Insight, Nutrition and Exercise: Keeping the Pounds off Over the Holidays
It's that time of year again, the time of friends, fun and holiday cheer — the time when those extra pounds are likely to join us, grinning and cavorting, jolly and shouting, "I'm here! I'm here!" Well, never fear! Those pounds won't stay, just heed the counsel of these three wise women and you'll be OK.
An emotional response to food is ingrained, part of one's conscious and unconscious behavior. The holidays can heighten stress levels, and so your emotional response to food can be exaggerated. As a type of guidance counselor for the emotional eater, Lee Lais, RN in Medford understands the connection: "It's running to food for all kinds of emotions, such as comfort, out of anger, fear, wanting love, ..."
"Somewhere along the way we've come to internalize the concept that brownies cure everything," Lais explains. "In fact they make us break out with more zits, they make us gain weight, and they stimulate our appetite for increased sweets." The key to emotional eating is to recognize the origin of the behavior and to develop the personal insight needed to eat for fuel, to eat with the conscious rather than unconscious mind. Learn to ask yourself: Am I physically hungry, or do I just want to comfort myself?
Between social obligations, shopping and work, it's all too easy to forget about good nutrition and fall prey to snacking and sweets. Susan Ekstrom is a certified nutrition educator in Ashland and has some tips and techniques to keep in mind, starting off with that first meal of the day.
"Sometimes we get so busy during the holidays; the one meal you can really control is breakfast. So if you start off really strong, you set yourself up real strong for the rest of the day," Ekstrom advises. "A lot of people don't have enough protein in the morning and they're set up for sugar cravings around 2 or 3 in the afternoon when the sugar cravings kick in."
As an extra tip from Ekstrom, drink lots of water. "Sometimes when we think we're hungry, we're really thirsty. If you're trying to control binge eating or picking throughout the day, [or] snacking, make sure you're getting your eight glasses of water."
Just when you most need to burn off the calories, you may find that those hours at the gym get eaten up by cleaning, cooking and parties. Give yourself the gift of time, and don't interrupt your exercise routines. "You're going to feel better about your body and your mindset in general [when you exercise]," says Lisa Biondi, group exercise instructor with OZ Fitness in Medford.
"You can't eat everything you want just because you're exercising," warns Biondi. "It's all about burning what you're using so if you are working out, then you have a little more leeway as far as what you can eat without changing that weight." And instead of stressing out about losing weight, a more reasonable goal over the holidays might be to maintain the weight you're at.
Weekly weigh-ins, incremental weight loss and lots of exercise do the trick for Biondi's classes, not to mention the buddy-factor. A friend's encouragement to exercise and maintain or lose weight can be a powerful motivation, especially over the holidays. "If you see the same faces every time you go, or every time you do something and then you're not there for a couple of times," Biondi explains, "they'll say, 'Oh where were you? Where you been? We missed you!'"
So when the days get short and the nights are long, step or spin with a song, drink lots of water and eat with your head, not your heart. Heed the words of these three wise women and keep the pounds away, now and to stay.