Tis the season for family get-togethers, office holiday parties and cookie drives. What do these events have in common? Food … lots of food. As people load their plates with cakes and pies, getting a good workout drops on the priority list.
Why do people fall into this annual holiday trap?
Aaron Anderson, 56th Medical Group registered dietician, said most people attend holiday gatherings with the main focus on food. His recommendation is to change that mindset.
“In the midst of all the activities going on, if we go with the mindset that this event is based on people and we’re going to enjoy everybody’s company and make that our focus, then the conscious effort may make the reality of not eating as much into an actual solution,” Anderson said.
One can drink calories as much as eating them, but wiser drink choices can help fight the battle of the bulge.
“If we consume lower calorie beverages to start off our celebration, that hydration can help fill us up,” Anderson said. He suggests sipping on unsweetened flavored tea or choosing a low-calorie cider versus the traditional eggnog.
It’s inevitable for food to be present at holiday gatherings and Anderson recognizes that. He offers a few suggestions for making wiser choices.
“It’s going to be tough to have restraint when there’s that much food around,” he said. “There’s nutrition theory and there’s nutrition reality. I like to focus on nutrition reality, and the reality is it’s going to be very tough to not eat all that we see, but if we want to make conscious decisions and put forth the effort, then here’s some things we can do.
“First, go for the light colored meats rather than the dark colored meats,” Anderson said. “Second, let’s find the veggies. We want to choose the vegetables that haven’t been cooked with a lot of butter or oil because those are the hidden fats.”
Anderson also suggests eating slower and engaging in conversation.
“The reason we want to do that is because it takes approximately 20 minutes for the stomach to let the brain know it’s full,” he said.
People need not settle for calorie-rich selections on the holiday table. With a little research and planning, one can bring healthier food options that become the solution to the holiday nutrition problem.
“If you’re going to a friend’s house and they’re not going to have fruit available, you can be the solution and bring a fruit salad or a fruit tray,” Anderson said. “Families are doing fruit trays now and they always seem to be a big hit. The fruit will have a lot less calories than some of the other options.”
Indiscriminate binge eating and lack of physical activity make up the perfect recipe for adding on holiday pounds.
“Different studies show that the average American gains between four to seven pounds from Thanksgiving to the New Year and it’s because we’re just eating more,” Anderson said.
Luke Air Force Base Health and Wellness Center staff members say a little indulgence is acceptable but advise people to have a fitness plan to avoid adding extra pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
“The good news is you can break up exercise into smaller periods,” said Marlyn Shults, 56th AMDS exercise physiologist. “It’s not going to be the same, but movement is the point. You want to fit in whatever activity you can such as a brisk 10-minute walk with the dogs before breakfast.”
Shults said there are many activities to help families stay active during the holiday season such as adventure races and 5k fun runs. One of her recommended activities is geocaching.
Geocaching is an outdoor scavenger hunt-type game. Participants use their GPS-enabled device and navigate to a specific set of coordinates.
“People are so focused on finding the cache, they don’t realize they’ve already walked a mile and a half,” Shults said.
Shults also recommends buying gifts geared toward activity such as roller blades, bicycles, footballs or Frisbees.
“I always tell people your kids want you to play with them,” she said. “They model their behavior after ours, so if we stay active they will, too.”
The holiday season may give people an excuse to stray from their exercise plan and load up on calories, but with the proper mindset, some discipline and a little planning, one can enjoy a healthier lifestyle well after the last carol is sung.
“If you’re not normally an active person, you’re not going to wake up on Christmas Day or the day after and be active,” Shults said. “But if you make fitness part of your holiday plans, then people can plan for that. There are all sorts of events that people can take advantage of and get the whole family involved. All it requires is a little planning.”
Shults is already planning two run clinics for the new year with the first tentatively scheduled for Jan. 13. Runners can also look forward to the Jingle Bell 1.5-mile run at 7 a.m. Dec. 20. For a listing of races off base, Shults recommends visiting www.arizonaroadracers.com. For information on geocaching, visit www.geocaching.com.
For more information on fitness activities at Luke, call the base fitness center at 623-
856-6241. For more information on nutrition and fitness, call the HAWC at 623-856-3830.