Battling the Holiday Binge
Dec. 24, 2001 -- You do your best to stay in shape all year
long -- sensible diet, regular trips to the gym, a good mix of cardiovascular
workouts and weight
training, along with regular meditation and calming imagery for stress reduction.
Then come the holidays, and your fitness lifestyle gets
smothered under a torrent of big meals, sinful desserts, and plenty of alcohol.
By January, your body is waving a white flag of surrender.
According to Liz Applegate, PhD, a nationally-recognized expert
on nutrition and performance, and faculty member in the nutrition department at
the University of California, Davis, one of the longest-standing love/hate relationships going is the one between us and our holiday
festivities. After overindulging, we feel bad, almost shameful.
She offers a four-step plan to prepare for holiday bingeing
without checking yourself into a weight-loss boot camp afterwards:
- Focus on the positive. Rather than berating yourself for
overindulging on Aunt Bernice's homemade chocolate truffles, enjoy and savor
your food experiences. A better thing to say to yourself is: "Boy, those
truffles were fabulous!" And don't forget the larger experience. Remind
yourself how wonderful it is to see Aunt Bernice, to get together with friends
and family over a big feast. After all, food often brings us together over the
Adopting a kinder attitude toward holiday eating will also help
you recover from overeating. You'll be less likely to punish yourself with
fasting or some other harsh weight-loss scheme.
- Set your course. Give yourself at least a few days after all the
holiday gatherings to let your food settle before you assess the damage. You've
hardly gained 100 pounds -- it's more likely just a few, according to studies
assessing average holiday weight
gain. If you feel a bit bloated, it may be due to fluid retention caused by
excess food and salt intake. That's not permanent -- it'll be gone in a day or
Plan on getting back to pre-holiday form over a period of
at least a few weeks. That is, take off a few pounds by using a rational,
step-by-step approach. Setting a course of gradual weight loss is better for
your body and the results will be more lasting.
- Be reasonable. Avoid drastic measures such as fasting. Cutting too
far back on calories only dampens your metabolism -- you'll burn fewer calories, making weight
loss tougher. Also, severely restricting what you eat by skipping meals or
completely avoiding sweets only sets you up to overeat later, since you
end up feeling deprived and ravenous.
Instead, modestly shave off calories by cutting back on portion
sizes at every meal. You can easily cut a few hundred calories each day to make
up for all those holiday treats.
- Get active. Holiday and post-holiday time should include daily
exercise -- long walks, a workout at the gym, or a jog through the snow.
Getting back to your fitness routine, or even starting a new one, helps in
several ways. The extra activity burns calories, aiding in weight loss. And it
also boosts your resting energy expenditure. You burn a few more calories even
at rest because your body is revved up from the exercise.
Applegate stresses that an important, but often forgotten,
benefit of exercise is that it makes you feel good. Things can be pretty dreary
after the party's over and the only friend dropping by is the mailman,
delivering those post-holiday bills. When you really need it, there's nothing
like a good workout to sooth the soul.