Preventing holiday weight gain

Halloween is behind us, yes, but it’s still with us, too, and in a bad way: The treats of trick-or-treating can easily be the start of holiday seasons full of unhealthy eating.

That’s because those overflowing trick-or-treat bags are soon followed by turkey and stuffing and pies and Christmas cookies—well, you get the picture.

According to the New England Journal of Medicine, significant weight gains occur right after major holidays and can take up to five months or more to reverse.

At many of Diakon’s senior living communities, we have wellness coordinators and committees to encourage both residents and staff members to make healthy choices.

The coordinators do a great job of organizing events such as health fairs, fitness activities and educational seminars that promote healthy living. As so, as we approach the holidays, we asked some of the coordinators to share tips on how to combat the holiday weight gain:

“Bring your own healthy dish to office parties and holiday gatherings,” suggests Karen Sinkovits of The Lutheran Home at Topton. “Maintain your usual eating patterns, but allow yourself to splurge on holiday treats sparingly.”

“Exercise is a great way to relieve stress and boost energy levels, especially during the busy holiday season,” Doreen Zielinski of Luther Crest advises. “The holidays will probably interrupt your exercise regimen, at least to some extent. Do your best to stay on track. Strive to add an extra workout session whenever possible because we tend to eat more this time of the year.”

“The holidays are a time for family, friends, fun and seemingly endless amounts of food. Between the parties, traditions and gift-giving, it’s difficult to stay on track with a fit and healthy lifestyle,” says Sally McClintock, Cumberland Crossings.

“There is nothing wrong with indulging in the many festivities that come with the holiday season,” she continues, “but it is all too easy to go overboard and lose all your hard work from the warmer months. Luckily, there are many ways to enjoy every aspect of this time of year while still maintaining good health. One way to avoid overeating at a big holiday dinner is to be a ‘food snob’—meaning you indulge only in the foods you truly love and that you typically do not eat throughout the rest of the year. Also, fill your plate with colorful foods because they tend to be better for you.

“One mistake many of us make is skipping meals before a big holiday dinner to ‘save room.’ This typically causes you to eat even more and your body retains more of those calories. Instead, keep a regular meal schedule and drink plenty of water throughout the day. If you have a regular exercise plan, keep with it but don’t be unrealistic.

“Try to maintain your weight during this season; it is probably not the time to try to lose weight unless it is a medical necessity. Finally, enjoy yourself. Focus your time and energy on your friends and family and take the emphasis off food. Reminisce, laugh, make new memories and treasure this wonderful time with your loved ones.”

Twining Village’s Donald Prifti offers a few additional suggestions: “Focus your efforts in the kitchen; 90% of your success will depend on how well you nourish your body. Think of food as medicine if it is the right kind of food. Increase your activity level. Movement is also medicine and it doesn’t cost you anything. Take your family out for a walk after dinner, rake some leaves or find something else you enjoy doing to get moving.”

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