Friday, December 3, 2010

The 12 Days of Christmas Redone

Thanksgiving is over and depending on your level of indulgence you may already be worrying about holiday weight gain. You may also be feeling overwhelmed by your to-do list and looking for some smart ways to stay on track this season. Before the Thanksgiving leftovers are gone, take stock of your current nutrition and exercise habits and get a plan. I have this quote on one of my computers that says “A goal without a plan is just a wish” (Antoine de Saint Exupery). So this post is going to be about getting a plan and a realistic one too. Although as side note I really wanted to do a version of the 12 days of Christmas but I wasn’t getting any brainstorms on that – maybe for next year.

So let’s talk strategies – simple things that can be done in terms of nutrition, physical activity, and behavior modification. Easy stuff you can start today. And in fact it would be great if you could incorporate one or two of these each week during the month of December so that by January you will have incorporated several new habits into your current lifestyle. It takes about 30 days to form a new habit which means you could end the year singing Auld Lange Syne celebrating your successes instead of saying things like: I plan to lose weight this year, join a gym, eat more vegetables, give up fast food, etc., etc. Why not resolve to make it to January 1 without any regrets and perhaps even a bit healthier than you are right now?

Here are my 12 strategies:
1. Use your Nog-gin
Beverages add a lot of calories this time of year. Did you know that a serving of egg nog is just ½ cup and about 170 calories? And who drinks just a half cup? A more typical serving is 8-10 ounces which will set you back about 4-5 miles of walking at a 3-4 mph pace. So save calories and drink more water!

2. Sit when you eat
Sounds simple enough doesn’t it? Sit when you eat. But I mean every time you eat so no noshing at the sink, while cooking, while going through the drive through, or while shopping. Sit at the table, light a candle, put the phone down, and simply eat.

3. Add an extra 30 minutes of physical activity to your day
If you aren’t active now then adding 30 minutes of activity a day is a great goal. If you are already active make an effort to add an extra walk to the beginning or the end of your day. If you walk at a 3-4 mph pace you could burn up to 1400 calories a week. Remember there are 3500 calories in a pound.

4. Go “halvies”
You could do nothing else on this list but simply cut all of your usual portions in half and you could lose weight. Of course you want those portions to be of healthy foods and not cheeseburgers and fries, but trust me this will work. You could also use this strategy for including your favorite holiday treats: just eat half your usual portion and since you will be walking an extra 30 minutes a day you can avoid the guilt.

5. Eat breakfast and pack your lunch
It’s true, it’s true. Eating a balanced breakfast has been proven over and over again in research to be one of the most effective strategies to maintaining your weight. Make it balanced with a portion of protein, a serving of fruit, and a serving of whole grain. And while you wait for your breakfast to cook, go ahead and pack your lunch and include one of the following: 1 serving of protein (1 string cheese; hard-boiled egg; 1 oz turkey; ½ cup beans, etc), 1 serving of fruit, 1 serving of vegetable, and 1 serving of whole grain. All of this should add up to about 400-500 calories.

6. Rethink TV time
While I won’t be so bold as to suggest you give up TV entirely, I will suggest that you use it to try out that new exercise DVD you got Black Friday. There are thousands of fitness DVD’s available on just about every exercise imaginable. Why not trade in three 30 minute shows a week for three 30 minute sessions of a workout DVD?

7. Say cheese!
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that cheese is our top source of saturated fat in the diet. Consider reducing your intake, switching to low fat varieties, a soy or rice based cheese (no cholesterol or sat fat), or eliminating it all together.

8. “My dog ate my running shoes” and other excuses to ditch
Dump the barriers to active living and focus on solutions instead. You’ve heard it before and I will say it again: make yourself and your fitness a priority. Schedule your workout in your day planner and stick to your commitment as if it were an appointment and canceling would incur a service charge.

9. Bake savvy
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee reported that grain based desserts are the single largest contributor to total calories in the American diet. If you have read any of my other posts then you know I love to bake – particularly muffins. But I make healthy ones so when you bake this season opt for whole wheat flour, applesauce or pureed plums or mashed banana instead of oil, egg whites instead of eggs, yogurt instead of sour cream, and less sugar. You can reduce the sugar in most recipes by up to 1/3 without any negative effects.

10. Buyer beware
Please don’t fall prey to the latest fad diet, weight loss supplement, or goofy exercise machine you saw on an infomercial. There are no tricks to a healthy lifestyle: moderation, balance, variety. Before you spend $20 on a bottle of diet pills send me an email.

11. Don’t take comfort in too much comfort food
Do you need to eat more when it is cold? While a tempting rationalization I am afraid that the answer is “no” if your daily routine doesn’t change. It is true that you burn extra calories to stay warm but only if you are shivering to do so. Now don’t go turning off the heat so you can burn a few extra calories, instead warm up with some homemade chili, herbal tea, or homemade soup.

12. Eat from the rainbow
Make it a goal to eat 5 different colors of fruits and vegetables a day. If you do that you can be certain that you will be getting an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals all of which are beneficial to long term health.

There are many more tips I could share but I think these should cover the bases and if implemented shouldn’t be too overwhelming and provide some great rewards. Let me know how it goes too!

By: Jennifer Koslo, PhD, RD, CSSD, CPT
FT Faculty
School of Health Sciences


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