Dreaming of a Fit Christmas?

Slay holiday temptations with these tips

By Jason Hathaway

Your mouth waters as you mull over the countless bite-sized appetizers, warm cheese dips, holiday cookies and adult beverages that will be up for grabs at various holiday parties. And then, you have those highly anticipated family dinners packed with roast turkey and ham, dressing, candied yams, buttery potatoes, a favorite casserole and, of course, Mom’s famous pumpkin pie.

The holidays are once again upon us, bringing glad tidings of the comfort food and joy that lie ahead.

Even the most steel-willed fitness devotees might find it hard not to gain at least a pound or two amid such temptation. Countless others, though, might go completely off the rails. According to a recent Cornell University study, the average American gains about 13 pounds between Halloween and New Year’s Day and takes five months to lose it all. Of course, the home stretch of that five-month weight loss period is interrupted by Easter, yet another food-and-candy-filled holiday.

Yes, the holiday season throws several obstacles in the way of our regular fitness routines and diet plans and often throws us off course. But with the help of the following tips from southside fitness professionals and dietitians, you can enjoy the holidays without all the lingering consequences.

Feed to succeed

A common practice with some dieters during the holidays is banking calories, or eating little or no food before a big holiday party or dinner to allow more calories for food indulgences. This not only makes the day leading up to the party unpleasant for the dieter, but it will also set you up for failure, says Staci Small, registered dietitian and owner of The Wellness Philosophy Inc., a nutrition assessment and counseling practice in Greenwood.

“You say, ‘Well, I’m going to this party, so I’m just not going to eat all day so I can save up all of my calories,’” Small says. “That is not the way to do it. “If you go to that party starving, you’re going to go ballistic.”

Instead, the best strategy is to eat small meals throughout the day before the event; opt for meals with higher protein and vegetable content. Stay hydrated: Drinking ample water throughout the day not only helps make you feel full, but also contributes to your overall health, Small says.

Moderation In all things

Although most fitness and nutrition professionals will acknowledge the importance of enjoying holiday parties and dinners, it’s important to do so in moderation.

Small encourages her clients to choose small portions of only the items they want most. It’s usually OK to allow yourself two indulgences, such as a dessert or the latest bacon-and-cheese-loaded concoction. Just be careful not to overload your plate.

Talk it up

Striking up a conversation in a room — a room that doesn’t house the snack table, that is — is extremely helpful, she says.

“You need to move away from that buffet table as soon as you can,” Small says. “Those mindless calories that we eat while standing next to the table all night add up. Go to another room and start talking to someone. If you’re just going to the party and not socializing, you’re going to be drawn back to the food repeatedly.”

Bottoms up, calories down

And if you plan to imbibe at the party, be sure to choose your beverage wisely with regard to caloric content. For example, a 4-ounce White Russian cocktail is 340 calories, while a 4-ounce glass of champagne is only 90 calories, a vast difference largely due to the White Russian’s coffee liqueur and cream content.

“Once you start adding those sugary sweet mixers into a drink, that really kicks up the calories,” she says.

Small also stressed moderation with drinking, as a few too many drinks not only affect personal safety, but also loosen inhibitions and lead partygoers to eat more than they would otherwise.

Stick to your fitness routine

In addition to throwing our diets off track, the holidays also have a negative impact on our fitness routines, as traveling to family visits and other holiday obligations sometimes causes people to miss workouts. Those invested in exercise programs need to think about the ground they could stand to lose by taking too much time away from their routines during the holidays,” says Nathan Richards, fitness director at Anytime Fitness Greenwood.

“Be sure to make time for yourself to stay in your daily fitness routine during the holidays,” Richards says. “You don’t want to put all of your accomplishments aside. Treat yourself to your favorite foods for a day here and there. You’ve worked hard and earned it, but always try to get right back on track the next day.”

Those who have access to a 24-hour fitness center, such as Anytime Fitness, typically can alter their schedules if they do not want to miss a workout. Clients can often go in on their own time or double up classes on the week following their missed class. The idea is to simply stay as active as possible on those days when celebrations get in the way of workouts.

“One of my favorite things to recommend is to do a Thanksgiving morning workout,” Richards says. “It’s going to set your day off at a good pace and help you to make better food choices. But anything you can do to stay active over the holidays is great, whether it’s taking a walk or throwing a football around the yard. Just stay active.”

The buddy system

Having someone, or a group of people, in your corner to motivate you is always a valuable asset for anyone involved in a fitness program. These people help push you forward toward your fitness goals throughout the year and are especially valuable as accountability partners during the holiday season.  Their support will help keep your fitness routine on track during the holidays, says Shannon Grove, a registered dietitian, group fitness instructor and co-owner of Studio 317 Fitness & Cycling.

“Having that kind of support group really does a lot to keep you involved and active,” Grove says. “Not only are you relying on them for support, but they are also relying on you.”

She sees this kind of mutual support at play often at Studio 317. People are more likely to come to their fitness classes or workouts over the holidays if they know their friends will be there.

“They help hold you accountable,” Richards says. “Typically, clients are close to their trainers, but we always try to add more people to the mix because it builds camaraderie and increases accountability.”