Stuff the bird, not yourself!

Published 12:06 am Saturday, November 19, 2016

The holidays are about giving thanks, spending time with loved ones and eating some delicious, home-cooked food — am I right? Our hearts look forward to the holidays, but our stomachs look forward to the goodies that come along with the holiday season. While tradition is tradition, we should all give thanks to our bodies, and know how to make smart choices during the holiday season.

Our bodies work tirelessly to keep us going day-to-day and work on overdrive to overcome the unavoidable stressors that accompany the holiday season. Some of us spend time each day tending to our bodies and minds by exercising, but with the hustle and bustle of the holidays among us, we may neglect that aspect of our everyday routine to make sure everything gets done. While it is highly encouraged to try to keep your routine throughout this time of year, we know that sometimes it just does not happen. In that case, it is important to make alternative, smart choices to keep yourself on track.

Some might think that it is near impossible to continue losing weight over the holidays, so instead they give it the old “I’ll start again after the holidays.” Don’t throw away all of your hard work just because it’s “that time of year.” While it is not impossible to continue to reach goals that you have set for yourself, it may be more realistic to strive to maintain your weight over the holidays. You may not be losing weight, but you are aiming to not gain any, and that still puts you ahead of the game. This strategy will still take effort and planning, but you can still enjoy the delicacies, if you do it right.

Here are a few tips to help you navigate this health challenge during the holidays:

  • Never show up on an empty stomach. Many people think that not eating breakfast the morning of a big feast (Thanksgiving, for example) is a good idea so that they “save their calories.” The problem with this is when you do get the chance to eat, you will most likely be ravenous and over-eat. Eating a hearty breakfast (oatmeal and fruit, high-fiber cereal with low-fat milk, or egg whites and veggies) will help to hold you over to avoid overeating.
  • Pick your “must haves,” and avoid your “could haves.” We all have our favorite appetizers, sides and desserts during the holidays. Make it a point to decide which items you just have to have, and avoid eating things that you could eat anytime throughout the year.
  • Offer to host, or offer to contribute with a light dish. When attending a party, you never know what your options will be when you arrive. If you are willing and able to host a party, you will have more control over what dishes are available. If you are not willing or able, offer to contribute to the spread by preparing a light dish. Then, at the least, you know you will have one thing to eat that can be a healthy option.
  • Drink responsibly. As we are all aware, liquid calories can add up fast. There is nothing wrong with indulging in a few adult beverages while mingling, but there are ways to enjoy those drinks while cutting some calories. Make a wine spritzer by adding some sparkling water to your wine, therefore only drinking half a glass of wine instead of a whole glass. Another option is to drink a glass of water after every beverage. When it comes to higher-calorie drinks, such as eggnog, consider choosing a lighter option by choosing a dairy-free option such as Silk Nog. This option is not as heavy and still has all the flavors that your palate longs for.

Studies have suggested that the average American consumes between 3,000 and 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving Day alone. While these tips and tricks may not make the biggest difference, they will at least make a dent. By making smart decisions, not just on Thanksgiving but throughout the remainder of the holiday season, you can absolutely avoid gaining that unwanted winter weight that everyone dreads. The biggest tip I can give to you is this: don’t make excuses. Stay active, eat smart and enjoy every bit of the joys of this season. You deserve it and so does your body.

Audrey Taylor, BS, is an exercise specialist at Vidant Wellness Center and can be reached at 252-975-4236.