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Cause for Celebration

Written by Volunteer, Rita Gore

Plowing through stacks of magazines with “how to” articles on managing fitness and weight over the holidays can really impact your mood.

You’re accosted by titles like “Outsmart Holiday Binging”  one promising  “Eat Drink and Don’t Gain Weight” or “15 Festive Tips To Make Life Easier and You Happier” and the curious “Burn What You Bake”.  Phrases like “surviving the season” and “preparing for the challenge ahead” are everywhere. It begins to feel like we were warriors getting ready to do battle, not celebrate the season with loved ones.

The holidays are supposed to be fun. So why do we beat ourselves up this time of year? Maybe it is time to break the cycle.

One factor, says registered B.C. psychologist Cheryl Fraser in Best Health’s “Stress Less During the Holidays” is that apparently many of us feel pressure to “be perfect” in the lead up to the holiday season and in doing so experience burnout and guilt. “You have to make healthy decisions for you and your family, the alternative? You end up a stressed- out, cranky person to be around.”

And not surprisingly, sometimes Fraser says we deal with stress by overeating and letting our exercise routines slide.

Still, information varies widely about how much weight the average person gains over the holidays. One article states hopefully, that even with overindulgence and inactivity, average weight gain is only ½ pound, another stated it was one pound. A third ominously declared it to be four pounds on average of extra weight accumulated during the month of December.

Then a University of Rhode Island study caught my eye. Researchers found that women consumed fewer calories and were more satisfied when they ate at a slower pace. Perhaps it is not what you’re eating so much as how you’re eating. The study found that socializing during meals slows down eating and wards off weight gain. The women in the study who ate more slowly experienced greater fullness and lower calorie intake.

Nutrition researchers reported their findings in the Journal of American Dietetic Association and proposed that “the leisurely dining pace gives the body’s natural signals of fullness time to kick in.” The bottom line, by eating more slowly the women ate 70 calories less and said they enjoyed the meal more. Viola!

Find a Reason

Jeff Galoway in Runner’s World Magazine provides a breath of fresh air in his article titled “Tis the Season to Run a Holiday 5k” He notes that yes, holidays can be a time of stress and high expectations but that fortunately they can also be a great time for 5 km charity runs and walks.

“Putting an event on your to do list can invigorate you, clear your mind and renew your enthusiasm for the challenges ahead” suggests Galoway.

Why not consider one of these December runs for charity?

1. CBC’s 15th Annual “Amble with Angus” begins early December 14, 7:30 am @ The Arches at Eau Claire Market. Registration is a $20 minimum donation to the Calgary Inter-Faith Food Bank.

2. Calgary’s 28th Annual Resolution Run December 31 for Calgary Police Service HAWC’S Helicopter program Eau Claire Market supported by the Running Room.

Importance of Rituals

It seems that many of our holiday rituals can be good for us in other ways too. Whether trimming the tree, lighting the menorah or baking Christmas cake – taking time for seasonal rituals strengthens family ties says a 50 year review by researchers at Syracuse University.

Family rituals are especially important for the health and well-being of families in a fast-paced culture. The study found that family routines and rituals are powerful organizers of family life that offer stability during times of stress and transition. Why not create some of your own rituals?

Get friends and family moving! Go for a walk, skate at Bowness Lagoon, or take in the Calgary Zoo lights. Organize a drive to Banff and hike up Johnson’s Canyon. With snow on the ground cross-country skiing or snow-shoeing is another great way to build cardiovascular fitness.  It can offer you some breathtaking scenery for taking photographs combined with catch-up time with friends.

Here’s a cold weather pick me up. Winter helps us burn more calories and feel better too. A study in Medicine and Science magazine reports that our bodies work harder on chilly a day which ups production of “feel good hormones.” So get  together outside for sure!

Build in other traditions too like checking out store windows or watching the latest movie. Hitting the dance floor is a painless way to cut extra pounds. Or be the designated driver-it will save you calories and apparently your friends will love you for it so the article said.

Take a Break

Forthright as ever though, psychologist Cheryl Fraser declares, that being around family can “try the nerves” She says that is why it is important to be sure to take some time for you.

“If family is staying with you over the holidays, take some “me” time: Have a long bath or leave the house to do errands when you’re feeling fatigued and stressed”

Here’s one option:

The Pro-Arts Society brings together artists and audiences in a historic downtown venue at the Cathedral Church of the Redeemer for free noon-hour concerts Wednesdays 12:10-12:50. December 5,12, 19 features choirs. Bring your lunch.

Post Your Best Tips

Send us your best survival tip for dealing with stress, weight gain and keeping fit over the holidays! Here’s one.

“My best tip on stress? Learn to say no! On weight, check out the entire buffet before making choices. On fitness- walk everywhere.”



Best Health Magazine December 2011 “How to Stress Less during the Holidays” Lisa Hannam

Chatelaine Magazine “Outsmart Holiday Binging” Debra Boutin

Rituals: Cause for Celebration?” Barbara H. Fiese, et.al.; Syracuse University; Journal of Family Psychology, Vol. 16, No. 4.)

Runner’s World Magazine “Tis the Season to Run a Holiday 5-K” Nov 12, 2012.

Weight Watchers “15 Festive Tips to make Life Easier and you Happier”

Interactive Guided Tour of the Body

WOW! Check out this feature from the New York Times. An online interactive guided tour of the human body.

“In this special section, you’ll be able to learn the best that science and medicine can offer for taking care of yourself. You can also test your knowledge and read more health news at the Well blog.”

Click here to view this feature on the human body on the New York Times website.