With all the freshly baked cookies, cakes, and pies surrounding you during the holiday season it’s probably not the best time of the year to start a rigorous weight loss program. But, there’s absolutely no reason why you have to pack on the extra pounds. In order to manage your body weight during the holidays, calorie management is an absolute must.
Managing your calories is all about maintaining a healthy balance between how many calories go in and out of your body. One of the most basic strategies for doing this is to view your daily calorie intake as a personal budget that you get to spend however you choose each day.
Now, you can go over budget during the holidays as weight management is all about choice. However, know there will be a debt to pay next year (weight gain and more weight to lose). After all, accumulating 3,500 extra calories will result in your gaining a pound of fat. The average holiday dinner contains 3,000-4,000 calories so this is not hard to do.
That said, here are five healthy choices you can make in order to keep your calorie budget intact and prevent weight gain during this holiday season.
Familiarize yourself with serving sizes.
In order to control the amount of calories going in during the holiday season, it’s important to monitor your portion sizes (what’s on your plate). You can do this by familiarizing yourself with serving sizes. Consider the following servings sizes and visual equivalents (what they look like):
- Turkey or Meat = 3 ounces (a deck of cards)
- Cooked Vegetables or Pasta = 1/2 cup (an ice cream scoop)
- Corn Muffin or Dinner Roll = 1-2 ounces (a plum or large egg)
- Homemade Gravy = 2 tablespoons (a ping-pong ball)
- Cake or Pie = 1/8 of 8″ round cake or 1/8 of 9″ diameter pie
Now, if you’re in the presence of a whole lot of food, go for smaller portion sizes so you can eat a little bit of everything. Another trick is to load at least half of your plate with any leafy greens or other non-starchy vegetables available in order to bulk up on fiber. This helps increase the feeling of fullness.
If you must include holiday favorites like pasta, mashed potatoes, and candied yams on your plate, know that one serving of each is 1/2 of a cup yielding 200-300 calories per serving.
Implement cardio workouts.
In order to increase the number of calories going out of your body during the holidays it’s important to implement some type of cardio workout on most days of the week. If you view the holiday season as a time to rest, choose light to moderate cardio exercises you can enjoy.
Take an aerobics style dance class or go dancing at a nightclub so that you don’t feel like you’re working out. By doing so you can burn as much as 400 calories per hour. This allows for a slice of cake (or two) in your daily calorie budget.
Add resistance training to the mix.
By adding resistance training to your routine a few days a week you can greatly increase the amount of calories that go out of your body while also elevating your metabolic rate (the rate at your body naturally burns calories) for up to 12 hours. This basically means:
- You’ll burn more calories at rest and when performing any activities during this time period.
- The calories you consume are burned at a faster rate.
There’s a variety of equipment you can use to train this way including dumbbells, kettlebells, machines, rubber tubing and body weight. You can also use this time to try out a Pilates or weight lifting class at your local gym. Adding resistance training allows for a couple of cookies in your daily calorie budget.
Consume alcohol in moderation.
Minimize the amount of calories that go in by consuming alcohol in moderation. When you do consume alcohol, choose light beer, low-proof wines or low-calorie mixed drinks (rum or vodka with sparkling water instead of soda or juice).
There are about 70 calories in an ounce of hard liquor. By mixing 3 ounces of hard liquor with 4 ounces of cranberry, orange or other juice, you’re looking at about 270 calories in just one small mixed drink. One or more drinks can put a real hurting on your daily calorie budget.
Incorporate spontaneous physical activity.
In addition to exercise, incorporate more spontaneous physical activities on a daily basis in order to maximize the amount of calories going out. You can do this by simply using the stairs instead of the elevator (or escalator) during shopping or parking your car far away from your destination in order to get some extra walking in.
Accumulating just 5 minutes of walking up stairs burns about 115 calories while walking for a total of 30 minutes burns about 145 calories. Doing so may allow you to add an extra piece of pie to your daily calorie budget.
And there you have it! Five practical strategies for preventing weight gain during the holiday season. You might not lose a significant amount of weight but you’ll certainly break-even, which’ll negate the need to play catch up in the new year.
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Disclaimer: The information provided is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. Any reader who is concerned about his or her health should contact a physician for advice.
Before starting an exercise training program you should first make sure that exercise is safe for you. If you are under the age of 55 years and generally in good health, it is probably safe for you to exercise. However, if you are over 55 years of age and/or have any health problems, be sure to consult with your physician before starting an exercise training program.