The holidays are a beautiful thing, there are few things better than no work and eating as much as possible with the people who matter the most. The holidays create endless memories that may even become nostalgic as the years pass. We never want to forget these times, but what we do want to forget and even run away from is the negatives associated with the holidays that may have you wishing you were more prepared. Credit cards and bank accounts are never fun to look at after the holidays, to be honest with you I avoid that as long as I can. The post-holiday season is full of me using the ATM and doing the transaction fast enough so that I do not have to see my balance and never asking for receipts when seeing a banker. And no I do not recommend this strategy. The holidays obviously usually can make a large impact on finances, but what happens to the body? I think we are lucky to 5 months to get back in shape at the beginning of the New Year. Sometimes the amount of weight we gain might even make us run from the gym when in fact we should be running to the gym, literally. In order to succeed in the holiday season, which usually means not failing too much, we need to prepare.
I could care less about how much you spend on yourself, family, or even friends in the latter end of the year. However, I know that so many people stress about this season and that just leads to more body fat that the pounds of turkey and cheesecake already add. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America, or ADAA, really stresses (pun intended) exercise as a healthy way to reduce weight. Shockingly, on a recent poll on their website, only 14% of the participants said they exercise to reduce stress. Talking to friends or family consisted of 18% and sleeping consisted of 17% of the participants. As someone who has worked out consistently for years, I only have good things to say about working out to relieve stress. Exercise produces endorphins, which act as natural painkillers (ADAA). ADAA also stated that “scientists have found that regular participation in aerobic exercise has been shown to decrease overall levels of tension, elevate and stabilize mood, improve sleep, and improve self-esteem.” Strength and conditioning classes would be beneficial programs for the high stressed individual because the combination of lifting heavy weights as well as aerobic conditioning will lead to a healthier body and a more highly functional mind.
Throughout the holiday season, we spend most of our time running around buying presents or sharing meals with key people. Meals that are either unhealthy or excessively big. With all the stress and all the free food offered, it is so easy to over-indulge in all the foods in-sight. We call that the “see food” diet. I am guilty because I am Asian and cannot reject anything free so the free food would be a huge problem for me in the holidays if I did not track my calories. Yes our bodies do want to stay around the same weight, but our body is not completely regulated by homeostatic mechanisms. If it were, we would eat just enough to satisfy our needs but we also receive feedback from our hedonic pathways that are related to sight, smell, and taste of food (Sumatran, Proietto, 2013). We tend to eat more than what we need due to how we feel about food, but discovering how much we actually need can post-holiday season less painful and less stressful if we avoid packing on excessive amounts of weight.
Benjamin Franklin said it best, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” Prepare for the holiday season by counting those calories and keeping them consistent and making changes when needed. In order to not gain weight during holiday feasts we want to make sure we find the average calorie intake we ingest. We can do this by downloading tools like myfitnesspal and literally adding everything that you can. The scanning tool on smart phones makes this so much easier. When you find the average caloric intake, that is what you will want to consistently reach. Maybe you can even find your average caloric intake and create a deficit by taking out a 200-500 calories from your previous average per day and earn those holiday feasts. And yes, I want you all to bring food scales to your parties (Just kidding, calorie counting will get easier and you can even learn to eyeball when you get better). There is still more research to be done on nutrient partitioning to see which nutrients actually matter the most, but there is a lot of research done that actually says calorie intake is the most important variable in diet programs. In an article titled “Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrates diets”, the researchers found that diets consisting of high or low carb diets lead to similar weight loss and hip-to-waist circumference. Learn to count your calories now to avoid excessive weight gain these next few months.
Sumithran, P., Proietto, J., (2013). The defense of body weight: a physiological basis for weight regain after weight loss. Clinical Science. Retrieved on November 28, 2014.
Golay, A., Allaz, A., Morel, Y., de Tonnac, N., Tankova, S., Reaven, G., (1996). Similar weight loss with low- or high-carbohydrate diets. American Jounral of Clinical Nutrition, Volume 63, Pages 174-178. Retrieved on November 28 from http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/63/2/174.long
Physical Activity Reduces Stress. Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Retrieved on November 28 from http://www.adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/related-illnesses/other-related-conditions/stress/physical-activity-reduces-st