With warm apple pies, glazed hams and pounds of stuffed turkey, it's no wonder that during and after the holidays, some folks' six packs look like they're starting to resemble figgy pudding. With Thanksgiving and Christmas having come and gone, and New Year's Eve right around the corner, there's room for worry. But there is hope to get you out of munchies malaise. With these easy health suggestions, you'll be back to lovin' those legs in no time.
And I don't mean the chickens'.
Tip 1: Calculate your daily caloric needs.
Calculating your daily caloric needs is very important because it reflects the personal individualized amount of fuel you need a day to stay healthy and energized. Once you find out the amount, it will be much easier to calculate how much you should be eating. Try downloading a calorie tracker on your computer or smart phone that can do the math for you, so you know when you're getting close to going over your limit.
"People should have six to eight meals a day, consisting of 200-500 calories, depending on the individual," said Michael Hughes, fitness manager at 24 Hour Fitness in Rancho San Diego. "At least six of those meals should contain vegetables and four to six meals should contain protein. A good place to get your vegetables is your local farmer's market. Frozen vegetables will also do for those that need something on the go when heading to work. Although they may lose nutrients once you nuke them in the microwave, it is still better for you than shoving a burger into your mouth. People should also realize that protein is not a substitute for carbohydrates. They are the building blocks for muscle. When you have an excessive amount of protein and no carbs, the body will absorb the carbs like a sponge once they are finally consumed, which will cause your body to blow up. So try and stay away from the diet fads."
Tip 2: Do not drink your calories.
Most people are so worried about their food consumption that they forget to stop and think about what drinks are actually healthy for them. That 16-ounce blended caramel frappuccino from Starbucks to give you that mid-day energy boost contains almost 400 calories.
"If you are doing a lot of socializing this time of year, the chance of having a few alcoholic drinks definitely increases. Alcohol has seven calories per gram and that doesn't include whatever it is mixed with, such as egg nog," said Dr. Diane Wade MS, RD, CNSC, and a dietician of ten years at Sharp Grossmont Hospital with a BA in Food and Nutrition and MA in Nutritional Science. "It is easy to take in more calories than you intend when you start sipping on adult beverages. They don't fill you up, so you won't necessarily be able to tell when you've exceeded your daily caloric needs until you step on the scale the next day."
Tip 3: Have a plan.
When working or in school, it is important for you to come up with a game plan to ensure that you will remain on the right track in reaching your goal. So why not do the same thing when it comes to your health?
"For the first month, the focus shouldn't necessarily be on actually losing weight. An important thing to focus on is your gym rhythm. Try to put your energy into simply coming to the gym regularly," said Hughes.
A gym buddy can also be helpful. If one person does not feel like going to the gym that day, the other can be a motivator and vice versa.
Tip 4: Have an attainable goal.
"Most people want instant results, but they don't want to go through the process to get to those results. Exercising and eating right can be a daunting task, so it is important to strive for attainable goals," said Hughes. "Otherwise, when people discover they aren't seeing the differences in their bodies quickly enough, they tend to quit after about two weeks. It takes about two weeks for your body to get acclimated from nutrition and about four weeks from exercise."
Tip 5: Stay active.
You can try taking the dog out for a longer walk than usual. Try taking the kids outside for a game of tag. Take the stairs instead the elevator and don't worry so much about finding the closest parking space. Little things like this can help make you a better you. If you need an extra push, research local personal trainers in your area or gym.
"We personal trainers act as a motivator and educator to help create lifestyle change to better your health," said Hughes.
Personal trainers and dieticians can help inform you on your nutrition needs such as vegetable, protein and fruit consumption, supplemental nutrition and lipids. For example, it is important for everyone to take a multi-vitamin. However, an excessive amount of vitamins will just exit the body through waste.
"A multi-vitamin is not an energy pill. Try finding a multi-vitamin with a time-release mechanism or you can even cut it in half and take one in the morning and one during lunch. Lipids, such as Omega 3, Omega 6 and CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) help to block fat receptors, so that saturated and trans fat from foods like potato chips will not be absorbed," said Hughes.
"After the holidays you need to keep paying attention to what you eat and how much you eat. Read labels and educate yourself. After January 1, 2011 most restaurants, including fast food, will have to post the nutrition information, so we can all make more informed choices," said Wade. "Health and wellness are important on so many levels. As a dietitian working in a hospital, I see the impact on day-to-day living that poor health has on a person. When you are laid up in the hospital you aren't able to work, go to school, or interact with family and friends in the same way. When you are feeling poorly you aren't able to be part of society at large and we all lose out on your special contributions. Most people would choose health over wealth, it's priceless."
As we enter a new year, it's cliché to say that health and wellness are going to be at the top of many people's list of resolutions. But the fact remains that they are some of the most important decisions we can make. Use these tips to help jumpstart your path to a better, healthier life today, so you will be able to take advantage of the amazing benefits of great living tomorrow.
How much holiday weight did you gain? Tell us in comments.