husband deployed and the lack of sugar, I’m doing okay!

  • http://blogcritics.org/writers/christine-lakatos/ Christine

    #9 K: Glad to know you are staying fit this Christmas!! Giving up sugar is one of the best ways to get fit and healthy. It is everywhere and most people don’t realize it: and not just in the usual places like candy and donuts, but in crackers, cereal, sauces, breads, drinks, etc. Dark choc is good once in a while.

    Yes, on the alcohol, it makes people fat and puffy.

    In fact there are three things I tell my clients to cut down on to get them started: fat, sugar and alcohol. It’s amazing what this will do for weight loss, health and energy. Junk food automatically goes out the door and then later I work on the white flour. Just a tidbit of info, not that you need it but it kind of came up and got me in trainer mode…lol.

    Keep up the great work and Merry Christmas to you and your family!