For many people, thoughts of the holiday season bring to mind food — and lots of it.
Holiday parties often include elaborate spreads of tasty seasonal treats, indulgent desserts and calorie-laden drinks. It’s hard to avoid overindulging, and many merrymakers may find themselves in a food coma at least once — maybe more — before the new year arrives.
Overeating simply means the act of consuming more calories than the body needs to function. And without proper exercise, those calories can add up quickly and contribute extra pounds. The holidays especially are difficult as temptation seems to lurk around every corner.
“People need to avoid the typical pitfalls over the holiday season. It is possible to enjoy the holidays without overindulging,” said Peggy McRae, owner and company coach at Curves on West Gen. Screven Way in Hinesville.
McRae joined Curves, a weight-management company for women, in 2003. She said she struggled with her weight for a long time before she started with Curves. In her first year, she dropped four dress sizes and lost a total of 22.5 inches off her body. She bought the location 4-1/2 years ago when the previous owner planned to close it. Now, she acts as a coach and mentor to help others through their weight-loss journeys.
The biggest mistake people make during the holidays is skipping meals to compensate for overeating at other times during the day, according to McRae.
“Some people will skip breakfast and lunch in anticipation of a large holiday dinner,” she said. “This will lead to eating much more food than you should when you finally sit down to eat.”
Also, skipping meals trains the body to store more food as fat. Instead of skipping meals, McRae recommends choosing light, healthy options.
“You can enjoy the foods you love at your holiday meal, but in moderation,” McRae said. She suggests picking a few favorite dishes and taking a small serving of each. Watch portions carefully and make up the remainder of the meal with healthy food such as veggies, whole grains and lean protein. Always choose wheat over white bread, skip dark meat in favor of white meat and skip poultry skin, which is high in fat. Drink plenty of water, eat slowly to savor treats and avoid going back for seconds.
“You cannot forget all the empty calories in drinks. Many people do,” she warned. Specialty holiday beverages — especially alcoholic beverages — are high in calories and sugar. It’s easy to drink an entire meal’s worth of calories in one sitting.
During the holiday hustle and bustle, it’s easy to let exercise routines fall by the wayside. McRae suggested combating the problem by adding more time to workouts when you do have time for them — especially on days or weeks when calorie consumption might be high.
“My motto is: ‘If you eat it, you must burn it.’ You can’t expect to eat more and not have to work it off,” she said.
A gym isn’t the only place to burn calories. The fitness enthusiast suggested participating in fun family activities that get everyone up and moving, such as caroling, skating, playing games or walking the neighborhood to admire Christmas-light displays.
Those who don’t have a regular
exercise routine may find holidays are a great time to get ahead of the game. There’s no need to wait until the new year to resolve to start exercising and lose weight. Weight-loss journeys don’t have to be solo, said McRae, who encourages people to seek out a weight-loss coach or support group that will assist you in reaching your goals and keep you on track.