Saturday, November 22, 2008

Holiday Eating and Exercising

'Nothing exceeds like excess," observed Al Pacino's character in the movie "Scarface." When it comes to healthful eating, holidays seem to have a monopoly on post-celebratory condemnation. What we all need is a "get-out-of-jail-free card" for all of the guilt we pile on ourselves! It is possible to reconnect with the fun of food and holiday fetes without feeling as if we should beach ourselves at the shores of the closest reservoir. Thanks to fitness writer Suzanne Schlosberg and Minneapolis lifestyle coach Kate Larsen for the following ideas and suggestions:

- Don't deny yourself or skip meals. If you watch others enjoying food and drink while nibbling on a rice cake, you will go bonkers and overindulge later. Go ahead and enjoy small portions of all the goodies. Also, it is unwise to skip meals in order to save up for the big feast. Eat some healthful foods before the party.

- Move. No, you don't have to organize a post-feast marathon around the neighborhood; but throughout the holidays, set yourself up to do more walking. In the mall, walk through and check out all the stores before shopping; take after-dinner walks; park a few blocks from the shops; organize walks at lunch with co-workers. Movement gives us a sense of control and helps us maintain some of our conditioning. Walking also provides some stress control. Post-holiday, when you get back into your normal routine, you won't feel so defeated.

- Avoid temptation. The office is a spider's web of overindulgence during holidays. Take a more healthful alternative to work so that high-calorie snack breaks are minimized

- Take smaller portions, eat slowly, and stop when satisfied. Try smaller helpings of a variety of foods. Try some foods that are unfamiliar so that you will concentrate on flavor rather than just wolfing it all down in one gulp. Enjoy conversation while eating to slow things down; try speaking a complete sentence between bites. Finally, when you are full, stop. This is not as easy as it sounds, but if you eat half of what is on your plate and take a short break, you may be surprised to find you don't want any more food.

- Go easy on the alcohol. Alcohol stimulates the appetite and numbs your reserve. Alcohol is metabolized in the liver. Once the liver is engaged, blood sugar drops, which stimulates hunger.

- Get your sleep. Shopping, travel, social engagements, family stress — too often all of this exhaustion comes across as a need for energy (calories) when what is really needed is rest.

- Celebrate the holiday spirit. Pay more attention to relationships with friends and family than to food. Stay involved in social interactions and conversations so that mindless munching doesn't become the focal point.

- Don't strive for perfection. Instead of trying to maintain the pre-holiday health routine, stay flexible. Plan on being 80 percent healthy instead of 100 percent. Maintain a consistency with your normally healthful eating and exercise habits, but don't make yourself crazy trying to adhere to high standards. Have fun and enjoy these annual indulgences without beating yourself up in the process.

- After the holidays, you should be able to look back and reflect on the fun. Did you enjoy or just survive? Enjoyment is far more important. We can always get back on a healthful eating and exercise schedule. Time spent feeling guilty and miserable is lost forever.

By Linda Buch Oakland Tribune Correspondent Originally Posted:

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