December and January are two months where people often go from 2 different extremes with their nutrition and exercise habits.
In December, many people “slack off” on their workouts and eat whatever they want over the holiday season. In January, people are determined to get back in shape, stick with their diet and continue to exercise regularly 2-3 times per week.
If you are a regular exerciser, remember that completely falling off the wagon by not exercising and throwing your diet away over the holidays can destroy several months of hard training. The less you slack off, the less amount of time it will take to get you back to your pre holiday shape.
If you do not regularly exercise and you are thinking about making that New Year’s resolution to start an exercise plan, think about starting now. In January, there are going to be many new members at fitness clubs that want to start a program. If you want to get a head of the crowd, sign up at the gym now before everyone else does. The holiday season is actually a great time to start a fitness program because gyms are usually quiet. You can establish a routine during your holiday time off without being overwhelmed by the crowd in the New Year. Exercise can help relieve some of the stresses associated with the season.
When it comes to your diet, there is no need to overindulge over the holidays but there is no need to not have fun either. It is perfectly fine to treat yourself now and again but don’t go overboard. Treat your body like a high end sports car and only put the best fuel in your body. If you are looking at making some serous gains in your fitness levels, proper nutrition is key. Eat for performance and not for pleasure.
Eating healthy food and avoiding weight gain during the holidays can be a challenge.
If you are doing the cooking, try these healthy substitutions:
- When baking with butter, margarine, shortening or oil, substitute half the amount called for with apple sauce or prune puree.
- Cook with chicken broth or canola oil instead of butter.
- Substitute two egg whites or 1/4 cup of egg substitute for a whole egg
- For fruit canned in heavy syrup, substitute fruit canned in its own juices or water, or fresh fruit.
- When using any dairy, look for the lower fat option, substitute yogurt for sour cream
- For ground beef, substitute extra-lean or lean ground beef, chicken or turkey.
- Instead of regular mayonnaise or salad dressing, use reduced-calorie mayonnaise and salad dressings.
- Use low-sodium or reduced-sodium versions of any soups, sauces, dressings or crackers or canned meat, fish or veggies.
- Replace regular table salt with herbs, spices, or salt-free seasoning mixes or herb blends.
- Try using whole-wheat or whole-grain bread, rice and pasta.
- When baking, replace 1/2 the white flour with whole-wheat flour.
Avoid overeating at the company party. Plan ahead!
- Eat a snack before the party to avoid facing all that delicious holiday food on an empty stomach.
- Exercise earlier in the day and burn off some of those calories in advance.
- Identify some favorite foods and plan ahead to indulge in a few of those items while filling up mostly on raw veggies and other, lighter items.
- Drink plenty of water. Often you feel hungrier if you are thirsty. Also, avoid the alcoholic beverages – they encourage you to munch as you are uninhibited.
- Find a coworker who also wants to avoid that holiday weight gain and agree to help one another resist temptation.
Don’t over do it at a big dinner. Avoid overeating by:
- Drinking plenty of water during the festivities to keep feeling full.
- Try to concentrate on non-food activities. Watch the big football game, catch up with cousins from out of town or play a game of chase with the kids in the backyard.
- Bring a lighter holiday recipe to the event to introduce family to the idea.
- Fill up on the lighter and healthier items on the buffet table. Pick pretzels instead of chips, fruit rather than heavy desserts and grilled or baked meats instead of fried items.
- Use the smallest available plate to avoid piling up large portions of anything.
- Don’t go back for seconds.
- Politely refuse to take home leftovers, especially of rich, fattening holiday food.
Most likely we’ll all indulge a little. Don’t feel guilty. Keep up with your exercise routine to burn off some of the extra calories consumed. If you aren’t already exercising consider trying to add a 30-minute walk to your schedule, even if it’s only three days a week. With a little planning and a few smart recipe tips, healthy holiday eating doesn’t have to be outside your grasp.
“When people start to exercise, there may be some muscle aches and pains, which are normal. But there are other aches and pains, such as joint pain, bone pain, muscle strains, and ligament or tendon strains, which are bad, and you should back off of because they’ll get worse if you ignore them.”
So start slow.
Always ease into an exercise plan to avoid injury. The recommendation is if you’re healthy, you can start exercising. Remember to start slow to avoid injury.
The American College of Sports Medicine recommends starting an exercise program slowly and listening to your body and to your doctor.
So with resolutions this year, set realistic goals, have fun, but above all else, listen to your body rather than ignoring it and pushing through the pain.
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