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Healthy Holidays

Start now to keep weight and stress levels in check

As the song goes, the holidays are supposed to be, " The Most Wonderful Time of the Year," but for a lot of us, this time of year means eating too much, not exercising enough, and stressing even more than usual to get the shopping finished, the food prepared, and keep the relatives from getting on each other's nerves. And there's nothing wonderful about the average 1-3 pounds Americans gain between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

"It might not sound like a lot, but those pounds don't go away after the holidays are over," says Rick DiScipio, MEd, Exercise Physiologist at the  Tanger Be Well Center at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

In fact, in most cases, those pounds don't just stay with us, they add up over the years.

"It's one of the reasons we're getting heavier as a nation," notes DiScipio. "We're unwilling to make the simple lifestyle changes that can make a major difference in our lives."

But we don't have to succumb to holiday weight gain. With a few simple changes, a little mindfulness, and a touch of discipline, you can enjoy the holidays without the extra pounds and increased stress.

Take a Turkey Trot

Exercise is a useful tool any time of the year, but especially during the holidays when we're consuming extra calories.

"A great time to workout is on the same day as your holiday meal or before you head out to a holiday cocktail party," recommends Exercise Physiologist DiScipio. "The workout will create a calorie deficit which will allow you some flexibility in terms of calorie storage, especially if you're going to eat a little more than usual. "

If you already have an exercise routine, now is not the time to slack off. Stick with it so the calories don't catch up with you. If you don't have a regular fitness routine, now is a great time to start one. In addition to burning calories, regular exercise helps relieve stress and can even combat seasonal depression during the darker days of the year.

"We seem to always put our health on the back burner. We're busy and stressed and try to take care of everyone else and not ourselves," notes DiScipio.

The easiest way to incorporate movement into your day is to walk for 30-45 minutes. If you're busy, you can break the 30-45 minutes up into brisk 15-minute walks.

DiScipio recommends getting a pedometer and use your shopping time to work toward the recommended goal of 10,000 steps per day. Some other simple ways to incorporate movement into your day:

  • Mall shopping? Park further from your destination store (or at the other end of the mall) and use a brisk walk to get to and from your location.
  • If you're planning a get together, grab your grocery cart and do a full, quick circle around the store before you put anything in your basket. This also gives you a chance to check out any specials and be more thoughtful about your purchases.
  • Take the dog for an extra walk. He won't mind the additional time outdoors and you'll feel better too.
  • As the holidays often bring together family members who haven't seen each other in a while, reminisce or catch up on what's going on by taking a walk around the neighborhood together. In fact, ask them to bring sneakers with them so you can enjoy some time outside together.

"You should be working out more during the holidays because of the additional calories you're going to consume," advises DiScipio. "If you're consistent, those calories won't catch up."

Above content provided by Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. For advice about your medical care, consult your doctor.

Posted November 2010

Contact Information

Tanger Be Well Center
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
Shapiro Clinical Center
Ground Level
330 Brookline Avenue
Boston, MA 02215