It's that time of year again when visions of sugar plums are dancing in your head and landing on your kitchen table, along with a plethora of other assorted holiday treats. How can you possibly resist all these delicious dishes and pastries — and not gain weight — this time of year? Have a plan.
The 80-20 rule
Kellie Hill of The Right Plan Nutrition Counseling in Medford believes the starting point for keeping weight off during the holidays is portion control. "Truly, portion control is going to be the biggest piece," she says.
Think about how you put food on your plate. According to Hill, half of the plate should contain raw and cooked vegetables. One quarter of the plate should have proteins including quality meats or seafood. The second quarter of the plate should have whole-grain starches such as potatoes, rice or pasta. Portion size matters too. Think ounces — not pounds.
A simple guideline to follow is the 80-20 rule: 80 percent of the time you eat nutrient-dense whole foods and 20 percent of the time you splurge. But what if you really mess up? "Move on," Hill says.
Try to keep unhealthy foods out of the house, the nutritionist suggests. After a get-together, pack up the leftovers and send the guests home with them. If a friendly neighbor brings over a tin of fudge — have a few pieces and take the rest to work and leave it on the break-room table. "We all have foods that are our comfort foods during the holidays," Hill says. It's OK to have one piece of pie or two cookies, but set a limit for yourself.
Before going to a holiday party, eat a high-protein snack first — lean meat, fish or shrimp. Then make a commitment about how much you will eat and drink at the party. "Make a plan as to what you are going to do," Hill recommends.
Don't waste your calories. Choose the foods that you really enjoy and pass over the ones that aren't that special to you. Don't clean your plate. Usually, three bites are enough to get enjoyment out of a food, Hill notes. After that, it's just habit to finish it. Eat the amount that's enjoyable and then quit.
Hill is not big on vitamins and supplements. "I'm a whole-food nutritionist," she explains. Keep your fridge and pantry stocked with healthy foods and you should be just fine. For this time of year, she recommends winter vegetables including kale, Swiss chard and collard greens. "It's all about whole foods and local/seasonal foods," she says.
The nutritionist's advice is to start adding healthy foods rather than denying the less-healthy foods. "We don't work toward denying foods," she emphasizes. If you tell someone she can't have chocolate cake, she's going to want it even more. Work on adding good foods, then your body will start craving them. You'll naturally replace bad foods with good foods, she explains.
Finally, pick activities that don't revolve around food. "Redirect the way that you spend your time," Hill suggests. "We get trapped into thinking that the holidays mean food and they don't have to."
Don't wait to set goals
Steve Thomas, a personal trainer with Aspire Fitness in Medford, believes you should not wait until the new year to start your fitness plan. "Don't wait to set goals and make a plan," he says. He suggests setting up a friendly exercise or weight-loss competition with a friend or co-worker. Maybe add a little pressure by signing up for a competitive run in January so you have to keep up with your training schedule during the holidays. "Keep yourself accountable," he stresses.
As incentive, you can get yourself a holiday gift early. "A really great thing to have is a band kit with three or four different strengths," Thomas says. "It's a very good, versatile piece of equipment." Another idea is a foam roller. "You roll your muscles on it," he explains. "You can massage your body after a workout."
How about a set of dumbbells? Classic but effective. And if you want something a little trendier, try a wobble board. It's a circular board with a flat top and a raised piece underneath on which a person balances. "I really like it because it challenges your balance," Thomas says. "It strengthens your joints, core and stabilizer muscles."
The personal trainer highly recommends a TRX Suspension Trainer. It's basically straps with handles that can be attached to a door or a pole and uses a person's own body weight for a workout. "You can adjust the strength and resistance really easily," Thomas says. "It's fun."
If you're willing to spend more money, Thomas suggests buying an elliptical fitness machine or a rowing machine.
Thomas realizes that most people won't stick to their usual workouts during the holidays, but he urges clients to have a high-intensity, 20-minute workout at least three times a week. His advice: "Do something, even if you're cutting your workout time in half."