December 5, 2006

Holiday Tips

BY David Bohn ("Fitness")

Winter has come in with a vengeance; it is now officially the holiday season! And with the season comes parties, more parties and then some partying after that. One must be careful to balance enjoyment of the season with at least maintaining one’s weight throughout the holiday season. Remember, willpower alone won’t shrink your waist; in fact, this is the time of year when most people’s willpower tends to drop with the temperatures. Following are few a tips to use for the season to get you ready for the New Year so that hopefully you won’t have too much work to come January!

It used to be that experts said stay away from the scale as it can distract and demotivate dieters if the weight goes up and it can go up easily if you’re one those types who tends to put on water weight easily. However, that can be a benefit of the scale; it can let dieters know early if there’s been a small change before the weight turns into a big change. You probably don’t need to weigh yourself several times a day, but try for a consistent time most days of the week; such as first thing in the morning.

Recent studies have found that just seeing food on tv, such as in shows, or particularly in commercials, can trigger a "feed me" response. Anyone who’s dieted seriously and has seen ads for restaurants and grocery stores know what I’m talking about. Visual food cues can cause related brain activity to jump by over 20% - mostly in the orbitofrontal cortex, the area of the brain related to acquisition and drive; for food! (well, not just food, but you get idea) So turn off the Food Network!

Additionally, just sitting in front of the ‘boob tube,’ the hands and mind can get distracted, so why not eat while you’re not doing anything else productive?! Don’t sit there, go and do something; even if it’s just window-shopping for items you shouldn’t buy.

When you’re hungry, sensitivity to sweets and salty substances increases. This means those vending machines that house nothing healthy look all the more appealing AND taste better when you eat them when hungry. Furthermore, the mind tries to justify that you can handle ‘just a taste’ and half-a-bag later you finally realize what’s happened. That is why you should be proactive with your diet and eat several small meals a day. By never letting yourself get ravenous, you are less likely to binge with the first donut cart that comes along. Which leads me to:

Make sure you eat breakfast because your metabolism slows over the course of the evening. Follow that with 2 or 3 healthy snacks throughout the day. Yogurt, an apple with peanut butter, a basic turkey sandwich or almonds are great snacks. Almonds are great because they are nutrient dense, providing healthy monounsaturated fat, protein and fiber. However, eat the whole, unsalted ones, not the deep-fried kind. And you only need 15 – 20 as a snack. Just 50 can replace an entire meal.

Speaking of snacking for a meal, have cereal at lunch, rather than the traditional big power lunch. A low-calorie, filling, high-fiber cereal, such as All-Bran or Fiber One can be a great way to consume fewer calories during the day, but still eat all your meals.

Many people claim to be too busy to workout late at night, plus with all of their social engagements, exercise takes a back seat. Again, be pre-emptive with your time and workout at lunch, rather than eating a big heavy lunch and then grab a protein shake afterwards. Not only have you expended a lot of calories (hopefully), by eating something healthy, you’re adding to the benefits of your program.

Dairy is really good for you. Studies have shown getting at least 1,200 milligrams of calcium from dairy can help consumers lose weight. Doctors aren’t sure of the exact mechanisms as to why this occurs, but not getting enough dairy, calcium to be specific, seems to make the body more efficient at making fat and less efficient at breaking down fat. And getting enough calcium is not hard; there’s enough calcium in a cup of low-fat yogurt, an ounce and a half of cheese and a couple 8-ounce glasses of low-fat or skim milk. Do your body good, eat more dairy!

Try to institute a few of these tips and use your common sense when it comes to food and celebrations and hopefully you will start off 2007 on the right foot; with fewer "health and fitness"-related resolutions on your list!