During the the holiday season, the average American can expect to gain between one and two pounds.
How surprising is that really?
We eat like it’s going out of style, we drink like there is no tomorrow and find the snowy, cold and dark days of winter to be prime excuses for why we can no longer fulfill our workout sessions.
Our holiday season binge inevitably leaves us staring in the mirror on a fine Jan. 2 morning, thinking, and maybe saying outloud, “What happened?” or “I must’ve shrunk these jeans … again.”
Or “New Year’s resolution: lose some weight, get back in shape.”
You've hardly turned into the Pillsbury Doughboy in six weeks. Realistically, you’re just feeling a bit pudgier and slightly more lethargic; not ideal situations to wake up and find yourself in, but ones that can be avoided this year, all while eating, drinking and being merry.
Lisa Neuhaus, a clinical nutritionist with the Catholic Health System, gave me some advice on how to enjoy the parties and celebrations this year, without worrying too much about popping pants buttons and bursting seams.
“Knowing one's limits and weaknesses, and planning ahead, is the best way to avoid taking in too many calories. If going to a party and asked to bring something, bring a dish that you know is healthier. Choose the raw veggies and go for lower fat dips and cheeses. Don’t stand around the appetizer table while visiting. Mingle with friends and family away from the food to lessen the temptation.”
Also, never head to a party hungry, it’s a sure-fire way to gobble down high-calorie goodies that will not satiate you. Think of how many times you have gotten caught up in the festivities, grabbed whatever cookie or treat was readily available and had not one, but four. And then there are the boozy beverages ... and they are everywhere, at every party, in surplus.
“Choose unsweetened mixers such as club soda instead of sugar-laden sodas and juices to liquor drinks to cut down on the calories,” Neuhaus said.
“Not all beer is alike when it comes to calories," she added. "Light beer will usually run around 100 calories per 12 ounce serving, dark beer 125-150 calories and lagers or regular beer can run as high as 150-200 calories per 12-ounce serving.”
But let’s just say that you get caught up in your surroundings once or twice this holiday season and really let loose. You have one too many drinks and one too many sweets. First, don't drive. Second, don't beat yourself up the next morning. We have all been there and have all somehow, miraculously, gotten on with our daily lives.
“Understanding what we can do as an individual as far as exercising or eating healthy will help us to move in the right direction at any time. For example, we often hear, 'I would need to run 5 miles to work off all those calories I ate last night!' It is so defeating to know that you ate a ton of calories and have not gone to the gym during the busy holiday season,” said Neuhaus.
“So what is doable? Do what is doable for you and then build on it. If it’s only going for a 20-minute walk then do it. But then build on that.”
Perhaps the most important part of what Neuhaus told me is this: “From a nutrition standpoint, we should eat healthy and exercise regularly all the time and these behaviors should be part of our everyday lifestyle so that when holidays come around, we have a good foundation of healthy behaviors.
"That doesn’t mean we can eat anything we want in any amount at parties, but planning ahead and cutting calories in any way we can will be second nature and we won’t feel so guilty when we take in a little extra and splurge. Planning ahead and making an effort to keep up your regular routines will help keep you on track with your goals.”